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Book Review: Lifestyle Illustration of the ’60s

The decade of the ’60s seems to conjure up a lot of images of femininity to me — slinky James Bond gal, mod miniskirted model, Donna Reedy housewife, hippie chick, California beach bunny. All of those archetypes, and many more, are on full display in Lifestyle Illustration of the ’60s, a brick-like volume of vintage magazine illustrations expertly selected by Rian Hughes. Sure, there are some men pictured within these pages, but since the illustrations come from various popular British women’s mags of the era (Woman, Woman’s Own, Homes and Gardens, Woman’s Journal to name a few) they tend to focus on the fairer sex rendered in every color of the rainbow. The women are generally seen in swooning, romantic poses with body language and facial expressions that hint at some intrigue or outside danger (what is the trench coated beauty on page 322 looking at?).

What most impressed me about this book is how craftily the illustrators worked with white space and printing techniques to make a visually stunning statement. The artwork is presented in chronological order, reproduced in graphic layouts that punch up the often stunning color palettes the artists used. The earlier examples are more conservative subject-wise, with prim ladies emoting in billowy dresses, but the art is surprisingly daring in technique. As the ’60s move along, we see wilder colors and looser, more artfully sketch-like renderings, until 1966-67 brings on a mod, Carnaby Street influence with a graphic punch. Cartoons, collage, surrealism, revival and psychedelic styles all get their due, but by 1969 we’re back in the realm of glamorously swooning ladies rendered in washy paints. Some things never change, it seems.

This book focuses solely on British publications, which honestly let me down a little, but many American artists of the era are represented here with quality work by the likes of Coby Whitmore, Andy Virgil and Lynn Buckham. One of my favorites from that period, Bob Peak, is represented only once — a striking image of a kissing couple dominated by the black space between their profiles. Wow!

Lifestyle Illustration of the ’60s is available at Amazon.com, of course. I got my copy at discount seller Edward R. Hamilton for much cheaper, however. Fiell is set to release a companion volume, Lifestyle Illustrations of the ’50s, later on this month.

4 Thoughts on “Book Review: Lifestyle Illustration of the ’60s

  1. The artwork looks amazing. Will you be buying/reviewing the follow-up book, Lifestyle Illustrations of the ’50s?

  2. I hope so! I’m hoping they do the 70s as well, and maybe include American magazines.

  3. Looks like one fabulous book, Matt! I see an endless supply of potential mix covers. Think I’ll run down to Borders and snatch up a copy. Oh, wait…

  4. They had some bargain priced ones at the chain Half Price Books.

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