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”.



The Space Race



The image that I found was a student project in the Visual arts program designed by Philips Jacoby. His project was based on a calendar in an abstract design.The calendar’s theme were the 12 different types of invented air crafts throughout history. Of these twelve  month series, I found September to one of the most appealing months, in both design and subject. The aircraft that was represented in this month is the history of  the space race and how Neil Armstrong first landed in space in 1969.

I thought the most compelling thing about the September poster concerning this subject was not just the information I learned but also the design of the subject. In my perspective, the color combination works very well in complementing each other without distracting from each other. The artist uses the orange-red and the blue to show the differences in the aircraft that he describes, but also shows the intensity of the race between them. What also caught my eye concerning this work was the composition, and how each object was laid out in a way where it related but represents its part in historical fact.

The artifacts represented is this poster are space crafts once from the United States and Russia. The American aircraft consists of a rectangular body and cone shaped nose that on the top an antenna is attached in the shape of an arrow. The Russian aircraft on the right very much differs in shape. The top portion of the body has a circular form with two antenna poking out with equal distance from each other. On the bottom of the craft, it is formed as if it were a partially cut  diamond shape. Attached to the lower portion of the diamond are four oval antennae, two overlapping each other, the pairs equally apart on one side of the body. Three straight antennae, the shape of an ink pen tip, pokes out from the right ,off center.

The arrangement of the text is what I found to be a plus about this poster. The arrangement of the text is both legible as well as it helps with the movement. Visually, the type arrangement helped with the movement of the text from up to down and back up. White space on this design is not that utilized, but the white space is used to represent the light source and how they are used to create a brightness. Altogether I found that the poster was not only informative for the viewer of a historical moment but also found it is visually attractive with its color combination and the use of light and space to convey the idea and the feeling of outer space and its emptiness.




Audrey Beardley

Aubrey Beardsley was not only an influential illustrator but a poet. With time, it was said that his writing became just as decadent as his illustrated work. As a child, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and he spent much of his time in bed. His time bedridden caused him to devote his life to drawing and writing poetry.

During the Art Nouveau movement, Aubrey Beardsley has been known to be one of the most controversial artists of his time. His illustration had a linear elegance that somehow worked well with his bizarre sense of humor. A fascination with the grotesque and taboo simultaneously intrigued and repelled his audience. His works were also seen to have had very strong elements of Japanese aesthetics as well as some influence from Pre-Raphaelites.

One of Aubrey’s works is called “How Sir Tristram Drank of the Love Drink.” This piece was created in the years between 1893 to 1894, and was one of Aubrey’s illustrations that was known to be his first masterpiece. This illustration was produced for Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’arthur. His imagery helped the author’s interpretation with the tale of King Arthur. The illustration draws from the story of Tristram and Isolde’s doomed love story that represents the romantic connection between Lancelot and Guinevere in the story of King Arthur. He portrays the couple as androgynous characters that are being forced apart by a pillar that divides the composition.

Aubrey’s works have the characteristics from not just the influence of Art Nouveau, but also comprised characteristics of the Aestheticism, Decadence, Symbolism movement. The one most common thing found in Aubrey’s illustrations was the  androgynous figures that challenged the Victorian gender roles and traditional concepts of sexuality. Most of his themes consisted of decay, death, and eroticism that was a shock to his audience. Even with such dark themes, he still managed to keep a delicacy of interlacing forms and sinuous arabesque lines that made his visualization show the changing of time, gender role changes that came from war, and art movement influenced.



Aubrey Beardsley Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works … (n.d.). Retrieved October 23, 2016, from



What Ever Happened to Gutenberg?


Whatever happened to Gutenberg? We all know that the story begins with the Gutenberg bible. As history has it, Gutenberg was not the inventor of printing, movable type, or even the ink that he used to create the printing. He was very much known for being the first to collectively use all this equipment, with the proper techniques, to successfully create his own version of the bible. He credited it to himself, calling it the Gutenberg bible. The bible was famous for its columns that consisted of 42 lines, in which each page was hand decorated with illustrations. The entire process took him 2 years to produce such a book.

Gutenberg was not only known for his bible, but also for his financial problems which led to a lawsuit by his landlord, Fust. It was said that his son-in-law, Peter Schoeffer, helped Fust testify against Gutenberg in court. Unfortunately, Gutenberg lost the lawsuit, which led to the seizing of his studio including all of his equipment, property, and books. Gutenberg had another book that he had completed in addition to the bible, the Psalter. This book of psalms was given to Fust as part of the settlement.

 So the question is: “What happened to Gutenberg?” After such a great loss, it was said that Gutenberg was able to set up shop once again at another studio, in which he continued printing. However, in 1462, Archbishop Adolph II took control of the city of Mainz, Germany. With the change of leadership in Mainz,many people who were in the printing business, or even just a typographer, were a forced to flee the city to other parts of Germany and Europe. As a result, Gutenberg and even Fust’s printing businesses were destroyed.

 After such a tragedy, Gutenberg was once again lost his business. In 1465, he was given the title of a gentleman of the court by the Archbishop, which supplied him with a salary that he used to continue his publishing as a hobby. To this day, there is no evidence of his printing afterward because his name cannot be found on any published works of that time. Three years later, in February of 1468, it is said that Gutenberg died. He lived his final month blind and it is rumored that he was buried in a church of the Franciscan convent near the town of Eltville, Germany.



“Johannes Gutenberg Biography.” Ed. Editors. A&E Networks Television, 15 Oct. 15. Web. 29 Sept. 2016.