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Monday, July 28, 2014

Gordon C. Davies

Gordon C. Davies was a prolific book cover artist from the 1950s to the 1980s, most notably on a great many science fiction books as he was a very good artist of technology, from trains and planes to spaceships, and military subjects which included hardware.

I became aware of Davies' work when I began collecting SF books published by Curtis Warren; he worked prolifically for them (the rates were low); Phil Harbottle was a big fan of his work and when we were writing Vultures of the Void was of the opinion that it was Davies' covers that sold Curtis Warren's SF line, not the quality of the stories (which was also low... sometimes very low!). Davies produced over 40 covers for Curtis in 1952-54. In 1954, a book appeared under the byline Gordon Davies, although it was probably not by the artist.

Davies also worked for various other publishers around the same period including Scion, Authentic Science Fiction, Futuristic Science Stories, Panther Books and Brown Watson. The cheap paperback boom came to an end in 1954 and Davies had to find work elsewhere, including features for Daily Mail Boys Annual, Swift Annual, Eagle Annual and centre-spreads for the Eagle weekly. He continued to produce covers for Pan Books and New English Library, notably for titles by Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein.


Davies—full name Gordon Charles H. Davies—was born in West Derby, Lancashire, on 6 May 1923. [I believe he was the son of Henry and Martha (nee Rawlinson), who were married in West Derby in 1922.] Davies married Marjorie P. Mason in Surrey in 1951, Judy R. Hunt in Canterbury, Kent, in 1988.

He lived at 155 Sunning Vale Avenue, Biggin Hill, before moving to Woodlands Farm, Lyminge, Kent, in about 1970, where he lived until his death in 1994, aged 70.

PUBLICATIONS

Non-fiction
Aircraft. Paulton & London, Purnell & Sons, 1961.
My Picture Book of Aeroplanes. London, Dean & Son, 1961.
My Picture Book of Road Travel. London, Dean & Son, 1961.
My Picture Book of Road Travel Old and New (by Lawrence). London, Dean & Son, 1965.
Trains Old and New. London, Dean, 1968.
The Moon. London, Macdonald & Co., 1971.
World War 1 Aeroplanes. London, Ward Lock, 1974.

Illustrated Books
Rescue from the Air by Michael Gibson. London, Abelard-Schuman, 1960.
Daily Life Science by Christine Bate. London, Ginn & Co., 5 vols., 1961-70.
Our Railways by Maxwell Taylor. Paulton & London, Purnell & Sons, 1961.
Dean's Gold Medal Book of World Travel. London, Dean & Son, 1962.
Classic Car Profiles ed. Anthony Harding. Leatherhead, Surrey, Profile Publications, 1966- .
Astronomy by Iain Nicolson. Feltham, Hamlyn, 1970.
Giant Wonders of the World by John Gilbert; illus. with Chris Mayger. London, Ward Lock, 1970.
Rockets and Missiles by David Mondey. Feltham, Hamlyn, 1971.
Cars in Profile by Anthony Harding. Windsor, Profile Publications, 1973.
Take Better Photographs by Reg Mason (based on the ATV television series In Focus with Harry Secombe). London, Hamlyn, 1973; as In Focus with Harry Secombe by Reg Mason. London, Independent Television Books, 1976.
The Invention of Bicycles & Motorcycles by Derek Roberts. London, Usborne Publishing, 1975.
The Encyclopedia of the World's Classic Cars by Graham Robson. London, Salamander Books, 1977.
Let's Look at Space by Tim Furniss. Hove, Wayland, 1987.
UFOs by Ben Wilson. Hove, Wayland, 1988.
Mysteries of the Unexplained by Sue Crawford et al. London, World International, 1991.

It is worth noting here that there was a Gordon L. Davies, A.R.C.A. (1926-2007) who was an artist and author of such books as Painting in Acrylics (1991), etc. and a Gordon Davies (1924-2009) who was a Canadian travel writer and painter who authored The Living Rivers of British Columbia and The Living Rivers of British Columbia and Yukon volume two.

(* Originally published 8 December 2006.)

4 comments:

BARNABY said...

Was he always able to sign his work? I am not familiar with most of his work.
Your article explains why he contibuted so few of his clear, precise drawings to the Eagle centrespread feature[10 in the early-sixties]. He just had lots of other projects to paint!!
He was just the right artist to do the Pan paperback versions of Charles Chilton's Journey into Space in 1958 and Red Planet in 1960, wasn't he?
He doesn't seem to be too artistically influenced by Chesley Bonestell in SF, yet draws wonderful spacecraft.

Steve said...

Hi Barnaby,

I loved the Journey Into Space cover (which I included here recently) which is one reason I wanted to cover Gordon Davies when I had the opportunity. He was very good with technology, not so good with figures.

He often signed his work 'Gordon' but I don't think he signed everything so I'm sure there are an awful lot of other covers out there that I'm unaware of. (The book list I did is also probably incomplete for books he illustrated.) I've no idea what his artistic training was, although science, astronomy and aircraft would seem to be the obvious loves of his life as that's what he chose to write about when he did books.

Regards,

Steve.

ladylindajane said...

Gordon was a lovely man and family friend. We have a number of originals of his work, so are very lucky.

Steve said...

Hi Ladylindajane,

If you care to share any memories, I'm sure Bear Alley readers would love to know more about Gordon. I can compile lists but they're only the bare bones and say nothing about the man himself. You're welcome to comment here or drop me a line direct at the e-mail address below the photo (top left).