Ragnavald Blix (1881-1958) was a Norwegian Illustrator, caricaturist and magazine editor who is known for his anti-Nazi drawings during World War II. For ten years, from 1908-1918, he was a regular contributor to Simplicissimus Magazine.
In previous articles I’ve written about Simplicissimus and two of its top contributors, Eduard Thony and Bruno Paul. Blix’s artwork has a similar sensibility to those two artists, yet it stands on its own. Much like Thony and Paul the first thing I connect with in his art is the “character” that he was able to capture with his figures. It’s the way he drew their expressions which gave each image a liveliness that adds to the story he’s telling. For example, the man in the illustration below is holding his nose as if there’s a bad smell in the air. The two women, one who is leaning away from him, are giving a look that makes me think they’re questioning him (especially the woman with her head slightly down and eyes pointing towards the man). There’s a story right there and I’m only talking about the expressions! Also of note is the way he drew each figure. The woman in the back has a fancy pattern on her outfit/purse while the woman in the middle is drawn with thin, rough texture marks. The man however is drawn with a clean thin line with limited details. There’s a variety in each one to make them individuals.
Here’s another image that showcases the “character” that I’m talking about. The two figures seem to be communicating about something, yet the man is looking down and the woman is looking right at him. His arms are folded while her hand is on her face, gestures that give me an impression that both of them are contemplating something.
There are times when Blix would take this a step further and convey a feeling with the way he drew the figures in a scene. For example, look at the kids in this image below. Their clothes are drawn in a rough textured line that immediately makes me think that they’re poor and struggling. I get that sense before I even look close at the image.
In other illustrations he’d exaggerate even more to push his point. Take a look at the the green figure in the image below. He looks almost alien-like, but you can tell that it’s a near starving homeless person. It gives me an immediate reaction that I don’t think would be as effective had he drawn it in a more realistic or subdued approach.
I also like the details that puts in his artwork. In this image take a note of the little dog (that the boy is pulling on a cart) and the drawing in the book. Those are two details that you might not notice at first, but when you look close you see them. Stuff like that gives me a greater appreciation of his illustrations.
After his stint with Simplicissimus Blix was the editor of a magazine called “Exlex” from 1919-1921. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about the publication, but I did manage to find one image that you’ll see below. If anyone has any additional information about Exlex please share. I’d love to find out more about it.
Later in life Blix contributed illustration to the anti-Nazi newspaper “Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfartstidning” under the pseudonym “Stig Höök”.
I hope you enjoyed my series on Simplicissimus Magazine and three of my favorite artists from that publication. As I’ve said previously it’s a magazine that I think deserves greater attention. Below you’ll find a selection of illustrations that Blix did for Simplicissimus.