Secker & Warburg, 1989.
Most people will know Dennis Leigh—if they know him at all—as John Foxx, the name that Leigh adopted in the 1970s when he was the lead singer and songwriter in Ultravox! (That exclamation mark was a fixture for the group’s first two albums.) Foxx and Leigh maintained parallel careers for a while, or alternating careers in the 1990s when he was working more as an illustrator than as a musical artist.
I’ve been asked a few times to consider writing about artists or designers who create covers for literary titles. This is something I often consider myself but the research is never easy. If you’re looking for genre titles you can go to isfdb.org and immediately find entries for hundreds of artists with lists of their credits; Dennis Leigh has an entry there himself. There’s no equivalent source for literary fiction, and nothing for crime novels or non-fiction either. This post is based on a list compiled by a correspondent (thanks, Marc!) to which I added a couple of discoveries of my own. It’s not complete but it ranges through Leigh’s career as a cover artist from the 1970s to the 2000s.
One of the useful things about Dennis Leigh having a more popular alter ego is the amount of interviews in which John Foxx discusses his work outside the music business. While researching this post I found a Smash Hits interview where Foxx mentions having attended Blackpool art college for a short time. This was the same art college that my mother attended in the 1950s, and a place I happily avoided myself. The college is so undistinguished I think Foxx/Leigh may be the only person of any note to have passed through its doors. A more recent interview for Shakespeare Magazine features some discussion of the techniques behind the book covers.
Faber, 1973. Reginald Hill wrote two science-fiction novels as “Dick Morland”, this one and Albion! Albion! (1974). The latter is also listed as having a Leigh cover but the evidence for this is unclear so I’ve not included it.
Missing from this list are covers for novels by Neil Bartlett, Michael Cunningham, Evan Eisenberg, Eva Figes, and Marina Warner, all of which are only available as very low-grade images or not available at all. Another hazard when researching these posts is that artists and designers aren’t always credited, especially on paperbacks, so there may be a few more to be found. Be aware that some covers that might look like Dennis Leigh creations may be the work of somebody else. In the late 80s/early 90s there was a trend for Photoshop montage and what I call “artschool assemblage” (collage riffs on Joseph Cornell and others). If any of the examples here are erroneous attributions let me know.
Continue reading “Dennis Leigh book covers”
The Song of Love (1914) by Giorgio de Chirico.
His art studies, begun in Athens, were continued in Munich where he discovered the work of Max Klinger and Arnold Böcklin, not to mention the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche and Arthur Schopenhauer, whose influence is perceptible in the paintings he went on to produce in Florence and Turin. In addition, his melancholy temperament lay behind the works that Guillaume Apollinaire labelled “metaphysical,” works in which elements from the real world (deserted squares and arcades, factory chimneys, trains, clocks, gloves, artichokes) were imbued with a sense of strangeness.
Keith Aspley, Historical Dictionary of Surrealism
The Enigma of a Day (1914) by Giorgio de Chirico.
Plate II from Let There Be Fashion, Down With Art (Fiat modes pereat ars) (1920) by “Dadamax Ernst”.
The Birth of an Idol (1926) by René Magritte.
Some time during the latter part of 1923 [Magritte] came face-to-face with his destiny, in the form of a painting by Giorgio de Chirico, who was one of the painters most admired by the Paris Surrealists: Le Chant d’amour (The Song of Love, 1914); to be more precise, a black-and-white reproduction of that painting in the review Les Feuilles libres, a very contrasty reproduction, as Sylvester has it, which only heightened the drama of the outsize objects suspended in the foreground of one of de Chirico’s “metaphysical landscapes”… He was shown it by Lecomte, or Mesens, or both. He was overwhelmed. […] Magritte always spoke of de Chirico as his one and only master. As a rule, he was exceedingly parsimonious in his assessment of other artists, past and present. In his own time, de Chirico (1888–1978) and Ernst (1891–1976) appear as the only two he admired, more or less unconditionally.
Magritte: A Life by Alex Danchev
Sewing Machine with Umbrellas in a Surrealist Landscape (1941) by Salvador Dalí.
Continue reading “Echoes of de Chirico”
Untitled painting by Oliver Frey based on The Wild Boys by William Burroughs.
• RIP Oliver Frey, a prolific illustrator and comic artist whose art for UK computer magazines in the 1980s made a lasting impression on a generation of games players, hence this obituary at Eurogamer. On this site, however, Frey is also remembered for his artistic alter-ego “Zack” (previously), an equally prolific creator of comic-strip erotica for Britain’s few gay-porn mags at a time when any such material being sold in the UK ran the risk of police seizure or even a court appearance. For a while, Zack’s Rogue and Tom of Finland’s Kake were rare examples of assertive, unashamedly lustful gay characters with strips of their own, which makes Oliver Frey something of a pioneer, and a daring one at that.
• “The title characters were a trio of boys named Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw, and Bob Andrews, who live in the fictional California town of Rocky Beach, not far from Hollywood, on the coast…” Colin Fleming on the satisfyingly spooky adventures of Robert Arthur Jr’s Three Investigators. I was never as obsessive as Fleming was but I read all of the books about the trio that I could find in our local library.
• “Though its inimitable visual style has safeguarded it as a quintessential cult film most at home behind a shroud of pot smoke, the influence of Koyaanisqatsi has been sweeping.” Josef Steen on 40 years of Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi.
• “Putting it simply, coincidences and curiosities and chance encounters happen when people go looking for zodiacs.” Mark Valentine on Britain’s terrestrial zodiacs.
• At Literary Hub: Marguerite Duras on writing the screenplay for Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima Mon Amour.
• New/old music: a reissue of Solar Maximum by Majeure.
• New music: Kerber Remixes by Yann Tiersen.
• At Dennis Cooper’s: Ingrid Caven Day.
• Threnody To The Victims Of Hiroshima (1959-61) by Krzysztof Penderecki | Memory Of Hiroshima (1973) by Stomu Yamash’ta | Hiroshima Mon Amour (1977) by Ultravox!
Institute Benjamenta (1998) by Lech Jankowski.
Continuing an occasional series about artists or designers whose work has appeared on record sleeves. Regular readers won’t be surprised to hear that I’ve had this one in mind for some time but it’s taken a while to put together. The main problem has been the Quay Brothers’ habit of using a variety of different names when they were working as designers; variations include “Stefen” rather than Stephen Quay, the Brothers Quai, Gebr. Quay, Jumeaux Quay, The Quays, Atelier Koninck (or Koninck Atelier), and so on. The catalogue compilers at Discogs do a good job of keeping up with the alternate names of groups or musical artists but stumble over those used by anyone else associated with an album’s production. Consequently, this collection of covers shouldn’t be taken as complete or final. Some of the discoveries would have been impossible without the checklist of Quays ephemera that accompanied the MoMA exhibition in 2012.
Blood, Sweat & Tears (1968) by Blood, Sweat & Tears.
This must be one of the earliest of the Quays’ commercial works. As with other covers from the first decade of their career, the credit is for illustration alone, graphic design came later.
Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 2 In D Major, Violin Concerto No. 5 In A Major (“Turkish”) (197?); Zurich Chamber Orchestra, Zino Francescatti, Edmond De Stoutz.
George Rochberg: String Quartet No. 3 (1973); The Concord String Quartet.
Fiction Tales (1981) by Modern Eon.
Continue reading “Quay Brothers record covers”
Poster by Chris Ware for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010).
• “He is a proponent of “slow cinema,” which is to say, movies that inspire reflection because they are unhurried but fluid, clear but framed by mystery.” Hilton Als on the metaphysical world of Apichatpong Weerasethakul.
• “You could take off your clothes and lay in the sun, nude, with other guys looking for sex, right in Manhattan. And the police didn’t care. It was safe…” Stanley Stellar on his photographs of New York’s “Gay Piers”.
• At Wormwoodiana: An interview with RB Russell who talks about his new book, Robert Aickman: An Attempted Biography.
• New music: Mysterium by Held By Trees; A Journey by Hinako Omori; Waves by The Soundcarriers.
• Get some cosmic perspective with an updated version of Charles & Ray Eames’ Powers of Ten.
• You Cut Your Hair and Made a Friend: Richard Conway on Ladytron’s 604 and Light & Magic.
• At Unquiet Things: The Tawdry Technicolor Horrors of Vicente B. Ballestar.
• Alexis Petridis compiles a list of the late James Mtume’s greatest recordings.
• Steven Heller’s Font of the Month is Valvolina.
• Slow Motion (1978) by Ultravox | Slow And Low (1995) by Tetsu Inoue | Slow Burning Ghosts (1996) by Paul Schütze