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The artists

Merely two years before the oldest design featured on Fiction Prints was created, Raffe’s Graphic Design, published in 1927, was the first book to use “graphic design” in its title.

Designers of book covers and dust jackets came from all walks of life - from trained fine artists to the new breed of ‘graphic artists’. Many artists came from the back room of the publisher’s office or printer’s factory who turned their hands to illustration. Only very few were ever credited and commissions of well-known artists were rare - book cover art was a truly ‘novel’ and growing phenomenon.

Scarce times created experimentation

The work was detailed, highly pressured and design was often left to the last minute. Tight deadlines meant a good designer would need to create an impressive design sometimes in hours. They also had to work with limitations of paper stock, paints and inks available.

Using hand-painted techniques and printed using Letterpress and Lithography methods, shortages meant that ‘making do’ resulted in unique colour combinations. Some of the colours of posters in the Fiction Prints collection show dramatic use of contrasting colours and one-off typographical styles.

Some of the chemicals that created dark, rich primary colours were also contained in bombs. Red and blue often featured in contrast, stretching the artists to embrace the constraints of their artistry. These colour combinations are of the war era and are still used today to reflect more sombre times. The artwork on Gold Fever by J. Allan Dunn is a superb example.

Pioneers of graphic design

Paying homage to the artists’ inventive styles, we’ve painstakingly reproduced posters from the originals, keeping true to their integrity.

It’s sad that the artists were never truly given the recognition they deserved for their outstanding work. Retrospectively, we hope these posters show the next generations the skill, creativity and craft involved in producing such influential designs - and right at the very birth of graphic design.

Featured artists

Browse and buy these beautifully conceived and designed book covers by:

    Hookway Cowles (Active 1948 – 65)
    Design: Bubbling Springs.
    Illustrator of mainly classic adventure stories. He worked in the sketchy style typical of the period, using vigorous shading to create dramatic tonal contrasts. He illustrated many of the H. Rider Haggard stories published by Macdonald.
    Joseph Abbey (b 1889) Designs: Golden Rat, Mystery of the Red Haired Valet, McLean Plays a Hand and Murder in The Bank
    Born in Amsterdam but lived in England from the age of three. He worked mainly in black and White for newspapers, Magazines and children’s books and annuals. His most successful subjects were birds, animals and plants. He was editor of Chums in the 1930’s and exhibited flower paintings at many London Galleries including the Royal Academy
    Cecil Mary Leslie – (1900 – 80)
    Design: Marriage by ordeal
    Studied at the London School of Photolithography and engraving and the central School of Arts and crafts. She served as a voluntary Aid Detachment nurse during World War I. Ran a Red Cross Detachment during World War II. Executed the only painted portrait of Lilian Bayless the ‘Old Vic’ director now at the National Portrait Gallery. She worked mainly in pen and ink with added watercolour, crayon or chalk. She adhered conscientiously to her author’s text and always drew from life.
    Bip Pares (Born 27 February 1904)
    Designs: The Diamond Murders, Naked Murder
    The oldest of six children. She was married twice and an account of her second honeymoon travels appears in her book Himalayan Honeymoon. She is known to have illustrated in excess of 600 jackets and books including such classic as Good-Bye Mr Chips. During the Second World War drew maps for the Daily Express newspaper. Ill health plagued her later years, though she never stopped working. Even when bedridden she painted minor pieces, some of which were sold as illustrations for greetings cards. Bip Pares was one of the greatest dust jacket artists ever! Her style was particularly effective when drawing on the art deco period for inspiration. The artwork usually possessing far greater style than the book itself. The apparant quality of her work appeared to range from very basic to extraordinary. This was, in our opinion, nothing to do with her but the contract and the publishers budget. At her finest, see Murder Gone Mad on Collins Crime Club by Philip Macdonald, she is untouchable in terms of style. On another site we do all we can to keep the names of these great artists alive, and to that end always welcome any new information from former publishing employees or family members of the artists themselves. Designed posters for the Underground Group and London Transport 1928-1939
    Eugene Hastain (born 9th October 1887)
    Design: Death and the Golden Image
    He was born in Camberwell one of 6 children his father Louise (sic) Bernard Albert Hastain was from France and his mother Emma Colman was from Clapham. He had a middle class up bringing with home tutors and developed his talent for art at an early age. He socialized with the leading literary, poets and artists of the 1900′s in the London cafe meeting houses reminiscent of the Paris societies of the 1880′s. One of his greatest friends was Leslie Charteris and it was Eugene who designed the little saint logo for him on the back of a napkin whilst they were drinking at a cafe! His talent was extensively employed by Hodder and Stoughton, as well as work for The Houses of Parliament, Princess Mary’s gift book and private commissions. He died in October 1957 of cancer whilst in a private Hospice in Bournemouth England.
    Arthur Barbosa Liverpool 6 March 1908; died 5 October 1995.
    Design: The Bat Flies Low
    There is a quality in his illustrations that sets them apart from the run of the mill and gives a distinction to the books they so ably helped to market. But Barbosa was an artist of many parts who would have succeeded even if his wish as a young man – that he might never have to draw or paint again – had been granted. Barbosa, as he liked to be called (he loathed modern trends towards familiarity), lived a life full of paradox. He was born in Liverpool, the son of a Portuguese vice-consul and a half-French mother. Though proud of his distinguished Portuguese ancestry, he was to those who knew him the quintessence of the English gentleman, and his first name was always anglicised to Arthur. During his schooldays at St Edward’s, Oxford, and later, studying at Liverpool School of Art, Heatherley’s and the Central School of Art, he impressed his teachers as the pupil most likely to excel. In fact it was his school contemporaries Laurence Olivier, Rex Harrison and Douglas Bader, at the time showing few signs of greatness, who were to become household names. While still a student, Barbosa first successfully exhibited his work in London as a founder member of the Pandemonium Group. At the same time he was illustrating for Everybody’s Weekly and the Radio Times and producing his earliest book covers for several London publishers.From 1930, his natural understanding of costume and an encyclopaedic knowledge of its history steered him towards designing for theatre. That year he designed for three concurrent West End productions and during the next few years worked with some of the great names of intimate revue – Andre Charlot, Kenneth Duffield and Cecil Landau. It is probable that this was the work he most enjoyed, but his drawings were so ideally suited to the elegance of the 1930s that during the same period he illustrated for Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, the Sketch, the Bystander, Night and Day and the Queen (some of the best examples of a golden age of magazine design) as well as the leading advertising agencies and publishers. After the Second World War, which he spent at the Ministry of Information (in the Portuguese section), he returned to illustrating, producing fashion drawings for Moss Bros and starting his long association and friendship with Georgette Heyer. The very “Englishness” of Barbosa’s work then became in demand in the United States and for 10 years he worked almost exclusively for American publishers. The 1960s brought a major change to Barbosa’s career; through his friendship with Rex Harrison he became involved in interior decoration. He had always taken great pride in the work he had done in 1928 in the interior of St Andrew’s Church, West Kirby, where he had designed the organ case, pew fronts and six-foot candlesticks. Nearly 40 years later, in 1966, he designed interiors for Harrison’s house in Portofino, Italy, and a year later embarked on his most difficult and substantial task when he undertook the total refurbishment of Elizabeth Taylor’s yacht, the Kalizma. He turned down the role he was offered in the Taylor/Burton film of the moment. Barbosa worked at his drawing board until a few months before his death, when he began to be troubled by poor eyesight. Portraits of the Duke of Wellington and Edward Elgar for British Sherry labels won him a Golden Clio design award in America and designs for wine and whisky labels followed. He saw a certain irony in the fact that he was replacing a lifetime of drinking alcohol with an effort to help market it. Outside his work, Barbosa was a character who might have stepped straight from the pages of Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time. He would have been a perfect guest at Lady Molly’s and utterly at home with a bottle and adoring female company in the early hours of the morning with Dicky Umfraville. In the mid-1930s, as a result of his obsessive interest in the royal families of Europe up to 1914, he formed a court with his friends, and once a year, resplendently dressed in uniforms designed by himself, a grand ball was held. Barbosa was the Grand Duke, Rex Harrison was his aide-de-camp and Cecil Beaton the court photographer. There are some remarkable Beaton photographs of such occasions. A more lasting legacy of Barbosa’s obsession is a collection of original photographs of members of European and Russian royal families from 1850 to 1914, which he put together over a period of 40 years, probably the finest collection of its kind in existence. Barbosa was adored by women throughout his life. He married three times, but had no children. Despite a long-held belief that the ideal marriage was a contract for nine years, he leaves a widow, Isobel, to whom he was inseparably married for 34 years.

    Greenup, Joseph b 1902 d. 1946, poster artist, British
    Designs: The Phantom Gunman
    Joseph Greenup began a four-year course in 1904, aged twelve at the Birmingham School of Art and gained his initial teaching qualification, a drawing certificate at 16 years old. Son of the Headmaster of Minworth School in Warwickshire.1926: Married Mary Tuckwell and for a while they lived in an artists colony at Chesham Bois where he had a studio. 1920s: Painted many landscapes of Warwickshire. 1934: Elected Associate of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists 1945: Elected Member of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists 1946, November: Died of pleurisy 1908: Studied at the Royal Academy schools 1907: Studied at South Kensington College of Art 1903-6: Obtained a scholarship to Birmingham Municipal School of Art. 1908: At the Royal Academy schools he won several prizes including a silver medal for life painting. He undertook commissions for Pearsons Magazines, railway posters and illustrated Captain Blood by Raphael Sabatini. He was a successful portrait painter, with commissions including a portrait of Princess Elizabeth in her Girl Guides uniform. Birmingham Institute of Art and Design. He worked as an illustrator for newspapers, books and periodicals and as a portrait painter. Painted posters for the London and North Eastern Railway

    Dictionary of British Book Illustrators. The Twentieth Century. By Brigid Peppin & Lucy Micklethwait
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