Saturday, 19 September 2015

James R Bingham, Illustrator of Fiction

The illustrations of James Bingham (1917-71) in Saturday Evening Post are not among the most highly regarded. It’s easy to see why – there’s no flashy brushwork, no painterly flourishes and no crowd-pleasing caricatures. The flat and undifferentiated surfaces are not especially inviting and the use of colour can appear garish at times. But Bingham was a consummate professional and his understanding of composition and ability to organise and combine form on the printed page never failed him. There was a strong cinematic element in his images, often suggesting the asymmetric dynamics of Hollywood film noir where dramatic slanting beams of light contrasted with deep pools of shadow to enhance the sense of unease. At his best in images like the erotic encounter between doctor and nurse or the femme fatale stealing from a suitcase outside a motel he captures a deep sense of foreboding that events are going out of control and all will end badly. Plunging perspectives and a preference for a low eye-level all played a part. His talent for visualising criminal behaviour made him the first choice to illustrate Earl Stanley Gardner’s “Perry Mason” stories whenever they appeared in Saturday Evening Post. Only once, for the issue dated 22 December 1945 did Bingham paint a cover for Saturday Evening Post but he produced an enormous volume of illustration for advertising which will feature in a future post.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Great Railway Stations Number 11: Wemyss Bay

Wemyss Bay station was built by the Caledonian Railway in 1903 to connect with the ferry service to Rothesay on the Isle of Bute. It’s the terminus of a line that runs from Glasgow Central. Behind a rustic exterior with half-timbered gables, a fine glazed canopy extends over the concourse and platforms in a splendid ensemble of elegant curving steelwork. The ticket office occupies a central rotunda from which the lofty glazing arcs over the concourse. Access to the pier is via a gently descending covered walkway perfectly integrated with platforms and concourse. Much overdue and no doubt expensive renovation was underway at the time of my visit in June curtailing the views along the platforms and cluttering the site with security fencing and scaffolding. By next summer the station should be restored to its full glory for another twenty years. Accounts of the station in its inter-war heyday report teeming throngs of Glaswegian day-trippers enroute for sorely needed recreation on the Isle of Bute – scenes that are very unlikely to be ever repeated.