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Artistic Style in Maus

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Diandra DeC-Kun

on 27 January 2015

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Transcript of Artistic Style in Maus

Artistic Style in
Maus

Spiegelman's Use of the Comic Medium
Spiegelman's Methodology in Regard to His Artwork
Use of Animal Motif
Use of Flashbacks
Definition of Artistic Style
Personification of God
"Prisoner on the Hell Planet"
Types of Text Boxes
Use of Frames
Use of Black and White and Simplicity of Style
According to F. Wellington Ruckstuhl, "style in art is a matter of fundamental composition, of the arrangement of lines, masses and color; of works, of sounds and of movement--indicating a departure from the truth of nature and from the commonplace".
Author and illustrator, Art Spiegelman, used comics because he believes "Comics are a narrative art form, a form that combines two other forms of expression: words and pictures."

In
Maus
, Spiegelman combines words and pictures to tell the story of his father's experiences in the Holocaust and the relationship between Art and Vladek, his father.

Through Spiegelman's unique drawing methodology and choices for text boxes, frames, and flashbacks, Vladek's story is told. It is developed through the use of animals as characters, black-and-white drawings, and his surreal first-person comic-within-a-comic "Prisoner on the Hell Planet."
Not only does Spiegelman's personal style define his artwork, but his methodology in the art's creation is original.

In an excerpt from
The Complete Maus, a Survivor's Tale (CD-ROM)
, he:
gives insight as a cartoonist ("The cartoonist is using drawing as a type of picture writing, and their first goal is to allow certain kinds of information to be apprehended."),
personalizes the way in which he tells his and his father's story ("Quality of line was something that seemed important to me in
Maus
. I found myself drawing and writing with the same tools."),
and the intimacy of his choice for the graphic novel ("I wanted to keep it close to writing so what I was making was a manuscript, something made by hand.")
It is interesting to note that no thought bubbles are drawn.
Burst speech bubbles are used to represent what other characters are saying on the other side of a telephone conversation.
Spiegelman only uses dialog balloons and captions.
Sounds are accentuated in some way.
Renowed comic book artist Will Eisner calls comics "sequential art", referring in part to the way each frame allows the other.
The use of frames in
Maus
is fairly traditional, where few drawings break out of their borders and the frames help keep the Holocaust separate from the present.
Inside the frames, Vladek's recollections from the Holocaust reside. Outside (or unframed, unbounded drawings) portray the present-day interactions of Art, Vladek, and often Mala.
Occasionally, Spiegelman would intermingle the past and present.
Maus contains many instances of flashbacks and flash forwards, as it tells a story alternating between the past and present.
It is extremely effective, especially for a younger audience, because they accustomed to interpreting time shifts due to their experiences with other comic books, film, and television.
In the graphic novel, different nationalities are pictured as a different animal.
Spiegelman was inspired by the Nazi's division of peoples into species and their interest in the extermination of the Jews.
Americans were represented as dogs because of the parallels between the Allies chasing the Axis Powers and dogs chasing cats.
Maus is only in black and white.
Spiegelman believes that "the Holocaust trumps art every time" and by telling the story in black and white he is sacrificing color to enhance the dark tone of the theme and plot as well as spare the reader from graphic depictions of death and suffering.
Maus
' simplicity in regard to style can be seen in the small number of details, such as facial expressions, which can only be interpreted by eyebrow or mouth shape. Facial shadows were used to convey emotions. Clothing differences distinguish characters, but each is identifiable due to personality.
This comic-within-a-comic has a different style than the rest of the novel.
Spiegelman uses human heads and even includes a picture of his mother and him on vacation in 1958.
The style of the majority of the novel is plain and understated, mimicking Vladek's flat and unemotional tone. However, the style of "Prisoner" was heavily based on the work of German Expressionists, who aimed on put powerful, person emotions on canvas.
Art juxtaposes flashback's of Vladek's tragic past to help explain his father's inability to function properly in the present-day.
It shows that Spiegelman's style is a narrative choice, as essential in meaning as the words of the story.
In "Prisoner", there is no easy closure, and the individual's suffering will cause him to remain captive in the prison of his own melancholy, the jail cell of his wounded self.
Works Cited
Only God is portrayed as a human, and I believe this is due to the fact that he is not a member of just one religious group or nationality; he is not a member of any of the two.
He is also portrayed as a rabbi, with a beard, bushy hair, and kippah (the Jewish hat).
Bolhafner, J. Stephen. Art for Art's Sake: Spiegelman Speaks on RAW's Past, Present, and Future. <http://bolhafner.com/stevesreads/ispieg2.html>.
Garner, Dwight. "After a Quarter Century, an Author Looks Back at His Holocaust Comic." <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/13/books/metamaus-by-art-spiegelman-review.html?_r=0>.
Leventhal, Robert. Art Spiegelman's
MAUS
: Working Through the Trauma of the Holocaust. <http://www2.iath.virginia.edu/holocaust/spiegelman.html>.
Marotous, George. The Complete Maus: Genre and Style. <http://resources.mhs.vic.edu.au/maus/genre.htm>.
Ortbal, Kathryn. "Art Spiegelman's Graphic Style: Color and Abstration in Maus I and II". <http://www.personal.psu.edu/kjo5071/blogs/graphic_novels/2010/11/art-spiegelmans-graphic-style-color-and-abstraction-in-maus-i-and-ii.html>.
PBS. Art Spiegelman and the Making of Maus. <http://www.pbs.org/pov/inheritance/photo_gallery_special_maus.php#.VMWvAWTF_38>.
Ruckstuhl, F. Wellington. Style and Manner in Art: A defintion. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/25587702?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents>.
Samuels, David. Q&A with Art Spiegelman, Creator of 'Maus'. <http://tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/152310/art-spiegelman-jewish-museum>.
Smith, Christopher. Interview with Art Spiegelman. <http://www.indiebound.org/author-interviews/spiegelmanart>.
Talbot, Bryan. "Book of a lifetime: Maus by Art Spiegelman". <http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/book-of-a-lifetime-maus-by-art-spiegelman-8432097.html>.
Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. Maus: A Memoir of the Holocaust. <http://www.vhec.org/images/pdfs/MAUS_TeachersGuideRevisedEd_FINAL.pdf>.
Witek, Joseph. Comic Books as History: The NArrative Art of Jack Jackson, Art Spiegelman, and More.
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