Saturday, 16 July 2011

Peter Brookes in Radio Times

For many decades, Radio Times was the most generous and enlightened patron of illustration of any mass-circulation British magazine. From its inception in 1923 a succession of art editors commissioned the finest of British illustrators to enliven the broadcasting schedules with visual wit in a wide variety of idioms. The tradition persisted into the 1980s before finally succumbing to the remorseless advance of technically competent but frequently boring editorial photography. Prior to the death of illustration there was a brief golden age from the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s when a generation of 1960s art college graduates brought new sophistication with imagery that simultaneously referred back to previous decades while being stylistically adventurous. Nobody better exemplifies this era than Peter Brookes. Now better known as political cartoonist for The Times (behind a paywall), it was entirely appropriate that Brookes was commissioned to illustrate the cover of The Art of Radio Times when it was published to accompany an exhibition at the V & A some thirty years ago in 1981. A love of pastiche and visual puns, pointed but never savage satire and an enthusiasm for inverting ancient visual clichés distinguished his work for over a decade in Radio Times. Above is Brookes’s first cover design for Radio Times from September 1974 – a melancholy reminder of the eternal circularity of British political debate. Below is a group of four covers from the period 1975 to 1978 and finally – seasonal illustrations from a calendar for 1989 issued as a supplement to Radio Times that play games with the initial letters.

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