Maltese, by Hugo Pratt
(1927-1995) is considered one of the greatest graphic
novelists in the world. His strips, graphic works, and
watercolours, have been exhibited in major museums. The
term «drawn literature» (graphic novel) was coined to
define his genre. He lived in Italy, Argentina, England,
France, Switzerland, and he travelled the world over.
is a legend in twentieth century literature. He’s a
traveller – a sailor who combines Mediterranean looks
with Anglo-Saxon culture. Corto was created in 1967 by
Hugo Pratt, a native of Venice. Corto is an anti-hero
who prefers his freedom and imagination to wealth. He is
a modern Ulysses who takes us travelling to some of the
most fascinating places in the world. His adventures are
set during the first thirty years of the 1900s, between
Venice, the steppes of Manchuria, the Caribbean islands,
the Danakil deserts, the Amazon forests, and the waves
of the Pacific.
Corto Maltese is a tireless wanderer of the
seas. For Pratt, the sea is an essential part of
storytelling. Pratt’s enthusiasm is obvious,
like other writers who wrote about voyages.
Pratt loved to quote the words of Montaigne:
«Always have your boots nearby and be ready to
go,» and he’d often include illustrations of
Treasure Island, Stevenson’s masterpiece.
But Pratt came into his own with the release of
the The Ballad of the Salt Sea, depicting
imagination the islands and oceans of the South
During World War II, Hugo Pratt lived among
soldiers from different countries. In his
watercolours and illustrations, Pratt exhibits a
deep fascination with the beauty, distinctive
design and colours of different uniforms. All of
the icons, flags, the coat of arms of Italian,
English, or French armies, and even the
Senegalese riflemen are symbolic of what Pratt
called «military culture».
Throughout his life, Hugo Pratt was fascinated
with strong, liberated women. His many
magnificent watercolour images of these women
are tied closely to his travels. Throughout his
artistic life, Pratt paid tribute to all women,
whether real or fantasy, from women met on a
distant island, to the legendary myths from
literature and cinema, like Pandora, Louise
Brooks, Ipazia, Bocca Dorata and Shanghai Lil.
«My style is
the outcome of an entire life’s research. I’ve worked
fifty years to find the approach I now have. Ideally,
one day I will find a way to tell a story with one
simple line,» Pratt said. In his passion to find that
simple line that reduces storytelling to the bare
essentials – the desert became for him the ideal
location for telling a story. What’s more difficult for
a graphic novelist than bringing to life the straight
line of the horizon?