OBITUARIES: Robin Jacques

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The Independent Online
Nicholas Tucker perhaps over-emphasises the lack of development in Robin Jacques's style [obituary, 23 March], writes Jack Adrian. Certainly in the early part of his career he was considered a radical illustrator capable of revolutionising one of the most influential popular periodicals of this century, the Strand Magazine.

Cut down to digest size in 1941, and starved of money because of drastic wartime economies, the Strand emerged from the conflict in poor health. A new young editor, the journalist Macdonald Hastings, took on a new young staff (including Jacques) as well as the task of cheering it up. In October 1946, the Strand was relaunched, startingly metamorphosed into a kind of monthly Saturday Book (Leonard Russell's vibrant annual compendium of camera studies of the bizarre as well as the great and the good, entertaining articles and top-flight popular fiction, and, ironically, itself a hardback and modernised crib of the original Strand of pre-1914 days). There was an emphasis on illustration, with the artist Edward Ardizzone as a general inspiration.

While art editor, Jacques gathered around him his generation's Young Turks, all more or less proficient in 1940s Gothic. Ronald Searle (talent- spotted by the previous editor, but now used more intelligently), Mervyn Peake, Ardizzone, Peter Jackson, Michael Ayrton, the obsessive stickler Anthony Gilbert and Walter Fawkes (soon to create Flook; later, as Trog, to become the sharpest caricaturist and political cartoonist of the post- war years). All regularly contributed, and in a sense the magazine became a hotbed of artistic sedition.

Its rivals, however - Lilliput, the increasingly seedy London Opinion and the then only marginally seedy Men Only had fewer expensive illustrations and more "artistic nude studies". The lack of these did not precisely kill off the Strand, editorial and art department expenses and fees did. Still, Jacques was an excellent and innovative art editor who certainly presided over a last-gasp, but brilliant, renaissance in a great publishing icon.

May I add to Nicholas Tucker's admirable piece on Robin Jacques an episode which taught me a lesson? writes Ruari McLean.

I had been asked to design an edition of Kipling's Kim for the Limited Edition Club of New York. The illustrator proposed was Robin Jacques. When I found that Robin had never been in India, I said, "No, he won't do, no one who has never been in India can possibly illustrate Kim."

How wrong I was. I had underestimated the professional illustrator's ability to research a subject when necessary. I was overruled, thank goodness, and I believe that no finer illustrations for Kim have ever been made than those by Robin Jacques, in black-and-white and in full colour (hand-coloured), for the LEC edition in 1962. They are magnificent.

Robin Jacques' son, John, was by his first wife, ne Patricia Bamford, and not by his second.

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