Friday 1 December 2017

Frank Bellamy and the Mexican Bandit

Mexican bandit by Frank Bellamy
I love it when I get someone write to me with something I'm certain most people will not have seen. I also love it when I have permission to share, so here you go courtesy of Chloe Tideswell.

Chloe said:
Feel free to share the picture on your blog it would be lovely to share it with people and I am sure my Grandad would have wanted that too.

I have measured the picture it is 30cm in length and 24cm in width to be honest I have never taken it out, or seen it out of the frame. I have attached a  picture to show you this.
 It almost looks more amazing without the frame as the rest of the picture is white it is also painted on some line board? I always thought it was on paper. Amazing.
Rear - CS10 Bellamy's preferred artboard

It has been on the wall for 30 years I have always admired the picture (I'm 32) and last Christmas my Grandad, who passed away in July with a short battle with cancer, gave it to me as a gift. He always called the picture 'most unusual'  and was a fan of Bellamy's work and in his lifetime had quite a lot of Bellamy's work in his office. He would often tell me that the Mexican Bandit was an unpublished picture and was quite special.
Before his passing he gave me a typed up letter written by himself explaining the background for his Bellamy pieces and as my Nana is still alive agrees with what he wrote.
Here's the story:
In the 70s my Grandparents owned a Buy and Save Supermarket in a place called Clifton in Nottingham (where we were from) One of their regular customers was the late Frank Bellamy's sister in law. She asked if they were interested in comic strip art and arranged for them to visit Frank's widow in her bungalow in Kettering, this was around 1982, six years after he died.

She was a lovely woman, they said, and showed them a great deal of Bellamy's work and in conversation mentioned the good relationship he had had with the creators of Thunderbirds. They purchased 9 pieces that day including the Mexican Bandit which I am told was on the wall at the Bellamy's house

They also were shown a letter sent from Sir William Russell Flint some years before, congratulating him on a magazine illustration that he commented he couldn't have done better himself. Nancy was very proud of this and never wanted to part with it.

Six months later Nancy rang my Grandad offering to sell a double page picture with famous people on it including Frank Sinatra, the Royal Family, the Beatles - just to name a few for around £200 at the time. He couldn't afford this and on the bottom of the letter he gave me he said it was one of his biggest regrets .......

I'm happy to have stumbled on your web page and can finally share the story with someone
In its frame

The Sinatra, Beatles piece is one I have not yet shared - it's the Sunday Times (Colour) Magazine (5th October 1969) " A young artist dreams of success. But will he make it?" written by Robert Lacey.

I've asked Chloe about the other pieces her Grandad bought and she's kindly supplied a list most of which are known already, but I'll report back in due course.

So what is this piece of art? I have absolutely no record of it beyond the fact Alan Davis showed it on his website a while ago.  I decided to ask the two Davids about this and firstly David Slinn replied to me:
 "The attached Frank Bellamy artwork, though certainly unusual, may have been intended to be positioned to the left of a column of text, perhaps on a contents page. This would account for Frank having worked to a precise edge, and not simply included a bleed to be cropped at a production stage. However, what’s rather intriguing is the – decidedly, “un-FB-like” (uncorrected) – tiny seep from the cast shadow on the character’s throat. Nonetheless, a perfect example, of Frank’s unique instinctive design sense."
That 'seep' is so minute I missed it!

David Jackson agreed that:
I think your theory fits about why the 'Mexican Bandit' art is the way it is to accommodate text or other page layout. Thinking about it, it's even odd that the face isn't itself square-on and divided exactly in half down the middle, rather than as it is, turned away. As it is I'd have been tempted to frame it up against the picture mount/frame, leaving all the blank space to the left.

Good point David! I felt the "non-squared off" look was to make him lean away from the 'wall'.

I can say with certainty it was produced before August 1975 as that was approximately when the Bellamys moved from Morden back to Kettering (and the back of the board shows the Morden address) . Another mystery waiting to be solved - many thanks to Chloe for her kindness!


Kid said...

That was interesting. Always nice when these little forgotten gems pop up from time-to-time. Can't help wondering which magazine, book or comic the piece was for though.

Norman Boyd said...

You, me and a silent load of readers too Kid. Thanks for writing

Richard Sheaf said...

Very interesting piece (as ever) Norman

Norman Boyd said...

Thanks Richard. Back atcha - particularly the Gibbons finds! For those who don't know, Richard, besides turning up really unusual UK finds, and alerting us to events that are on, runs a blog at