Patrick Woodroffe: Fantasy artist who illustrated science-fiction books and album covers

 

Patrick Woodroffe was a prolific artist whose fantastical illustrations adorned paintings, innumerable science-fiction books, record sleeves and posters. He likened his work to the "cartography of a nowhere-land", a picture map of a "world enclosed within the walls of his skull, a world confined to tiny electric pathways between billions of minute brain cells".

Woodroffe was born in Halifax in 1940, the second son of Beatrice and Daniel Woodroffe, an electrical engineer. The family moved several times during his childhood, eventually settling at Coalbrookdale, Shropshire. He studied French and German at Leeds University.

He married his childhood sweetheart, Jean Pardoe, in 1964. They travelled to Cornwall on honeymoon, staying on The Lizard. His daughter, Rosie Woodroffe, told The Independent, "They loved the area so much they decided not to leave and within three weeks of marriage had found jobs (he as a teacher of French and German, she as an optician) and a flat in Falmouth... So, essentially in this, their 50th year of marriage, they were still on honeymoon." His artistic influences came, he said, from "...the work of Salvador Dali, the Viennese school of 'fantastic realism', and above all the work of Dutch and Flemish so-called 'primitives' of the Middle Ages and Renaissance." An early painting, Birth of Animated Nature (1965), shows clearly these inspirations from Bruegel and especially from Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights.

Having initially imitated the surrealist master in his drawings, he soon arrived at a style of his own. "Gradually I started to invent for myself, to comment in my own words on the beauties and follies around me... I followed my first drawings with a series entitled Conflict which attempted to understand the painful necessity of death and destruction." The result was an exhibition in 1966 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts on The Mall, London, a selection from this series, chosen by the surrealist artist Roland Penrose.

By 1972 Woodroffe had abandoned teaching to concentrate full-time on his illustration work. "Evan Anthony, at that time art critic for The Spectator, offered me an exhibition at his Covent Garden Gallery," he recalled. "The show was a great success, and was twice extended. I sold quite a number of paintings and drawings and several hundred etchings."

As a result of this exhibition, Woodroffe was commissioned by Pan Books' art director David Larkin to create covers for around 100 science-fiction and fantasy books over the next few years, including works by Robert Heinlein and Arthur C Clarke. A similar commission led to Woodroffe producing jackets for almost all Michael Moorcock's publications, through Quartet Books. He noted of Moorcock's work that "...nothing is impossible, nothing unacceptable. His monsters, machines and improbable worlds do not need to be feasible" – observations that could apply equally well to the artist's own landscapes of the imagination.

During the 1970s and '80s he was one of the artists in most demand for this genre of illustration. Working with the musician Dave Greenslade, Woodroffe illustrated a book to accompany The Pentateuch of the Cosmogony: The Birth and Death of a World (1979), a concept double album imagining an alien Book of Genesis, which sold more than 50,000 copies. He also created album covers for Judas Priest's LP Sad Wings of Destiny (1976) and for The Sentinel (1984), by progressive rock band Pallas.

In the early 1990s his career took a new direction when a retrospective was held at the Chateau de Gruyères in Switzerland, covering the walls of the former Prison Tower, and attracting 150,000 visitors. A permanent exhibition of his work now resides there. Following the success of the 1992 exhibition, he had since shown widely in Switzerland, Germany and France.

Four of his works were selected for an exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth in 2002. A one-man show, Patrick Woodroffe – Master of Fantasy, followed at the town's art gallery three years later. In 2009 Falmouth acquired Mountain Dragons of British Columbia (1977), a piece as notable for its content as for its magnificent altarpiece-like frame and alpine-style shutters, designed by Woodroffe and commissioned by the gallery's director Brian Stewart (Independent obituary, 10 February 2011). Seven years ago Woodroffe had been diagnosed with Pick's disease, a form of dementia. His friend, the artist Paul Spooner, told The Independent, "Even though his memory for names had pretty much gone, he was able to find his way to places with ease. His heyday was the 70s and 80s, making meticulous paintings of impossible scenes and objects... He was an extraordinary artist with a Renaissance artist's capacity for creative techniques."

In the epilogue to his book Mythopoeikon, Woodroffe wrote: "And when you have finished your little flight around the park, you who would have walked around the world, bequeath to your children your myths and your fantasies, that the richness of human experience may become a book for all to read, a testament from the dying eye, a picture of the inside of the dying brain, a Mythopoeikon."

Patrick Woodroffe, artist: born 27 October 1940; married 1964 Jean Pardoe (one son, one daughter); died Truro 10 May 2014.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick