The Life and Times of Conrad Black (Digital Edition)

Primary Author: 
George A. Walker
The Life and Times of Conrad Black

Master engraver George A. Walker presents The Life and Times of Conrad Black, a wordless biography of the Canadian-born media mogul. With 100 stunning woodcuts, Walker affords readers a glimpse of Black as a child, as a successful businessman, as a British peer, and as a convicted felon.

About the Book


With a series of 100 woodcuts, master engraver George A. Walker presents in black and white the portrait of a man whose life has played out among the grey shadows of the media industry.

Walker’s latest wordless novel introduces a measure of silence to one of the most outspoken and talked-about figures in modern Canadian history. The Life and Times of Conrad Blackdocuments the eventful life of the Canadian-born media baron, from his earliest childhood influences, to his rise to power at the helm of Hollinger International, his membership in the British peerage, and the ruin of his business and his good name after being convicted of fraud. Stripped of the facts and circumstances but roughly ordered chronologically according key milestones in Black’s life, Walker conveys meaning not through verbal allegation, but through visual implication, presenting a unique perspective of Black’s life and the conditions that shaped it.

The Life and Times of Conrad Black is a story of wealth and power, perception and reality, truth and lies, but Walker’s images teach us that no story has only two sides. This story is a polygon of meaning, and no one side contains all of the truth.

The Life and Times of Conrad Black originated as a limited edition of 13 copies hand printed in Walker’s studio in Leslieville, Toronto.

Read an Excerpt

From the Introduction

Conrad Black is one of the most outspoken and charismatic characters in the elusive one percent of people who make up the Establishment in Canada. He is a public person of international stature, at one time a media baron and still a man of great influence and wealth. This wordless narrative chronicles his rise and fall through the parade of images that surround and tell his story. It is a story of Black’s wealth and power, and of how he has been portrayed in the media and the larger cultural theatres in Canada, the United States and Great Britain. It is also a story of how power and authority are seen, represented and, often, resented. As well, it is an object lesson in how we read visual images of a life and interpret the meaning of the story from what we see.

Some of the images are based on photographs widely and publicly available in the media, while others were invented in my mind as I began to work on this book. All, I hope, are true to the man and the biography. Each image is hand engraved on the endgrain of a block of Canadian maple wood. An original limited edition comprising thirteen copies of the book was printed by hand on my Vandercook press and hand bound. I planned from the beginning to make a book that illustrates the most pivotal events in Conrad Black’s life and that respectfully pictures his triumphs and tribulations. I make no comment or judgment. I have never met him, although he has kindly responded to my questions and made many helpful suggestions.

The story is told as a wordless novel in the traditional sense, with the engraved images as the text. The story exists much like a silent movie, with the reader interpreting the narrative as the images pass before the eyes. The narrative has its own, unique grammar. The irony, of course, is that Conrad Black is a wordsmith whose vocabulary far exceeds my own. However, I believe these images go beyond the limitations of language to capture the man behind the mask.

How you interpret these images will depend largely on your knowledge of the Canadian Establishment and the friends and associates of Lord Conrad Moffat Black. Some of the characters in the pictures you may recognize; others, you will not. Many of the images work because the characters are anonymous and represent players in the culture of business and bureaucracy. I have included images of E.P. Taylor and Bud McDougald, two titans of Canadian industry who had an influence on the character of Lord Black. Some of the images were suggested by Black himself, including Judge Amy St. Eve, and the illustration of Lord Black kissing the ring of Pope John Paul II.

Conrad Black related his stressful time at Upper Canada College in his 1993 book, A Life in Progress. I used some of that text to inspire me, but Black himself suggested the schoolmaster caning pictures and said in a note to me, “It was a frequent occurrence and I’m not at all embarrassed about it; in the perverse world of schoolboys it was a bit of a badge of honour.”

Conrad Black’s greatest mistake was underestimating the power of his adversaries in the US justice system. Many commentators have said he would not have been convicted in Canada or Great Britain, but changes in the American justice system gave extraordinary powers to prosecutors to pursue white-collar crime and increase the conviction rate. Black said in 2007 that his conviction would “only compound the injustice of this entire vendetta.”

No matter your opinion of the man, you cannot help but appreciate Lord Black’s sense of confidence, iron will, self-esteem and serene certainty. This book is not a judgment of the man and his character, nor is it a silent critique; it is a parable of a media man and his very public struggles over a matter of principle, not money.

About the Artist


George A. Walker (Canadian, b. 1960) is an award-winning wood engraver, book artist, teacher, author, and illustrator who has been creating artwork and books and publishing at his private press since 1984. Walker’s popular courses in book arts and printmaking at the OCAD University in Toronto, where he is Associate Professor, have been running continuously since 1985. For over twenty years Walker has exhibited his wood engravings and limited edition books internationally, often in conjunction with The Loving Society of Letterpress (and The Binders of Infinite Love) and the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild (CBBAG). Among many book projects Walker has illustrated two hand-printed books written by author Neil Gaiman. Walker also is the illustrator of the first Canadian editions of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking-Glass books (Cheshire Cat Press). George A. Walker was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Art for his contribution to the cultural area of Book Arts.

For more information please visit the Author’s website »

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