The Work of Winsor Mccay

American illustrator, cartoonist and animator Zenas Winsor Mccay created pictures which eloquently reflected the anxieties, hopes and fears of a turbulent age and was a pioneer of animated film.  The prolific artist was noticed early in his career because of his exceptional technical ability.  His linear perspective, extraordinary attention to minute detail and idiosyncrasy pull his audience in to a complex and diverse world in which fear and greed are personified in various terrifying incarnations and the mechanisms of diverse subjects from economic growth and politics to life events and expectations are demonstrated in charming, fluent and captivating scenes.  McCay’s sublime style is rich in technique and content and his attention to incredible background architectural detail and anatomical features result in a beguiling and convincing world, most famously in ‘Little Nemo’, his most famous comic strip, in which he depicts the adventurous and fantastical dreams of his protagonist.  Little Nemo inSlumberland was considered Mccay’s masterpiece because of his use of colour, perspective, pace and his incredible attention to detail that brought the world alive, loyally chronicling the familiar and emphasising the surreal.  This quality and momentum is present in all of McCay’s work and makes for compelling viewing.  McCay’s birth date is not known but he is said to have believed that he was born in 1869 or 1871.  As a young man he traded techniques with painter Jules Guerin while they lived side by side in a boarding house in Chicago.  Guerin created artwork for pamphlets and posters at the National Printing and Engraving Company and it seems probable that these eye-catching techniques, direct visual messages and charismatic characterisation had some influence on the young artist.  After moving to Cincinnati, McCay spent 9 years creating advertisements and posters for Heck and Avery’s Family theatre, Kohl and Middleton Dime Museum and Avery’s New Dime Museum.  In 1900 he accepted a good job at the Cincinnati Enquirer as head of the art department where his work flourished.  Despite his incredible contributions to visual art, he was most proud of his animated films which he made between 1911 and 1921 and which would later influence the likes of Disney who would not begin to compete until the 1930s.  He once remarked that it was after pouring through his sons flip books that he began to realise the possibilities of moving pictures and claimed to be the first man in the world to create animated films.  He achieved moving and sophisticated films from their basic beginnings and produced over 2500 drawings to create The Sinking of the Lusitania in 1918, an incredible work of art that, like his greatest work, is as powerful and moving now as when he first conceived it.

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