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Jack McLaren in Black and White

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Jack McLaren in Black and White
(2023, 160 pages, $23.95, 6 inches wide by 8.75 inches tall)

J.W. (Jack) McLaren (1895-1988) was a man of many talents. He was a Canadian graphic designer and adman with his own Toronto-based firm (often confused with Jack MacLaren’s larger firm), an illustrator of books and magazines, a cartoonist, a friend of the Group of Seven and other artists of the day, and – after going to war in Europe with the Princess Pats in the First World War – a member of a comedy troupe assigned to entertain the troops, which was later folded into the Dumbells.

Shawn Henshall, who married into the McLaren family, spent years researching the artist for his 2020 illustrated biography The Forgotten Legend. For Jack McLaren in Black and White, he has restricted the biography to a short introduction and devoted the rest of the book to McLaren’s black-and-white art – his amazing linocuts, his pen and ink work, his scratchboard drawings, and much else, annotated where necessary. McLaren delighted in creating caricatures of important Canadian political, cultural and business figures, but he also drew elaborate scenes of the country’s railway history, put together ads in silhouette, illustrated a series of short stories reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe, and – well, the range of styles is impressive. Dive in anywhere and come away pleased.

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