Fifty Years of Illustration

Jessica Agim

ART 336

Book Review Draft

Fifty Years of Illustration. By Lawrence Zeegen and Caroline Roberts. ( London: Laurence King         

           Publishing Ltd, 2014. 383 pp. ).

Lawrence Zeegen is known as the author, but  Caroline Roberts is also given credit as an author because of her efforts in researching the illustration for each artist represented in the book Fifty Years of Illustration. Illustration has changed and developed over many years. With that, it has expressed its rich heritage and this book shown to us how illustrators have affected or reflected the decade through artwork. The beginning of this book starts off with explaining that illustration (as an art form) is known as the “people’s art” as well as a reflection of the lives we lead. With that idea, it plays an important part in history and plays a major role in determining how we see and comprehend this world and its past. Given this book’s recent publication, The focus is mainly on how far illustration has come since the 1960’s. The book mainly shows the observation of illustrators and the artist’s voice. This book represents the possibilities and impression that can leave a mark in history for future generations.

Lawrence does not tell a story but instead creates a link that recognizes and shows the interpretation of the cultures for each decade. It first starts off explaining what illustration means in connection with others to be able to view history through the visual arts. The book  gives the reader five decades, each being its own chapter, starting with the 1960s and then the 1970s, 80s, 90s, and 00s. Each chapter starts off with defining a decade with a title, from there it explains how that title represents that decade, and what had happened in that time that caused such a large impact.

An example of this would be chapter two reflection on the 1970’s that is titled as“ A Decade of discontent”. It explains that this decade of discontent with informing the reader of known facts that the world was currently in decline with economic recessions, but people distracted themselves with dancing to disco music and listening to ‘concept’ albums. Once those two to three pages of description is explained by the author it then finishes the chapter with recognizing lists of artists. Each author is given a brief description of their life from where they came from and what they ended up doing or being known for. After that, you are shown samples of their work with the title and year in which it was created. The setup of this book comes across as an archive of artists, whether being iconic or artist who had a small impact.

The topics in which this book focuses on is personally refreshing, as they do not lead with the typical “art history” subjects. Typical art history lectures usually concentrate on traditional fine arts from the eighteenth century, while this book focuses on the artist of recent times and how they represent their decade indical ally or all together. The book’s introduction gives reference to the illustrators of today when briefly states “…This new breed of illustrators work globally, and yet lives locally. No longer required to live where the work is, illustrator’s can work anywhere, anytime and for anyone”( Lawrence pg.15 ).

The interpretation of the decades and how the artwork draws a link gives the viewer the responsibility for the feeling and reason why the artist would have thought or irresistibly wanted to create or represent that certain political head, media, music genre, celebrities, revolutions, the need for change, and the pain of war. Given such a thing doesn’t the view to criticizes the work but instead call for interpretation and analysis of what that work represents and why it has become a significant part of history? This idea can let viewer figure out how the work would have or may have affected, started, or moves that era to its end.

After reading this book you will find that the main agenda and purpose of this book is to show the change of illustration styles over time, either being from propaganda, the wave of new music genre or recalling attention to an event or feel of people of that time period. Each Chapter organizes itself by first explaining the main idea of what the decade has been through or were going through, develops a theme to describe that time and then finish the chapter off with showing examples of the artist whose works were known or had an impact in that decade. It doesn’t explain the purpose of their illustration but instead gives you mini autobiography of how they came into doing illustration and why they did them.

Based on the information given in this book, It can be said that this book is mainly for illustration major doing research or art historian. It is set up as a reference book that could be useful if a person is researching an art movement in a certain time period or an art of that time period. This book would not be effective it was used as a class textbook because it doesn’t give a detailed autobiography of the artist, just main facts, and their artwork. For a research paper, this book would be very helpful in connecting a time period with the style, movement, and artist.

Fifty years of illustration, says exactly what the books gives you, no more no less. the downfall of this book is that the autobiography of each artist is short and there are no details of why they created the illustration or the impact the illustration may have had in that decade.The introduction to each decade is not as brief but not completely actual, instead, it reads as if the author is telling a story of what his interpretation of what that decade represented. The main purpose of this book is to show the change of illustration over the decades as well as how they may have influenced each other through the changing or the development of art styles.Each chapter focuses specifically on its decades and does not draw reference from the time period before or after.  

A person with an appreciation and appetite for visual reflection and history would find this book to be very stimulating. You may not recognize all of the work but you can connect the feelings of the artist who created such work that represented iconic people that reflected that time, political events, and even the humor of the decade  that showcased an idea of what drove the arts into creating that specific image without having to verbally tell you why they created it. All in all, to define this book of illustration, it shows a very true statement to the saying that  “ A picture is worth a thousand words”.



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