Covers art directed by Mike Dempsey, using block prints by James Lowe
Noisy Decent Graphics alerted us to news of Pardney’s excellent new website that takes the form of a binder stuffed with information on the design evolution of the Fontana Modern Masters series, which ran to 48 books in the mid-1970s to early 80s, and was edited by the critic Frank Kermode.
The covers, writes Pardey, “featured geometric ‘paintings’ in lurid colours which made no reference to the subject within, but instead appealed directly to the reader. For they did not just catch the eye, they hijacked it, and as such they are now regarded as daring design classics.”
Covers art directed by John Constable, with paintings by Oliver Bevan
The site, fontanamodernmasters.org, documents the various artisitic influences on the development of the covers (namely the Op Art movement and cut-up culture of the 1960s) and then examines the designs initially produced by art director John Constable (who used paintings by Oliver Bevan); Mike Dempsey (who incorporated block designs by James Lowe); and Patrick Mortimer, who oversaw the art direction of the series from 1980-83.
Oliver Bevan’s Pyramid paintings were used on eight covers
Covers by art director Patrick Mortimer
Pardey also looks at the work of UK artist Jamie Shovlin – whose 2003 project reimagined the Modern Masters series as a set of dripping watercolours – and in a nice bit of book cover trivia sheds light on the ten ‘lost’ Masters titles.
A history of the original series of covers by Pardey features in issue 74 of Eye magazine – you can read the article, The Shape of the Century, on the Eye website, here.
And if that doesn’t quite sate your appetite for striking 70s design, then Pardey has also included all 48 Modern Masters covers (listed alphabetically) in a 50 x 70 cm print, which is available to buy from his website, here (£25.39 including postage and packing in the UK).