Above: One of George Hardie’s earliest designs/illustrations produced when he was still a student at the Royal College of Art
Notebook: 19 March | ILLUSTRATION | ILLUSTRATION HEROES
As a student in the late 1970s, I became fascinated by the work of the graphic artist George Hardie. I collected tear-sheets of his work, wrote essays about him and even managed to wangle a visit to his studio in Covent Garden. I still love his hard-edged, ideas-based illustrations with their hidden twists. Hardie is a prolific artist and designer and a retrospective exhibition of his work entitled 50 Odd Years is currently showing at the University of Brighton (11 March – 7 April, 2017). The exhibition spans three rooms and is packed full of his work from across the decades – from his early album sleeve designs and drawings for rock bands such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Genesis and Pink Floyd, through to later work such as his ‘Magic’ stamps for the Royal Mail in 2005. It’s a fascinating collection and if you’re going to visit, give yourself lots of time to digest all the goodies on display. Unfortunately there is no exhibition catalogue to help detail and explain some of the clever thinking behind his work – but this excellent profile in Eye magazine issue 58 from 2005 helps gives an insight. And there’s a good article here on AIGA about Hardie’s Zeppelin drawing for the band’s first album.
Here’s a post I wrote about George Hardie in 2015 which helps explain my youthful obsession with his work. I’ve updated it with new pictures from the old tear-sheets that I recently unearthed. (Interestingly, none of these examples of his work are on display in the current exhibition, which suggests that the exhibits on show are just a small part of a much greater body of work…)
“As a graphic design student at Lanchester Polytechnic (now Coventry University) we had a terrific tutor called Mike Felmingham who organised a number of talks from visiting illustrators including the cartoonists Ralph Steadman and Gerald Scarfe and the illustrator (and designer) George Hardie. Hardie was, and still is, probably best known for his album cover designs for Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Led Zeppelin’s Led Zeppelin I and Presence but it was a small illustration (pictured below) that he had drawn for a restaurant menu card, that made me such a big fan of his work back in the late 1970s. I was taken in by the Art Deco design and the black, orange and green shapes which at first glance I took to be a Manhattan street scene. Looking more closely, I suddenly realised that the illustration was, in fact, an axonometric projection of four people sitting around a restaurant table – one person holding a menu, another with wine bottle in hand, a person smoking a cigarette (with wisp of smoke that rises through the centre of the drawing) and the fourth with a wine glass. How clever was that!
This illustration was just one of a series of four that Hardie drew for the restaurant and the other three are shown below.
Much of Hardie’s work has this clever or hidden ‘twist’ to it including this illustration below which he drew for a Sunday Times ‘Sacred Cow’ article (in about 1977-78) on Le Corbusier. You’ll see that the modern apartment blocks set amongst the suburban houses are actually figures on their hands and knees worshipping the great architect.
In the late ’70s Hardie worked for NTA studio (Nicholas Thirkell Associates) along with the illustrators Bush Hollyhead, Malcolm Harrison and Bob Lawrie, and and you can read more about this period in a blog written by Mike Dempsey in 2011. Other editorial work from this period includes the Radio Times and Sunday Times magazine covers shown below.
Drawing for a BBC radio broadcast of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Is that Hardie himself, pictured in the bottom left corner? But why three lenses in the spectacles?
George Hardie later went on to teach on the illustration course at Brighton and here’s an article that Brighton Uni published upon his retirement in 2014.”
The 50 Odd Years exhibition runs Monday – Saturday 10am – 5pm (closed Sunday) – 11 March – 7 April University of Brighton Gallery, Grand Parade, Brighton BN2 0JY.