Monday, September 17, 2012


Following up on last week's collection of unpublished drawings by illustrator William A. Smith,  here are some unpublished drawings by the great A.B. Frost.

In a series of tiny pen and ink sketches (less than 3 inches tall),  Frost noodles around with different treatments of an old geezer by a country pond.

In his sketches, Frost subtly honed his final pictures for maximum effect.  For example, the following is an unpublished sketch for The Bull Calf,  Frost's parable about a "humane man" who scolds a farmer for mistreating a calf, until he gets his own first hand experience with the vexatious little beast:

Even in his preliminary sketch, look at how astutely Frost captures the body language between the calf (with his feet firmly planted for maximum stubbornness, his tail and ear pulled roughly),  the exasperated farmer and the know-it-all city slicker.

Compare the sketch with the final published version:

Frost transformed the naive "humane man" from a city slicker to a religious Quaker.  He decided to conceal the stubbornness of the bull calf until after the humane man buys it.  He gave us a foretaste of the long country road where the bull calf would soon be dragging the humane man.  These and other subtle touches are why Frost's final versions were so devastatingly funny.


StimmeDesHerzens said...

I was intrigued about this story of the recalcitrant calf, and googled it; I found a sketch of the Humane Man happily walking away with his cute calf. I was just as amused by the language:
“Ef Oi was you, Oi wud niver toi that rope around me waiste,” says the former proprietor of the calf. “Oh, never fear; he is a gentle thing,” says the Humane Man.

The calf drags the humane man through fences and fields....the stubborn vexatious little beast!

great stuff. Always something rich and delightful...

Tom said...

Nice drawings David, amazing how Frost defines the space his figures inhabit, even when the space is not actual drawn.  I can help but feel these drawing where done, or Frost was trained before the advent of photography as there is a solidity to all the forms, from shoes, to cow bellies and roads. 

In contrast to Smith's drawing it remains of Delecroix's remark about Renassiance artists and classical artists.  Renaissance artist he said draw by the contour while classical artists draw by the centers of things.  There is and internal push felt in Frost's drawing that I do not feel in the Smith drawings.

David Apatoff said...

StimmeDesHerzens-- Thanks, it's good to hear from you.

Tom-- I agree 100% about the solidity of cow bellies. I had never headr that Delacroix remark, but I like it.

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