Obituary: Cecil Bacon
Tuesday 25 August 1992
IN 1942 a very wise but unnamed official, recalling National Service, Air Raid Precaution and other posters commissioned at the outbreak of hostilies, decided to redeploy Leading Aircraftsman Bacon, CW, from painting camouflage for aircraft to work more suited to his talents. For the next four years a distinctive style of illustration, already very familiar to the readers of the Radio Times, was successfully marshalled to the service of the Ministry of Information.
Cecil Walter Bacon was born in Battle, Sussex, in 1905. His father ran a tanning business there and Bacon's early work reflected the activities of the market-town, always in the crisp, clear manner that was to be his hallmark. Educated at Sutton Valence School and St Lawrence College, Ramsgate, he studied at Hastings School of Art under Philip Cole from 1923 to 1925, joining a commercial studio and advertising agency in London in 1926.
'CWB', as he signed his pictures, turned freelance in 1929 and was soon producing posters for the London Underground and other organisations. His association with the Radio Times, which was to last until 1968, began with his contributing line drawings and scraperboard illustrations in 1935. A generation of listeners and, later, viewers grew up to be familiar with his work in almost every issue, illustrating articles and enhancing programme details. His covers for the periodical were deservedly famous, particularly his 'Festival of Britain' (1951) and 'The Queen Returns' (1953).
Bacon produced striking posters, notably for British Railways and the Post Office Savings Bank ('Rockefeller, Rothschild and Me', 1963). He was also in demand as a designer of book-jackets; and himself appeared in print in 1951, with a book on the art-form he had made so much his own, Scraperboard Drawing.
Bacon's work was shown at the Folio Society in 1957 and an exhibition was subsequently toured in the US by the Arts Council of Great Britain. More recently, in 1981, he contributed to the 'Fifty Years of Design' exhibition at the London Design Centre and the 'Art of the Radio Times' at the Victoria and Albert Museum. In 1984 a retrospective exhibition, 'Designer's Progress', was held at Hastings Museum and Art Gallery.
Always happiest in his native Sussex, Bacon was president of the Twenty Club, a society dedicated to the promotion of the Arts and Sciences and founded in 1923 by, among others, Rider Haggard, Sheila Kaye Smith and EF Benson. He was also a founder member of the Burton St Leonards Society and actively participated in the successful campaign to preserve James Burton's early-19th- century seaside new town.
One of Bacon's last commissions, a labour of love, was to design a cover for his village Parish News. Its circulation has yet to rival that of the Radio Times, but CWB was proud that 33,000 copies had so far been distributed.
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