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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Henry Fox

Back in the 1960s, Henry Fox became associated with Badger Books to such an extent that his cover artwork has become almost as well known as the novels they were attached to. Any fan of the work of the Rev. Lionel Fanthorpe will know and revere work of Fox H. (as the artwork was often neatly signed). Fox's covers are part of the charm of the books not because they are works of genius but because, like the books, they are pulpy, rushed and formulaic yet hint at wanting to be so much more.

Fox began his association with Badger Books (John Spencer & Co.) in early 1957 when he produced a handful of covers for the company's War and Supernatural titles; the work dried up after a year and it wasn't until mid-1960 that he became their main artist, producing over 200 covers for Badger before the company ceased publishing novels in mid-1967.

As far as I can tell, Fox began producing covers as early as 1952 when he worked for Arrow Books. By 1956 he was also being employed by Ward Lock and Pan, although throughout this period had also produced covers for the cheaper end of the market: Modern Fiction, Comyns and Alexander Moring. He also produced romance covers for Mills & Boon.

During the early 1960s, Fox also worked for the Amalgamated Press, producing covers for the Sexton Blake Library, 1961-62, and various war libraries, 1960-63 (and irregularly thereafter). In the late 1960s, post-Badger, he changed tack completely and began illustrating magazine stories, notably the 'Brer Rabbit' stories in Once Upon a Time and illustration for Treasure and Look and Learn.

Apart from his book covers and illustrations, very little is known about Fox. In the Artwork from the Pan Archive auction catalogue (Bonhams, 1991), the writer claimed that Fox was the pseudonym of one Henry Hall. Not true... and the only explanation I can think of is that at some point Fox worked for agent Maurice Hall and Hall's name appeared on the back of some artwork handled by Bonhams.

After a lot of digging I have discovered that Fox was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Art who lived in North London for most (if not all) of his working life, at 158 Alexandra Road, N.W.8 [fl.1948-59] and 27 Springfield Gardens, Barnet, N.W.9 [fl.1962-75].

I've not been able to trace him beyond 1975 and would love to know what happened to him. Henry Fox was a capable artist when working for the better paid markets although, for better or worse, he'll probably be remembered longest for his trashier work for Badger Books. At least that connection means his work has spread to the internet and any web site dedicated to Badger -- see the Pel Torro web site, for instance -- is almost a shrine to Henry Fox. The Look and Learn web site has a number of images of Fox's later illustrations from Treasure taken from original artwork.

UPDATE (12 November 2006)

Thanks to Claire Batley of the RSA, we have a little more info. on Fox. Fox was elected a fellow of the RSA on Friday 1 November 1940. The RSA Journal carried addresses for members from vol. 94 (1945-46) at which time Fox was already living at 158 Alexandra Road. His move to 27 Springfield Gardens was noted in vol. 111 (1962-63). In the list of fellows in vol. 119 (1970-71), Fox has become a life member of the RSA. And, finally, in vol. 125 (1978-79) it is noted that he has moved to 26 St Peter's Crescent, Bexhill-on-Sea, E. Sussex.

The next available members list is from 1981 and Fox's name has disappeared. So it would appear that Fox died some time between 1979-81.

Having narrowed down the field of search, I was able to check the death registers for that period and there are two Fox suspects who died in that period whose deaths are registered at Hastings & Rother (which seems to be the place where all deaths in East Sussex are registered): Henry Stanley Fox (b. 26 December 1899, d. 1979) and, to me the more likely candidate, Henry Fox (b. 2 June 1911, d. 1980). I say the latter is more likely simply because the phone records don't record a middle initial.

My thanks to Claire, who diligently dug through over 50 years worth of journals to bring you this breaking news. The fact that he's still maybe 1911-1980 is down to me to resolve.

Illustrated Books
Doctor Who and the Crusades. London, Frederick Muller, 1965.


Brian said...

It would seem he also did the illustrations for the 1973 release of Dr Who and the Crusaders, assuming it is the correct Henry Fox.


Brian said...

Oops, forgot URL!


Steve said...

Thanks Brian. I've started a list of illustrated books for Fox, although I must admit that's the only one I've been able to spot.



Anonymous said...

do you know if henry fox did private portraits ?

Steve said...

Hi Anonymous,

I can't say with any certainty but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that he worked outside of painting paperback covers.

Brenda said...

I had an art teacher in 1975 who taught and lived in North London.

Brenda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brenda said...

Yes, on reflection my art teacher,who taught evening classes for London Borough Of Harrow in 1973,is the artist in question. I remember that he lived in Springfield Gdns.Kingsbury,NW9.He would have been around 60 years old.A small man, dark hair, balding, with a moustache.So I guess he was born 1911.He was quite a character.

Royston Gould said...

Henry Fox was my late partners Uncle . he lived in bexhill where he developed Cancer of the bowel and died . I have a lot of his works of art in my home in Mill Hill . before he died he remarried to Mary Roux -Fox in bexhill . she has now passed away too . I have many of his works. Royston Gould

Amy Mac said...

I have discovered a painting by Mary Roux Fox which was exhibited at the Bexhill Art Society. It is a lovely landscape with church, but the sky is slightly damaged. Does anyone know if it would be worth something?