The Reading Room

Paul Hogarth’s Graham Greene Covers

Celebrating the artwork of Paul Hogarth…

colHere is the first in a series of ‘mini posts’ designed to pay tribute to the wonderful artwork of the late Paul Hogarth, and whilst he accomplished so much more in his career I am concentrating on his book cover work.

Hogarth, born in Cumbria in 1917, lead a quite remarkable life. In the early to mid 1930s he attended the Manchester School of Art where his political beliefs saw him join the Communist Party of Great Britain and, like many like-minded artists and writers of the day, he went to fight in the Spanish Civil War. Upon his return his career as an artist took off and by the 1950s he was a seasoned traveller with a portfolio to match. Having travelled across America, China, the Soviet Union and its satellite states, his paintings and sketches of ‘faraway places’ won many admirers and he was commissioned to provide book cover artwork for many of the leading authors of the day including Graham Greene, Lawrence Durrell and Robert Graves.

There is something unique about his work, it is deceptively simple at first glance yet the drawings make you want to pick the book up and read it. I love what he did for Greene in particular, he captures the essence of his work brilliantly.

Above is his piece for Greene’s volume of collected essays. First published by The Bodley Head in 1969, this is the Penguin paperback version of 1970 and contains over seventy essays ranging from G.K Chesterton to Ford Madox Ford, Norman Douglas, Somerset Maugham to Jacobean poets! The cover illustration, in my opinion, refers to the final piece in the book called ‘The Soupsweet Land’ which describes his return to Sierra Leone in 1968 and the setting for his classic novel, The Heart of the Matter.

What more does one need in the illustration? A palm tree, a rat and an old wine bottle covered in candle wax. We can figure out the rest and within it we know the artist is drawing from experience, it’s the beauty and the beast experience of visiting exotic locations, it’s what Hogarth saw and what Greene wrote about. That’s what I love.

Paul Hogarth died in 2001.

For more information on Hogarth’s work on A Burnt Out Case, The Ministry of Fear and The Heart of the Matter please click here

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