Publisher Laurence King has launched a new series of illustrated art monographs, presenting an accesible visual guide to the work of iconic creatives. The series begins with a look at Jackson Pollock, Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol…
Each This is… title combines archive photography, text and images of artists’ work with specially commissioned illustrations, highlighting personal anecdotes and key moments in their careers. Andrew Rae illustrated This is Warhol and This is Dali, while Peter Arkle worked on This is Pollock.
The books were written by Catherine Ingram, a freelance art historian who came up with the idea for the series after working on a project for the Science Museum. “I worked up some ideas for a children’s guide with Julian House. Julian’s images were beautiful, [and] I came away thinking that I should work with art history in this way,” she explains.
Warhol, Dali and Pollock’s work has been the subject of various textbooks and coffee table tombes, but Ingram says the This is… series offers a more informal and visually-led guide to their art.
“I had a lingering memory of seeing a man on the Metro in Paris with a philosophy book stuffed into his back pocket and I wanted to recreate that informal attitude to the serious,” she says.
“Illustration offered a way of distilling the atmosphere of the period and the artist’s life – an incredible amount of research goes into each image, but the hope is that the ideas come across effortlessly and the reader uncovers the artist’s world, making their own connections, without being lectured,” she adds.
Illustrators were chosen for their ability to complement the featured artist’s work – “there was a rich pop vein in Andrew’s work, which was ideal for Warhol and Dali. The freewheeling documentary style of Peter’s illustrations was a natural fit for the bohemian Pollock,” says Ingram.
This is Warhol, illustrated by Andrew Rae
“What’s exciting is seeing where the illustrators take the story and tailor their styles. For example, Andrew’s Dali illustrations have an opulance, but his Warhol illustrations are relatively bleak,” she adds.
At 80 pages long, the hardback books are light and portable and art director Angus Hyland says they’re designed to be “handbag and manbag friendly. They are definitely not coffee table books…they look better bashed about,” he says.
The size of the books, which measure just over 22cm high, was a key concern, says Ingram, as she was keen to create “an intimate reading experience, while still giving plenty of breathing space to the illustrations.” Inside, images of artists’ work has been placed on black pages to avoid clashing or visually competing with illustrations.
Rae and Arkle’s attention to detail is impressive: their artwork helps paint a vivid picture of artist’s surroundings and upbringings, and bring to life personal moments that are difficult to illustrate through text alone.
The series isn’t the first to offer an accessible look at influential art but Ingram hopes the original illustrations will also capture some of the excitement of the avant-garde scene.
This is Dali, illustrated by Andrew Rae
“Old archival photography is wonderful, but we only get to see what was snapped at the time. Illustration opens up the opportunity of recreating the vibrant life of avant-garde, showing events that were not caught on camera, revealing potent scenes from their life story, and looking at their more ephemeral commercial ventures. Each book lends itself to a very different treatment,” she says.
The next titles will profile Bacon and Gauguin and are illustrated by artists with “very different styles,” says Ingram. “We hope that the variety of illustrators and indeed writers creates an open conversation to the series, and we hope that the reader feels included in that,” she adds.
This is Warhol, This is Dali and This is Pollock are published by Laurence King and priced at £9.95.
This is Pollock, illustrated by Peter Arkle