Thursday 28 February 2008
More Eric Fraser
As promised yesterday, we bring you more evidence of Eric Fraser’s wonderful skills as an illustrator. Some book illustrations and jackets and some work for advertisers are today’s focus. After studying art at Goldsmith’s College, Fraser began his long career in the 1920’s as a commercial artist in the R P Gossop agency. His early work shows that he had absorbed some of the visual vocabulary of Cubism and Futurism and these influences continued to inform his work throughout his long career in an indirect way. An early client was London Transport; Fraser’s poster designs can be viewed by clicking here. He continued to produce artwork for advertising but soon developed as an illustrator for books and magazines. From the 1960’s onwards advertising art was very much in third place after book and editorial illustration.
This small selection of advertising art begins with a rural idyll drawn for the Ford Motor Company. One of Fraser’s specialities, it serves as a reminder of a bucolic England that was soon to vanish under the tarmac. Next are two pairs of drawings from a series designed to illustrate the ability of the Rolex Oyster to survive in the most desperate situations. The image of a diver is especially accomplished; the marine flora and fauna beautifully realised. These ads were published very widely, in Illustrated London News, Punch and even Graphis in Switzerland. Finally, a pen and wash drawing from the 1930’s to promote Munrospun Scottish Tweed that looks back to Fraser’s fashion illustrations in Harper’s Bazaar. Plus an example from the world of electrical engineering. The drawing of the hydro-electric installation reveals just a hint of the Cubism that was inspirational in Fraser’s early training.
The illustrations that follow come from just 3 books from Fraser’s enormous output. Pioneers in Astronomy (Harrap, 1964) was an educational book aimed at young people and provided Fraser with a chance to indulge his passions for costume drama and the precise visualisation of geometric forms. There is no dilution of effort for a juvenile audience. I suspect that Fraser was constitutionally incapable of applying anything less than maximum effort to any task. The next example is the splendid English Legends (published by Batsford in 1950). The design for the dust wrapper is outstanding, a master class in the organisation of multiple images and forms into a single coherent whole. Two images from the book reflect Fraser’s fondness for the unclothed female form, St. Dunstan showing great strength of character in resisting the charms of those formidable tubular nipples. The last pair of drawings come from the Story of Mond Nickel (1951) specially commissioned to celebrate the achievements of business. Fraser goes for the historic reconstruction and another favourite theme – a glimpse into a technological future through the visionary eyes of youth.