This theme is tied to the seafaring, exotic adventures of Corto Maltese, indefatigable explorer and maritime wanderer.
Hugo Pratt being a good Venetian, the sea is an integral part of his imaginative world. This subject is tied to Pratt’s love of travel and of travel writers like Robert Louis Stevenson, Joseph Conrad, Herman Melville, Jack London, Ernest Hemingway…
Pratt, who loved to quote Montaigne’s “One should always have one’s boots on and be ready to leave”, puts Treasure Island, Stevenson’s masterpiece, in picture form. But it is above all with the famed “Una Ballata del Mare Salato” that the author gives us his best work, appropriating the world of islands and oceans.
The very first drawings Pratt ever made were of American Indians.
His love of the Indians, in particular those of the Northeastern United States (Iroquois and Mohawk) stayed with him for his whole life. Pratt created magnificent watercolors that were inspired by the Indian Wars and the War of Independence in North America.
He reached the peak of his graphic genius with the creation of Wheeling, a work dedicated to a city in Ohio that was plagued by clashes between the Native Americans and the white settlers.
Hugo Pratt experienced the Second World War while in the midst of people and armies of different nationalities..
In his watercolors as well as in his more famous panels, one can easily see the fascination he had for the beauty of military uniforms, with their colors and their characteristics. All these images—the flags, the insignia, and the badges of the Italian, English, or French armies, as well as of the Senegalese riflemen–are an exceptional testimony to what Pratt called “the military culture.”
An abiding theme in the life of Hugo Pratt, who was fascinated by women with strong personalities for whom, just like him, freedom was a credo…
His splendid watercolors on this inexhaustible subject are closely tied to his travels. In the course of his existence as an artist, Pratt paid tribute to women he had dreamed up and women he had actually met; to girls he had run into on distant islands, or mythical characters suggested by literature and the cinema, such as Pandora, Louise Brooks, Ipazia, Bocca Dorata and Shanghai Lil.
Hugo Pratt lived in Venice, Buenos Aires, Cordova, and many other cities…
As his father was a Frenchman of English origins, his mother was an Italian from Venice, and his grandparents were Jews who had left Turkey to move to Murano, Pratt’s attraction for these cities and ports is understandable: they are symbols of the fusion of cultures. Given his genealogy, it is not surprising that the Maestro created Corto Maltese as the offspring of a British sailor and a gypsy, and had him grow up in the Jewish quarter in Cordova.
Today we know that this character, who sprang from the particularly creative imagination of an artist with a rare gift, will go down in history.
“My current style is the culmination of a lifetime of research. I have worked for fifty years to be able to draw as I do now. I would like to succeed, someday, in telling it all with one simple drawn line,” Pratt used to say.
Pratt’s passion for the line pushed him to aim for the essential. The desert had become for him the ideal setting for this personal research. Indeed, what could be more difficult for an illustrator than to make the line of the horizon come alive? Perhaps it is here, in certain images of “The Scorpions of the Desert,” or of “The Man of Somalia,” that the magic of Pratt’s stroke works in the most surprising way.