Tony Meeuwissen retrospective

Inventive and intensely-detailed book covers, prints and postage stamps, not to mention a sleeve for the Rolling Stones, make up just a small part of illustrator Tony Meeuwissen’s creative work since the 1960s. Next month, an exhibition in Stroud displays a selection of highlights from his career

Inventive and intensely-detailed book covers, prints and postage stamps, not to mention a sleeve for the Rolling Stones, make up just a small part of illustrator Tony Meeuwissen’s creative work since the 1960s. Next month, an exhibition in Stroud displays a selection of highlights from his career…

Meeuwissen has just wrapped up an exhibition of his work at the Museum in the Park in Stroud, but the good news is that a smaller version of the show will be opening at the town’s Subscription Rooms art space this December.

As the only illustrator to have won two D&AD Golds, it’s perhaps remarkable that as skilled a practitioner as Meeuwissen actually has no formal fine-art training.

Instead, he learned his craft during a five-year apprenticeship within a studio serving the Rank Organisation, followed by stints in various London advertising agencies.

On becoming a freelancer, Meeuwissen then worked for a range of clients including the Radio Times, the Sunday Times Magazine, and also created artwork that was used on the Rolling Stones album, Their Satanic Majesties Request – details of which are recounted by Meeuwissen himself on the Eye blog, here. (The image below shows Meeuwissen’s original sleeve idea. The border was eventually used on the back cover, while the photograph (by Michael Cooper) remained on the front but was surrounded by a blue sky background pattern).

Meeuwissen has also produced his own books, such as the children’s title, Remarkable Animals (spread shown, below), and The Key to the Kingdom; a book and set of beautfully realised “transformation” playing cards that took three years to make.

Here are a few examples from Meeuwissen’s fantastic set of playing cards – where the adage, the more you look the more you see, certainly applies. Some of these are also available to buy as prints at Folio Boutique:

David Pelham, Penguin’s art director from the late 1960s to the early eighties, recalls commissioning Meeuwissen for numerous Penguin covers. “During my years as art director of Penguin Books I found Tony’s approach to illustration particularly suited to the size limitations imposed by a Penguin cover,” Pelham recalls.

“On first meeting him it quickly became apparent that – armed as he was with a singular and quite remarkable illustrative technique – he was a keen reader with a sharp insight, able to absorb the essence of a book and to consequently define it with a strong and relevant image.

“A searching and original mind may come up with a good pictorial idea,” Pelham continues, “but it was my experience in those pre-computer times that few had the ability to convey a notion from the mind’s eye to the drawing board with such clarity, originality and wit as Tony.

“He has the eye of an illustrator and the mind of a designer. Having first searched out the essence of his subject-matter he will then – seemingly effortlessly – manifest his thoughts into wonderfully composed and formalised, yet elaborate images: a combination that allows him to solve visual problems with remarkable originality, skill and panache.”

You can see for yourself at Tony Meeuwissen: 50 Years in Illustration and Graphic Art at the Subscriptions Rooms, George Street, Stroud from 5 December until 19 December.

Telephone 01453 760 900 for more details or see the Subscription Rooms‘ website.

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