Sunday, March 9, 2014

Barry Moser's Uncommonly Expressive Animals

This weekend I stumbled upon a picture book illustrated with the most exquisite hand-colored wood engravings. The book was Ever Heard of an Aardwolf? and the illustrator was American artist Barry Moser.

Even though I found this book in the Children's library area of the Academy of Natural Sciences, it is hardly only for children.

Moser is a serious artist with a prolific career and his own imprint, Pennyroyal Press. Many of his stunning black and white original engravings (which sell for hundreds each) depict animals.

This book in particular included type designed by Eric Gill, lettering by Judythe Sieck, and was printed on Mohawk Superfine paper. I might have found it among many cheap, mass-produced, mediocre books for kids, but it was a gem among pebbles.

Most importantly, the imagery is certainly sophisticated enough to be enjoyed on a high level by an adult audience.

What most captivated me about the animals in this book were the emotions conveyed by the animal's facial expressions (especially in the eyes), and sometimes the gestures of the bodies. The okapi glancing down as if caught in a moment of wistful reflection. The zebu who stares down the viewer with a haughty frown.

Obviously I can't (or at least shouldn't) repost a significant portion of someone else's book here. But I can at least give a small taste with these three, low-resolution details of primates wearing tremendously human expressions. I highly encourage anyone who enjoys wood engravings and/or animal art to seek out this book and see the whole collection of works in its full glory.


  1. Highly expressive indeed. We will have to look him up. Thanks for passing along this discovery.

  2. Be sure to check out his Pennyroyal Press website that I link to. He has many more gorgeous prints that any lover of nature would enjoy. Plus a whole book called Mark Twain Animals!