Friday, 18 March 2016

A homage to Richard Chopping, creator of a brilliant series of James Bond hardcover dust-jackets

This 1957 Bond cover was Richard Chopping's first. Here's how he got the commission:

"Francis Bacon provides an interesting footnote into how Richard Chopping ended up creating the James Bond dust jackets for Ian Fleming; it was at one of Bacon’s art exhibitions that Ann Fleming, a close friend of Bacon, made the introduction. Chopping recalled:

'He [Bacon] took her [Ann Fleming]  upstairs to see mine, which was very good of him, and Ann went back to Ian and said, ‘Well, you ought to get this chap to do your next book jacket.'

From that meeting, Fleming granted Chopping the commission for From Russia, with Love and the rest is Bond lore."

This 1963 cover, which demonstrates the artist's ability to create 3-D effects, is my favourite:
Although the 1959 Goldfinger cover isn't far behind:
In 1966, somebody gave me the recently-published hardcover edition of Octopussy as a present: I was a 13-year old Bond obsessive. The cover, which fascinated me, turned out to be superior to the contents - Ian Fleming had died in 1964, and these stories were the last scrapings from the Bond gun-barrel.
Apart from the For Your Eyes Only cover in 1960, which was a bit sub-par, the other eight were all of a very high standard, including the startling wrap-around one for The Man with the Golden Gun (1965)...
...and this one for You Only Live Twice (1964):
For reasons I can't fathom, when the publisher Jonathan Cape commissioned Kingsley Amis to produce the first Bond follow-on book (Colonel Sun, under the pseudonym Robert Markham) they didn't get Chopping to do the cover, which ended up as a dreadful, unatmospheric Salvador Dali pastiche (maybe they actually didn't want to fool people into mistaking it for an Ian Fleming original - unlikely, I admit).  But when Cape commissioned the next follow-on Bond 13 years later - Licence Renewed by John Gardner - they also renewed Richard Chopping's licence, and he celebrated his return to active service by producing an absolute stunner (he evidently had a thing about flies):
Having learned their lesson, Cape commissioned Chopping-style covers (although apparently not by Chopping) for the next four Gardner Bonds. Good call. The cover for the follow-up to Licence Renewed is the most startlingly eye-catching:
It isn't only with Bond books that artists have sought to honour the Chopping style. For instance, here's the Choppingesque illustration by Mark Thomas for the final novel in Mark Gatiss's "Lucifer Box" spy trilogy, published in 2008 - it even features a fly!:
So lasting has Chopping's spell proved that homages to him abound online, with several illustrators returning to those Bond books whose covers The Master didn't design, in order to correct the anomaly. This one is brutal, but effective:
Ouch! And, of course, when Chopping had one of his own novels published in 1966, who else could he have asked to do the cover? (Unfortunately, it didn't help sales):
Chopping - who actually looked rather like a spy - was painted several times by his chum Francis Bacon. In case you get the two mixed up, the first is a photograph of Chopping, the second is one of Bacon's "portraits" of him:

Richard Chopping's 2008 Guardian obituary can be found here.

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