This may, at first, look like the laziest book review in the world. I can be a lazy person, tis true, but I couldn’t really think of a better way to review such an extraordinary book. It needs to be possessed, to be pored over, to be appreciated en masse and to be studied in fine detail.
Lifestyle Illustrations of the ’60s by Rian Hughes is one man’s personal project to bring those unsung illustrators of the period to the attention of the wider world. If you’re anything like me, they are a source of great fascination and inspiration when you flick through a vintage copy of Honey or Petticoat. And if you were reading Womans Own et al back in the day, they would certainly have inspired daydreams from their fleeting representations of the magazine’s romantic short stories. They are often small in size, but incredible in skill, style and social comment. The timeline element of the book also allows you to see the development of social aspirations, fashion styles, illustration styles and inspirations (the clear references to art deco and art nouveau styles) and attitudes to morals and relationships.
When I find them in the magazines, I try to remember to scan them in. But I’m a bit forgetful, so this doesn’t always happen. When I first laid my eyes and hands on this book, it was like heaven. Someone else has gone to the trouble of scanning them in, cleaning them up and collating them by date and crediting the artist where possible. Consequently, it feels a bit weird to scan in pages and individual illustrations to illustrate my review. Firstly, there are just way too many and my scanner is a bit fiddly (coupled with a big heavy book, whose spine I’d rather not break just yet). Secondly, because I want you to go out and get a copy yourselves. Words and scans can’t really demonstrate what it’s like to flick through such a book. Each page inspires a cry of ‘ooooh, pretty’. Well, that’s my reaction anyway. Scans wouldn’t do it justice.
So I decided to sit and flick and take photographs of the most ‘ooh’-inspiring pages. Of course I had to give up after about 20 photos because I realised I would end up photographing the entire thing. But here are the collated images, just casually snapped so you get some feeling of what it’s like. Unsurprisingly, I’m most taken with the later period with the psychedelic, art deco and art nouveau influences, but I’ve tried to show you a cross-section of the entire book.
Now all they need is to put on an exhibition. There’s something lovely about having them all collated into a book, but it can lessen the impact of some solitary works of art. I would dearly love to see them displayed as large prints.