It is the face of a put-upon man. While Herman Melville had enjoyed early success, it gave way to hard toil in obscurity and Manhattan's Custom House. Barry Moser has portrayed a man whose greatest works lie unheralded and (seemingly) forever forgotten. The woodcut, originally created for a limited edition of Melville's underrated poetry, is a chiaroscuro masterpiece, a symphony of textures—wispy filaments forming the beard, dense crosshatching for the waistcoat, a freer hand creating the untidy coat.
Perhaps the finest printmaker at work today, Mr. Moser has over the past 40 years captured countless famous countenances. 'One Hundred Portraits' (David R. Godine, 125 pages, $35) collects the best, mainly literary: from a delicately rendered Lewis Carroll lost in reverie to an appropriately dismal Theodore Dreiser and an owlish Flannery O'Connor. In his more recent works, the bravura use of visual effects has given way to a sparer style, with a strong use of shadow that adds a sense of mortality. The most fascinating textures tend to be the folds of flesh itself, as in the magnificently rumpled face of W.H. Auden. But then there are the eyes sparking the portraits to life: How magnificent is the stare of his chin-raised Fanny Burney.—The Editors