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Friday, December 25, 2009

Christie at Christmas part 1: John L. Baker

I'm rather pleased that ITV are wheeling out Poirot and Marple over Christmas and New Year. They're still among the best dramas being produced on the TV and in a generally lousy line-up they really stand out on the third channel's schedule.

So to celebrate Christmas, I have a selection of Agatha Christie novels for you. The first celebrates not only Christie but an artist whose work has been thoroughly ignored in relation to Christie. No disrespect to Tom Adams, whose name is now most associated with the Fontana editions of Christie's novels. His first painting for one of Christie's books appeared on a reprint of A Murder is Announced in 1961, coincidentally also the first Christie novel reprinted by Fontana, although way back in 1953. For the first ten or so years, until Adams' work steadily replaced earlier covers as new editions appeared, a number of different artists' paintings graced the hugely popular detective novels, including Barbara Walton and John Rose... but the best was John L. Baker.

Baker, born in Birmingham in 1922, trained at Birmingham, West Bromwich and at Slade School. He started his career as a teacher but later turned to illustrating and writing (mostly for the press). According to the one brief biographical sketch I've found, "He worked under the guidance of the prolific newspaper draughtsman Hanslip Fletcher. He showed at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, portraying civic dignitaries and show business personalities. Lectured in architectural development."

In around 1948-55, Baker produced two railway carriage prints for the LNER. He also produced watercolours. In the 1970s and 1980s he wrote and illustrated a number of books...

Guildford. A selection of prints. Walton-on-Thames, Napier Publications, 1975.
A Picture of Surrey. London, Hale, 1980.
A Picture of Hampshire. London, Hale, 1986.

Baker lived in Woking, Surrey, and Broad Chalke, Wiltshire. The Guildford Borough Collection has a number of his illustrations, probably derived from selection of prints published in 1975.

2 comments:

Kerrie said...

Steve, you might like to submit this post (and the others you seem to intend writing) to the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival.

Stephen Gallagher said...

Gorgeous covers, though I misread one as "Sod Cypress"...