Wednesday, 1 March 2017


The Illustrated Story of England
Illustrated by John Bradley

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Written by Christopher Hibbert
Published by Phaidon Press Ltd, London, 2016
ISBN 9788857605173

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I couldn’t help it. I was supposed to be doing my Christmas shopping and was working my way through my ‘to-do’ list of gifts to buy. Then I saw this book: beautiful cover design; bold illustration; well-considered production values. I couldn’t put it down. It was in my hand on the way to the till and has been alternating between my ‘inspiration pile’ in the studio and my bedside reading table ever since.

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For me, John Broadley’s illustrations are the hook. Whilst evoking a woodcut, chapbook naivety, these black and white images remain powerfully contemporary in look and feel. Broadley deftly uses pattern as decoration, as design and as texture, cloning and pasting chunks of pattern into strong shapes to build the overall image alongside the immediacy of the inked line. 

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Broadley can switch between evoking the atmosphere of Guy Fawkes under the houses of Parliament by building up tonal layers of mark-making (figure 1), and an exaggerated design from the patterned surface of Little Moreton Hall (figure 2) to creating a patchwork like arrangement of texture in his Black Death landscape (figure 3) or the crisp shape of the Suffragette vignette (figure 4). 

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Broadley slips between these approaches seamlessly, each spread of the 250 page book enlivened by this fresh, warm approach. This is richly illustrated and put together with care - the end papers (figure 5) and steel blue chapter dividers emphasise the fact that this is an edition to treasure.

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Do look up more of John Bradley's work. It is beautiful. 

http://www.johnbradleyillustrator.com/





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