Picture This Press Launches With Lost Art Books

Picture This Press is a new publisher “dedicated to broadening the appreciation and awareness of the artists who work in the fields of illustration, cartooning, graphic arts, photography, and poster design.” To that end, they’ve launched a line of Lost Art Books, a series that aims to present little-known or forgotten works from before 1950. They’re looking at cartoonists who were once well-known but are now obscure in the hopes of driving their rediscovery. Here’s a video with Joe Procopio, the man behind the effort, talking about his intentions and the publisher’s background.

Their first three books are as follows:

The Lost Art of Zim: Cartoons and Caricatures

The Lost Art of Zim: Cartoons and Caricatures

This volume reprints a copiously illustrated how-to-draw book from 1910 by Eugene Zimmerman, a popular newspaper and magazine cartoonist of the time. (The book was a compilation of his correspondence course.)

The book is typeset as a replica of that original work, so the type and spacing is old-fashioned, and the editorial note reminds us that “no spelling or grammatical errors were corrected” in an attempt to maintain the original flavor. Also, be warned: as a reflection of its time, racial, anti-semitic, and other stereotypes are still present, including some unpleasant-looking caricatures.

The Lost Art of Frederick Richardson

This book concentrates on the 1890s newspaper work of the freelance illustrator, reprinting his 1899 Book of Drawings with some additional spotty biographical material.

The Lost Art of E.T. Reed: Prehistoric Peeps

The Lost Art of E.T. Reed: Prehistoric Peeps

Perhaps the silliest of these works, this collection of 36 caveman cartoons from 1896, originally appearing in Punch magazine, features an introduction by Stephen Bissette in which he traces a history of the prehistoric in cartooning. Also included is a brief conversation between Bissette and Eddie Campbell in which Campbell would rather talk about other cartoonists than Reed, about whose work he says, “I don’t like it at all.”

That’s a bit odd, although fun, for a book celebrating the artist. Like the first book, this one also features stereotypes from its time. There’s also an 1898 interview with Reed included.

The Publishing Line Overall

The biggest flaw in this effort is the lack of context provided. These books don’t sufficiently make the case for why we should be familiar with these forgotten artists. We’re just supposed to rely on the publisher’s assertion that we should. Simply once being famous and now, not, doesn’t make the case for why these cartoonists and works should be rediscovered. Knowing that other little-known people praised them isn’t sufficient; their work needs to be examined and contextualized based on their art, not their reputations (either contemporaneous or from today’s specialists), and that assistance to the reader is missing.

I also found the books hard to get into in their desire to reproduce the works faithfully within their original context; it’s difficult for a 2010 reader to jump back into layouts and styles of 100 years ago.

The books are currently available only directly from the publisher (with free shipping and handling, a nice touch), although they have plans to add them to Amazon next year. Also coming next year, two additional books, The Lost Art of Heinrich Kley and The Lost Art of the Racy and Risque. (I predict this will become their best-seller.)

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One Response to “Picture This Press Launches With Lost Art Books”

  1. Kyle McAbee Says:

    Your answer to this question will tell you whether you would enjoy reading Zim (or not). Want to know where the “big-foot” style of cartooning came from? Zim’s book about how to do it from the daddy of the style, who is now all but forgotten. If slick-line superheroes are what you enjoy, skip Zim; but if funny makes you laugh and you enjoy seeing different styles of cartooning, Lost Art Books has provided a low-cost time machine in the form of Zim’s autobiography with art and opinions that (minus the cussing) will remind you of a gentile Harvey Kurtzman.

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