October 26th, 2014
A family of aesthetes live here, in Thames-side Isleworth to the west of London.
These are some clues to their identity. The hanging mugs feature monochrome woodblock vignettes of the Dorset countryside by the artist, engraver and typographer Reynolds Stone (1909-1979), and the three coffee cans below have motifs taken from his graphic designs ( winter is coming in now, so we switched on the electric lights). You can buy the mugs via the eponymous website.
On the top row are Eric Ravilious’s Garden Implement mugs, designed for Wedgwood in its glory days.
Which brings me to my subject, another artist, author and designer, Ian Archie Beck, who is married to Stone’s youngest daughter Emma. Here is the 40th Anniversary special edition of the album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, which he designed for Elton John in 1973 when he was twenty-six years old, over the course of a long weekend. Rocket, Elton’s record company asked him to include a piano and teddy bear. You can read more about it here.
And here is their rescued greyhound, a fine ex-racer who ran at Hove dog track, named Gracie.
On the shelves behind her, what looks like a full set of mid twentieth century books with jackets designed by Barnett Freedman are lined up.
And above the book case a small leather suitcase is plastered with enigmatic luggage labels including one which reads, ‘Les Freres Perverts…’
Les Freres Perverts is the performance or cabaret group invented by Ian and his friend and fellow artist the late Glynn Boyd Harte, of whom there is much more to say later.
Glynn Boyd Harte, Celia Stothard and Ian Beck, ‘Les Freres Perverts’ on May 1st, 1975.
GBH (as he was known) went for the total immersion experience. Here is the record of his enthusiasm, his ?crayon drawing of the sheet music which provided their songs and inspiration, much of it sourced for them by their friend and fan, Patrick O’Connor, critic and music hall enthusiast.
For me, the climax of their performances was the moment when they became seedy sellers of dirty postcards in an unspecified Egyptian location, dressed in white cotton gloves and solar topees, Ian displaying his wares to the audience with throaty cries of, ‘Carte Postale, Carte Postale,’ Glynn seated at the piano and craning over his shoulder at us. This is what Ian was holding, very kindly ‘dug out’ from his archives.
Here is the window sill in the dacha where Ian works, and below is his latest production, his illustrated volume of poetry, Behind the Dusty Glass, published in a limited edition.
And on the drawing board below, copies of this, his latest work, that was three years in the making. It is seen here with a vintage unredeemed, book token designed by Barnett Freedman and a copy of that small, extremely rare publication, Murderer’s Cottages, by Glynn Boyd Harte (1976), a chap book-style publication that gave him the opportunity to draw Staffordshire china souvenirs of notorious murderers’ cottages on every double page. Ian has been writing these poems ever since Glynn died, in 2003. The first one came to him when he spotted Jude Law in Camden, and thought, ‘he looked so handsome, he looked like a god!’
A wedding present, John Piper’s screen print from his 1972 designs for Benjamen Britten’s opera, Death in Venice, hangs on the back wall. Below are works by David Jones and a sketch by Denton Welch, one that Ian inherited from Patrick O’Conner ( ‘rather touchingly, he had written my name on them,’ says Ian),
next to a poster by Barnett Freedman from 1956 for the London Underground, reprinted in 1965
and a framed sample of Eric Ravilious’s Garden Implements design, printed by Edinburgh Weavers in the 1950s.
Here is the dacha in which they hang, where Ian works each day,
and here is the naif still life painted by Ian’s mother in her old age with a paint box which he had discarded, hanging in the kitchen. She was annoyed by it, unable to make the perspective correct as she would have liked, and so slightly ashamed of it and cross with her son, for taking it away and liking it.
Ian Beck’s limited edition and hand-coloured book is published and sold by Neil Jennings Fine Art , contact him at : neil@jenningsfine art.co.uk. All images copyright Ian Beck and bibleofbritishtaste.