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Le Siècle de Jacobs: Une exposition biographique

#1 · Posted: 27 Aug 2004 21:31 · Edited by: jock123
I have been fortunate enough to be in Brussels this week, which gave me the opportunity to get along to the CBBD; initially I thought I would get to take in the Hergé display, but I was lucky to notice in the travel magazine for Thalys trains an advert announcing that the Centre have an exhibition dedicated to the centenary of E.P. Jacobs, colleague of Hergé, and “father” of Blake & Mortimer.

And what a treat it was!

I will say from the get go that there is nothing Tintin related, and very little about Hergé, in what is there, but that isn’t too surprising, because there is so much of his own work to show, and a finite amount of space.

The opening panel even goes so far as to say that as they had such a wealth of material to choose from, that the organisers were prepared to dispense with any sort of progression or narrative, in order to get things in.

Jacobs was apparently an inveterate hoarder, and thus he saved everything! From school work books, decorated with beautiful historical tableaux, to note-books made as a soldier in WWI (illustrated with meticulous diagrams of such things as the mechanisms of three different types of grenade), through sketches and models of stage designs, paintings, commercial art, make-up ideas, a trunk of opera costumes - it is all there.

He appears to have had an unerring sense of how to lay out a page from his earliest years, which never appears to have deserted him.

There is a wonderfully accomplished picture of warfare through the ages done when he was 14, which has a border done in the manner of an old-fashioned engraving, but combining all sorts of classical armorial devices like shields, spears and breastplates with gas-masks, bren-guns and grenades. The border alone is so well wrought and beautifully thought out that it is hard to believe he was so young.

And the jewel in the crown is the display of sketches, reference material and finished pages for the B&M books.

All are represented, and most show working from story ideas to roughs, and final art-work. I don’t know quite frankly how he did it: he was, for a large part of the early books, working for Hergé by day, and doing his own stuff at night, and yet the quality never falters artistically. Plus it seems he did all his own work until late on in his life, when arthritis caused his out-put to falter.

The memorabilia of his trip to London for “The Yellow ‘M’” is perhaps the most interesting diplay: his itinerary from his travel agent, the bill for his hotel-room, and account from a book-shop for a Coronation souvenir book, coins and a map, and even the used stub of a ticket for the Tower of London are all there, plus photographs of the London locations in the book.

These last tend to be black and white prints, many only a couple of inches square; they still bear the grids of pencilled squares he used to transfer them to the art-work pages.

Sadly the exhibit ends on the 12th September; if you are planning to go to Brussels soon, I can recommend it - it makes the CBBD even more un-missable!
Harrock n roll
#2 · Posted: 1 Sep 2004 17:11
Coincidence Jock, as I was at this exhibition last week too! I was going to write a short review but spotted your post - and you've summed it up neatly. It was much better than I expected, a real feast for the eyes - in fact I sneaked a few photos which I'll try to post somewhere (if they come out well).

It inspired me to buy the three volumes of "L'espadon" which I bought for 7 euros each in a secondhand BD shop. I think that the "Slumberland" shop in the museum is a bit pricey, but the museum itself is certainly well worth checking out for anybody visiting Brussels.
#3 · Posted: 2 Sep 2004 08:18
Spooky! I was there on Thursday, so maybe you were there too? And just to increase the Hergéian coincidence, I bought “L’Espadon” as well - except I bought the “Intégrale” version, which in addition to the books has a nice preface and introductory section on B&M and Jacobs, and also full page reproductions of the cover illustrations from the Journal.

I agree about the book-shop being a little pricey, but I plead little time, so I succumbed! They are a bit sniffy in there too, which always takes the polish off the day - I was most surprised that they wouldn’t sell me an exhibition poster (“But sir! They are for our window!”), even though they had a stack of them behind the counter, and only a fortnight to run… How much last-minute publicity will they do now??

Anyway, it was a very interesting opportunity to see the life’s work of perhaps the closest competitor for Hergé’s crown in developing the clear-line style.

I was amazed at his fluidity of style. He has the chameleon-like ability to utilise the style of another artist, while making it his own. Looking at “L’espadon” it still bears the influence of Alex Raymond, but is undoubtedly his own; the later books are more overtly “Hergian”, but still in his own hand.

My own take on it is that Jacobs was a greater draughtsman than Hergé, with a meticulous attention to detail, but that he was inferior in imbuing his character drawings with life and vitality, and in natural story-telling ability. The collaboration of E.P.J. doing the settings and detail, and Hergé the characters played off the major strengths of both, but Hergé was the captain, and Jacobs the lieutenant.

I can admire the ability and beauty of his work, but the pages often are like tableaux, almost too perfect. Still, it was great to have seen this collection from a true giant of the genre.
#4 · Posted: 2 Sep 2004 09:51
Have any of Jacob's works been translated to English?
If so where can I buy them?

#5 · Posted: 2 Sep 2004 12:09
The quick answer is “Yes, some of the books have been, but they are difficult-ish to find now”.

There’s a thread on just that subject here.

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