Untitled (The Dockers' Museum, object nr. 16), 1930
The wordless graphic novel 25 images de la passion d'un homme [25 Images of a Man's Passion] is a socialist, pacifist variation on the suffering of Christ, in which an ordinary man fights for his rights and eventually must pay for it with his life. This woodcut is the last image in the series and it depicts the protagonist during his execution. The protagonist is executed because he speaks up against the injustice inflicted upon the working class.
This is not a melodramatic, individual case. The representation is so controlled, shows so little outward emotion, that it makes the drama (of a situation that regularly occurs in our contemporary society) all the more felt, intimately. The wood carving’s stark black-and-white contrast and the thoughtful composition attribute to this. In his 25 Images of a Man’s Passion, Masereel contrasts society’s indifference with a generation yearning for the potentialities of existence. Of course, Masereel’s idea of a young man fighting against the injustice the working class is facing in an industrialized society can be linked to Allan Sekula’s dockworkers, whose lives were marked by today’s maritime economy.
– Claudia Aerts, Josefien Debacker and Heleen De Koster
Translation by Steven Tallon.
Frans Masereel, untitled woodcut, black-and-white print on paper, first published in 25 images de la passion d’un homme (1918), 25.4 x 20 cm. Third of six items purchased by Allan Sekula through eBay on 26 April and 11 May 2010. © SABAM Belgium.