Mervyn Peake in Lilliput

This month I’ve been redesigning the Savoy Books edition of The Exploits of Engelbrecht by Maurice Richardson, in preparation for a reprint. This has involved scanning the covers of the issues of Lilliput, the magazine where Richardson’s tales of the dwarf surrealist sportsman first appeared, and one number of these, from May 1950, also includes a feature about nursery rhymes illustrated by Mervyn Peake. The paintings were reprinted in Mervyn Peake: The Man and his Art in 2006 but shrunk onto a single page so this is a chance to see them at a larger size. Also reproduced below is the accompanying article by Leslie Daiken and the Arcimboldo-style cover by Ronald Ferris. Some of the earlier covers by Walter Trier—all of which featured a man, a woman and a dog in a variety of guises—can be seen at VTS.

Update: For more about Mervyn Peake, see also Peake Studies.

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“How many miles to Babylon?”
“Three score miles and ten.”
“Can I get there by candle-light?”
“Yes, and back again.
If your heels are nimble and light
You may get there by candle-light.”

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New things for December

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Another delivery of work of mine this week with this new design for Savoy Books. Horror Panegyric is a small volume examining David Britton’s Lord Horror novels, writer Keith Seward being the founder of the web’s best William Burroughs site, RealityStudio, and also an author of avant garde erotic fictions which can be found at his Supervert site. The cover painting for this book was my Arcimboldo-style portrait of Lord Horror which originally appeared on the cover of Reverbstorm #3.

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My pastiches

My pastiches

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Lord Horror: Reverbstorm #3 (1992).

Following from the post about an art forgery exhibition (and Eddie Campbell discussing his American Gothic cover for Bacchus), I thought I’d post some of my own forgeries, or pastiches as we call them when no deception is intended.

Reverbstorm was the Lord Horror comic series I was creating with David Britton for Savoy in the 1990s. The Modernist techniques of collage (as in the work of Picasso and others) and quotation (as in TS Eliot’s The Waste Land) became themes in themselves as the series developed, so it seemed natural to imitate the styles of various artists as we went along. Pastiche is also a chance to flagrantly show off, of course, and I can’t deny that this was also one of my impulses here.

Issue #3 of Reverbstorm had marauding apes as its theme, from the Rue Morgue to Tarzan and King Kong, so I had the idea of doing an ape cover in the style of the celebrated paintings by Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527–1593) which make human heads out of fruit, flowers or animals. Easy enough to have the idea but making it work took a lot of effort and required careful sketching beforehand, something I rarely do. The painting was gouache on board, a medium I’d been using for years and this was about the last gouache work I did before switching to acrylics.

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Fantastic art from Pan Books

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Fantastic Art (1973).
Cover: Earth by Arcimboldo.

I’d thought of writing something about this book series even before I started this weblog since there’s very little information to be found about it online. I can’t compete with the serious Penguin-heads—and I’m not much of a dedicated book collector anyway—but I do have a decent collection of the art books that Pan/Ballantine published in the UK throughout the 1970s. These were published simultaneously by Ballantine/Peacock Press in the US and nearly all were edited by David Larkin, with Betty Ballantine overseeing the American editions. Two of the series, the Dalí and Magritte, were among the first art books I owned. Over the years I’ve gradually accumulated almost the full set and I always look for their distinctive white spines in secondhand shops.

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