March 21, 2011

OUR DURER:

Moser’s lifework thrives in books (James Sullivan, March 20, 2011, Boston Globe)

Scars, wrinkles, furrowed brows, and other imperfections are the stuff of life for Moser, the renowned printmaker and illustrator who has worked on more than 300 books in his prolific career. His latest, “One Hundred Portraits’’ (Godine), is a collection of engravings of writers from Shakespeare to Sylvia Plath, with detours into music (Sibelius, Bukka White the bluesman) and personal subjects, such as his late parents and his beloved Rottweiler, Rosie.

On March 26 the Brandywine River Museum in Pennsylvania opens an exhibition of Moser’s work: engravings, watercolors, and limited-edition books. Given the museum’s emphasis on American illustration, it’s a feather in an already well-plumed cap. In 1983 Moser won a National Book Award for his work on “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,’’ and he published his own spectacular illustrated version of the King James Bible two decades later.

Not bad for a man who has come to believe he grew up dyslexic. “I’m really interested in the irony of that,’’ says Moser, 70, a bespectacled, head-shaved Tennessee native with a tangy drawl and the sculpted white beard of a 19th-century judge. “I think I largely overcame it by setting type — upside-down and backwards.’’

Over the years Moser has done special editions of “Moby-Dick’’ and “Frankenstein,’’ portraits of Emerson and Thoreau for the covers of Robert Richardson’s biographies, and illustrations and watercolors for dozens of children’s books. His first foray into children’s literature was “Jump! The Adventures of Brer Rabbit,’’ an adaptation of the Uncle Remus stories co-conceived by the Baroque pop musician Van Dyke Parks in 1984.

At the time, Moser says, he thought children’s books “were beneath me — something Grandma might want to do.’’ He has since changed his mind completely. “I’m convinced the character of Brer Rabbit is no less and no more than the portrait of Beatrice in the ‘Divine Comedy,’ ’’ he says.

“I’m probably the only illustrator to have the King James Bible and ‘The Three Little Pigs’ on his desk at the same time.’’



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Posted by at March 21, 2011 5:52 AM
  

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