Design heroes, Magazines

Les Mason and the Epicurean covers

Notebook: 24 March 2016 + update 22 May 2018 | MAGAZINES | DESIGN HEROES

Years ago on a trip to Australia, I was strolling through a flea market and came across an odd looking magazine called The Epicurean. The cover was a surreal photo of bottles of wine, a pineapple, a chair and a glass of wine balanced on the soles of someone’s feet, all of which were half buried in sand on a beach… weird but brilliant. I brought the magazine home, stuffed it in a box and forgot about it.

It wasn’t until 25 years later that I dug it out again. I was reading the latest copy of Eye magazine and they had a whole feature devoted to The Epicurean mag and its wonderful covers – which were even more surreal than the issue I’d bought. I discovered that the creative genius responsible for these wacky covers was an American called Les Mason who had moved to Sydney in 1961. He became one of Australia’s most prominent graphic designers in the 60s and 70s and it was his work for The Epicurean – Australia’s first food and wine magazine – that he is best known.

Les Mason worked on 77 issues of the magazine from 1966-1979 and pretty much every cover had a different masthead treatment. A cluster of his covers plus a striking contents spread are pictured below. If you want to read more about Les Mason and The Epicurean, here are links to the Eye article and to a piece about him in The Sydney Morning Herald from last year.

6912294-3x4-700x933 epi-36 Epi-411 Epicurean_71



Update | In May 2018 I had an email from Les Mason’s widow which I’ve reproduced here:

Hi there, Sitting waiting for the rain to pass in Tallala Sri Lanka, I happened across your article about my darling late husband Les Mason.
Your article referred to the cover of Epicurean 75 with the disparate array of props and legs and feet sticking out of the sand.
Those feet are mine. Les and I did the shot on the beach at Albert Park Victoria on a drab Saturday afternoon. It was cold and clammy with wet sand over me.
Les settled in Melbourne in 1961. Not Sydney. He was an original and taught me all about art. The greatest teacher. A humble and exuberant man whom I was fortunate to spend nearly 40 years with before his shocking death in Istanbul.
Nine years later I live in Sri Lanka and soon to open my working space and gallery hopefully putting to good use all what he shared with me. He is always just behind my right shoulder.
Gail Devine Mason