Tuesday, July 20, 2010

British Illustrators of the '60s: "inventiveness and mastery of their craft"

By guest author David Roach

* David continues his description of the fabulous new book, Lifestyle Ilustrations of the '60s, just released in the UK and Europe by the new publishing house Fiell and edited by Rian Hughes


Those with long memories might recall a posting I wrote a few years back about a number of British artists who were working back then , none of whom I had ever heard of before and who are now completely forgotten. This book will hopefully redress that balance.


What is clear from leafing through the 1500 or so illustrations in the book is that Britain had its own group of great commercial artists who could absolutely match the Americans for inventiveness and mastery of their craft though up ‘til now they have had no record of that work and no recognition.

The leading British artists included Walter Wyles, John Heseltine, Eric Easrnshaw, Michael Johnson , Brian Sanders, Stanley Coleman, Frank Hasseler Ron Atkinson, Cecil Vieweg and Gerry Fancett. Google them and in most cases all you’ll find are links to TI, such is the extent to which they have disappeared from the publics consciousness.

Anyone who has looked into the last great flowering of American Illustration, those great magazine illustrators of the Cooper and Fredman Chaite studios will find the same lament; everything was going great until around 1960, 1964 or 1965 ( accounts differ) when everything just stopped. But not in Britain.

For once we can all be grateful that the UK lagged behind America and while Photography and television gradually eroded away the market for illustrated fiction, it was still an integral part of most British magazines until well into the 70s.

The best of the Brits were very much the equal of anything coming out of the US and were able to experiment with highly creative compositions, inventive uses of colour and paint ( typically the wonderfully smeary/gloopy luiquitex) and some plain old beautiful drawing. For those wondering “what if” the golden era of US illustration had lasted another decade...


... the answer is here.

Continued tomorrow...

* Lifestyle Illustrations of the '60s is available at Amazon.com


  1. Charlie Allen1:00 PM

    Stunning stuff..... Wow, how isolated we were, especially in the west, and oblivious to illustration going on in Europe and Britain. Thanks, as always, for posting it now.

  2. Chad Sterling2:19 PM

    Great art is an international language.

  3. Leif's quote: Britain had its own group of great commercial artists who could absolutely match the Americans for inventiveness and mastery of their craft...

    Because of the rigid traditional British training in art schools, they knew their craft well, and their drawing was always solid. However, I think they were a bit more conservative with their color, and not as daring as many of the 60's American illustrators, at least what I have seen so far of British illustration. Back then, the British people were traditional by nature, so they may have had to tone down their illustrations a bit. I suspect that British illustrators were looking at American illustration's dramatic changes in the late 50's and early 60's, and jumped on the band wagon.. at least that is the impression I got then and I get now. That is not to take anything away from British illustrations, they produced a lot of excellent work and it was beautifully executed as Leif points out. Thanks again Leif, for an interesting expanded view of mid century illustration.

    Tom Watson

  4. In case there's any confusion, I just want to emphasize that this week's posts are written by David Roach. :^)

  5. Chad Sterling2:39 PM

    Tom, I guess that may have something to do with there being a much smaller pool of illustrators and a lot less outlets for their talents.

  6. Book looks terrific! Don't suppose there's anything by ROnald Searle in there?

  7. Yes, that's a good point Chad.
    And, thanks for the correction Leif, my mistake.

    Tom Watson

  8. Very interesting these entries, as all it does David.

  9. Just got my copy. Holy cow, what a terrific book. The work is fantastic, and the job Hughes did restoring color and removing type is nothing less than stellar.

  10. Got my copy today , brilliant stuff.

  11. My copy of this book arrived this morning. Absolutely stunning. Easily the best art book I've purchased this year.

  12. Wonderful illustration work, right balance of detail and stylization

  13. I love this...wanna pick up a copy for myself soon :)