Sunday 2 April 2017

CENTENARY ARTICLE: Frank Bellamy and Lifestyle illustrations

Frank Bellamy (unpublished?) as appearing in
Lifestyle Illustrations of the 50s
A while ago Jaime Ferguson posted on JaDoodles Art Blog a picture that attracted my attention. It was a Frank Bellamy piece I had never seen before but which resembled a few others that are mystery pieces as I don't know if they were ever published. Jaime mentioned it came from Rian Hughes' book Lifestyle Illustrations of the 50s in which the knowledgeable David Roach contributes an introduction. It's an overview of the boy/girl artwork that started as rather representational and by the end of the decade became a bit more abstract, using shapes and blocks of colour. It includes many USA artists whose work was 'syndicated' over here, providing UK publishers with artwork they could afford, compared to the original American payments to their artists. But it also has loads of UK artwork too from magazines such as Woman, Woman and Home, Woman's Journal and Woman's Home.

Lifestyle Illustrations of the 50s pp.12-13
The complete artwork (of which the above is a close-up) is 520mm x 730mm (or 20.5" x 29" as it would have been in the Fifties!). The signature is an early Bellamy but the important clue is the International Artists sticker.

In 1951 Bellamy had produced these type of illustrations for Home Notes (and hated doing them according to Nancy Bellamy) (between February and November) and signed up with International Artists Limited (which was founded in 1933). The London Manager (and one of the Directors) I. H. Thompson wrote to Bellamy confirming they would be pleased to act as his agent from 10th December 1951. Presumably they had acted on Bellamy's behalf before this date as Bellamy states (see below) they gave him the Home Notes' work. So this dates the above piece as being after that date and it was submitted to the agency, presumably for publication. In the interview with Dez Skinn and Dave Gibbons, Bellamy states:

Well, towards the end of my career there [Norfolk Studios], I was doing the odd freelance job. I started getting freelance through a phone call from International Artists, who were then the biggest art agency in the country [...] everyone from Francis Marshall to Ronald Searle, they were all with the International agency. Apparently they got to see my work through some cartoons I did for advertising the Daily Telegraph in World’s Press News and Ad Weekly, full pages that I did a series of. As soon as I gave them permission to represent me, I had a commission to do two love story illustrations for Home Notes, a woman’s magazine
Interestingly Bellamy's run in World's Press began in December 1951 so I presume that Thompson et al saw these before publication but even that seems to stretch Bellamy's memories a bit - but perhaps he got the commissions before being fully represented?
Frank Bellamy Romance novel book cover?
The piece above, which is approximately 11.5 inches tall (29 cm) could be a book cover with the cottage on the left for the spine (compare to Denise Robins' dustjacket below). But to date I have not found any such book. It might have been produced for his portfolio that he hawked around Fleet Street in the late 1940s. But until more information turns up that's the best I can do - except to say, having seen this artwork in the flesh, like the piece in Hughes' book - where he shows the back of the artwork - it appears to be earlier than Bellamy's use of CS10 artboard.  

Unpublished (?) Frank Bellamy

Regarding the next piece I have never seen the illustration below in real life, just many scans and photos over the years. Mike Lake originally owned it but it has since passed to others. It seems to me to be of the same style and era as the two above, but I always fancied it to be a Home Notes illustration, but after trawling through volumes of that magazine I have never found it.

Frank Bellamy romance illustration

Now, the next 'lifestyle illustration' - (wonderful term Rian and David!) should be easy to identify.  It was published by Gerald Swan for whom I know Bellamy did several jobs. More on that another day!

Affinity #29 June-July (1950)
What interested me, whilst reading - or rather - viewing Lifestyle Illustrations of the 50s was how some artists certainly look to have inspired Bellamy. In the above mentioned interview he was asked about inspiration and he modestly stated "I find it difficult to sort out the difference between people who influence me or impress me with their work". I wondered if elements of Pruett Carter influenced him in his solid figure work, together with colour being used as solid shapes. Jon Whitcomb appeared in many women's magazines of the Fifties, as Hughes shows. I wonder whether his technique of 'feathering' inspired Bellamy - examples of which appear in nearly all the illustrations on this page. But there are also UK artists who I suspect helped form Bellamy's work, even if he was not aware of them doing so. Eric Earnshaw and Edwin Philips seem the obvious ones to me, particularly after flicking through their work in Hughes' book. The former draws fine representational couples with angled "over the shoulder" views such as this one.
Influences can be very subtle - and here I agree with him, those that impress us do influence us. So it's natural his style will emulate that of the period. I also enjoy Bellamy's early comic work in which he manages to emulate the style of the day, quite naturally, and watching him develop his own style which in my opinion comes into its own during the 50s - for example his construction and composition in Boy's Own Paper, his black and white work leads to stippling for shading and later his colour in the Eagle comic.

So let's wind this up with two books I have: Denise Robins My True Love, 1954 and Roberta Leigh Dark Inheritance, 1954 both published by the Valentine Romance Book Club. As Steve Holland, who first alerted me to these said, Roberta Leigh is the same lady who created Twizzle and Torchy the Battery Boy which Gerry Anderson filmed in the late Fifties. And that brings the decade to an end! I have the first edition of the Robins story with the same cover but from Hutchinson.

Note the signature at the bottom

Signature very clear here

Roberta Leigh Dustjacket

Denise Robins dustjacket

Lifestyle Illustration of the 60s is an accompanying volume to the above mentioned 50s volume by Rian Hughes and David Roach

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