Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fontana Cover Cavalcade: John Rose

John Rose was a regular cover artist for Fontana, one of the most prolific in the early days of the company in 1953-56, although he continued to provide covers until at least 1961 and possibly 1962. He was responsible for providing covers to many of Fontana's major writers, including Agatha Christie, Peter Cheyney, Howard Spring and Eric Williams as well as the religious writings of C. S. Lewis.

He also contributed covers to Digit Books (1963), Consul Books (1964) and possibly Corgi Books in the late 1960s.

Rose was born in Yorkshire in the 1920s and I know very little about his career other than that he spent 30 years illustrating books. In the late 1960s his career took a dramatic turn when he was asked by Stanley Kubrick to produce conceptual art for 2001: A Space Odyssey. He subsequently worked as an illustrator on such films as Nijinsky (starring Alan Bates, 1980), Supergirl (1984), Santa Claus: The Movie (1985), The Neverending Story II: The Next Chapter (1990) and In Love and War (1996).

He was the storyboard artist on Give My Regards to Broad Street (starring Paul McCartney, 1984), Sky Bandits (1986), Death Train (starring Pierce Brosnan and based on a story by Alistair MacLean, 1993), First Knight (1995), Jane Eyre (1996) and 101 Dalmations (starring Glenn Close, 1996), Prince Valiant (1997).

Some of his finest work is said to have been for films that never saw the light of day, including a movie storyboarded for David Lean (possibly Nostromo) and a version of Moby Dick which was to have starred Sean Connery as Captain Ahab.

The little gallery below shows how diverse his work was for Fontana.

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
Fontana Books 49R, 1955

Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
Fontana Books 50R, 1955

Bland Beginning by Julian Symons
Fontana Books 72, 1955

Play a Lone Hand by Luke Short
Fontana Books 103, 1956

RIP by John Macdonald
Fontana Books 382, 1960

My Son, My Son by Howard Spring
Fontana Books 760, 4th imp., 1962 [possibly same cover as Fontana 59, 1955]

Screwtape Proposes a Toast, and other pieces by C. S. Lewis
Fontana Books 1074R, 1965 [same cover (with different colouring) as Fontana 49R]


  1. I am rather in shock. I have just stumbled across this site. John Rose was my Dad and it is very moving for me to see some of his work here. He died last year and amazingly was on TV just before that, interviewed in the hospice in Dorchester in May 2010. This is the interview on YouTube:
    I would love to see/know more about him if you have anything else. Victoria Rose

  2. Hi Victoria, I just came across this thread trying to find the artist of the cover for my copy of the Screwtape Letters that my mother bought for me in the late fifties when I was 8 or 9. I thought it wonderful art then and I still do today. It was in inspiration for me then and I'm sure helped push me in the direction that I then took. If you're interested in seeing where it led, my work's at

  3. Found this text on John Rose very interesting as I just had laid my hands on Fontana 622 from 1962, Blood on the moon by Luke Short. Nice painting signed by Rose on the cover.



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