Sunday, August 5, 2012

Drawing on the Past #7: STANLEY L WOOD

Work: Dr. Nikola by Guy Boothby
Publisher: Ward Lock, 1902 - a later edition
Artist: Stanley L. Wood (1867 - 1928)

To me Stanley Wood will always be remembered for the iconic portrait of Dr. Nikola. I know you've seen it. It's what I use as my avatar over there to the right in the "About Me" section on this blog.  What surprised me was all the other work he is better known for.

Born in Monmouthshire in 1867 Wood traveled with his father a cement manufacturer to America in 1878. The family settled on a ranch in the Ute Indians territory of what would soon become Kansas. There is an amusing anecdote about how Wood's mother tried to ward off the Ute Indians when he husband died.  You can read it here. Soon after her husband's death, Charlotte Wood took her children back to England.  It was in London that Stanley became an illustrator for newspapers and magazines.

In 1888 he was sent to South Dakota by The Illustrated London News where he was better able to study the geography to give his work more authenticity.  Three examples of his western art can be found here, here, and here. From an art gallery website I learned this about Wood:

Book dealer Jefferson Chenoweth Dykes ...wrote in Fifty Great Western Illustrators that “no better horse artist ever lived than Stanley L. Wood - there was more action in a Stanley Wood illustration than in the story itself".

Later in his career Wood would also become well known for his military illustrations.  There are several websites devoted to displaying his work in this genre.  You can visit one of the best ones here.

Below are some excellent examples of Wood's work taken form Dr. Nikola (originally published in 1896), the second novel about one of the first master criminals in all of fiction. As always, be sure to click on each picture in the tables to enlarge for full appreciation.


  1. I have a version of that book cover if you would like it.

  2. Oh, lovely work, John. I'll have to see if I can find more of Wood's work. I have a vintage illustration board on Pinterest and also a Vintage Detective Pulps and a Wild, Wild, West board. So, plenty of space for Wood.

    1. His art work can be found in books by Guy Boothby, George Manville Fenn, G. J. Whyte-Melville, Bertram Mitford and E phillips Oppenheim all in Ward Lock editions between 1865 and 1920.

  3. And it looks like it might've inspired the painter for MANOS, THE HANDS OF FATE, as well...I'm always reminded of that film when I see your avatar...

    1. I guess you're talking about the DVD cover illustation? He does have wild Nikola-like eyes. I consider myself a connoisseur of schlock cinema but I've never heard of that movie nor seen it. Time to track it down. I'd rather see the original rather than the MST3K version, though I have read that it is consdiered the best parody of that show.