Arthur Wragg ‘These Thy Gods’ (1949)

Found in the Jimmy Kanga hoard These Thy Gods (Longman, Green and Co., London, 1949) by William Purcell, illustrated by Arthur Wragg. The artist and illustrator Arthur Wragg is slightly  forgotten, although there was a good art book on him by Judith Brook a former pupil Arthur Wragg: Twentieth-century Prophet and Jester (Sansom 2001). He was collected by Jimmy Kanga and also another eccentric hoarder the great Baron Corvo scholar Donald Weeks. Wragg's style is stark, apocalyptic and symbolic. The frontispiece and d/w image neatly sums up the addictive 'Gods' of the time with a sort of totem pole. It appears to depict - (from the top) -- Television, jet travel (war?) sex/ entertainment/ parties/glamour then gambling, smoking, drinking, money, work (the thumbs?) and drugs and medicine. The 'blurb' on the back panel of the jacket reads:

A struggle for survival now challenges the people of the United Kingdom, a struggle only to be won by stern qualities of personal morale. Are these qualities being produced? Is there a solution to the urgent problems of our uneasy peace? 'These Thy Gods' ruthlessly anatomises life today and points towards a firm and practical Christianity as our final chance.

Indifference, selfishness, materialism and cynicism are shown here as they actually appear in people's lives. From the man who believes in nothing, the worker who "couldn't care less" to the girl with the film-world's scale of values and the couple lost like babies in the matrimonial wood, the people in this book are all types we know - types in whom we may recognise ourselves. This book is to help us to judge, and to care while there is yet time.

Some of these short essays with their illustrations were originally published in the magazine 'John Bull', where they attracted considerable attention. The Rev. W. E. Purcell will be known to many for articles written in an easy style, free from pedantry and "pulpit terminology", and he also rites successful short stories under a pseudonym. The brilliant illustrations, designed to add to rather than repeat the text, recall Storm Jameson's remark about Arthur Wragg's earlier drawings for 'Jesus Wept', "I wish every comfortable person in the country had a copy put into their hands".

3 thoughts on “Arthur Wragg ‘These Thy Gods’ (1949)

  1. Mumpsimus

    1. 1949 seems quite early for the "TV-As-Opiate-Of-The-Masses" trope.

    2. Why a volleyball (and not, say, a soccer ball)?

    3. I'd love to know the significance of the greyhound. And, of course, the thumbs.

    I'd never heard of Wragg before. The illustration shown reminds me strongly of Boris Artzybasheff,

  2. admin Post author

    Many thanks Mumpsimus. Actually that is a football, that's the way they looked then. The greyhound almost certainly represents gambling, as did football (soccer) then with the Pools. The thumbs are enigmatic, I take them as referring to the grind of work or being kept under the thumb. This Illustration is like Artzybasheff, others by Wragg are rather different. I will try to post another. N


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