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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ray Bradbury on Art

Kenneth Smith introduces us to
Bradbury's Dinosaur celebration

In his introduction to Dinosaur Tales, Ray Bradbury likens most of 20th century art to a Chinese dinner.  An hour after leaving the museum, he was hungry again.

When Bradbury visited art galleries, he found that he enjoyed Pre-Raphaelite paintings, a 19th Century movement that celebrated heart-felt affection for subjects, rather than defining art in clinical and mechanistic terms.  “I was satisfied by nothing less than story, symbol, metaphor as found in all [Pre-Raphaelite] works…I raced backward through London and Paris, with Gustave Dore and Grandville, to knock heads with John Martin and try to replan the morals of Gin Lane and Fleet Street with Hogarth, or frolic in Louis’ court with Callot.  Goya drove me to war, sat with me at bullfights, rode me on witch-brooms, and I was never the same.” 

William Stout's Illustration for
"A Sound of Thunder"

Pre-Raphaelite art clearly resonated with Bradbury, which makes his approval of the artists who illustrated Dinosaur Tales all the more significant.  “When this book’s editor showed me illustrated samples of these glorious beasts, I could not resist.  The ghost of Harold Foster, who drew Tarzan for six years back in the early 1930s spoke to me.  It said: Remember my dinosaurs that trudged your midnight bed and flew your ceiling skies!  The ghosts of the creators of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon said just about the same thing.  My comic-collections, still gathered and waiting in my basement, fifty years later, reminded me of my first, art-oriented passions.  [Edmund] Dulac, [Gustaf] Tenggren, and [Arthur] Rackham raised this child from the crib on.”  (The latter three illustrated books children’s books and Fairy Tale collections that Bradbury grew up reading).

Overton Loyd's imagery dances above
"Lo, the Dear, Daft Dinosaurs!"

What Dinosaur Tales lacks in text-length, it makes up for with single- and double-page Black & White illustrations.  In addition to the cover art, William Stout energizes and deepens the mood of the classic Time Travel story “A Sound of Thunder.”  Steranko helps us feel for the sea monster that confuses the lighthouse for another of its kind in “The Fog Horn.”  Moebius illustrates “Tyrannosaurus Rex,” a story in which Bradbury pays homage to his life-long friend Ray Harryhausen.  Overton Loyd and Gahan Wilson add whimsy to two light-hearted poems: “Lo, the Dear, Daft Dinosaurs!” and “What if I Said: The Dinosaur’s Not Dead.”  My favorite story in the book, “Besides a Dinosaur, Whatta Ya Wanna Be When You Grow Up?” also contains my favorite artwork.  It’s hard to not compare David Wiesner’s lavish illustrations to those old Pre-Rafaelite masters.  Lastly, Kenneth Smith enlivens the parts of the book we might otherwise skim through to get to the good stuff: the title page, the table of contents, Ray Harryhausen’s Foreward, and Ray Bradbury’s Introduction.    

Alongside Bradbury, David Wiesner asks
"Besides a Dinosaur, Whatta Ya Wanna Be When You Grow Up?"

Ray Bradbury sounds like a man ever hungry for new learning experiences.  He found those, to a certain extent, in art galleries and museums.  But he also never forgot the illustrators he loved as a child, who breathed life into the stories he read, and inspired him to spend his life telling stories to all of us.  Dinosaur Tales reminds us that we should never feel ashamed, or too grown up, to enjoy the simpler forms of literature, such as children’s stories and comic books.

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