Eric Fraser cover for Aeroplane magazine of a Lightning jet
Apologies for the small illustration, but I can’t find the actual issue of The Aeroplane and Astronautics from 12 February 1960.
I wanted to use this cover for two reasons. First, as an example of an advertising cover, and second as an example of Eric Fraser’s artistry, outside the magazine for which he is best known, Radio Times. Aeroplane, a ‘weekly magazine for the aviation enthusuiast’, invariably used illustrated covers. I don’t know how they were commissioned but there must have been co-operation between the advertiser and the magazine.
The Eric Fraser cover here is for the English Electric Lightning – Britain’s main fighter jet in the days when the country could afford to build its own rather than buy from the US or go into co-operation with Europe.
The Chris Beetles gallery has held exhibitions of Fraser’s work. This is how the gallery describes him:
Eric Fraser is one of the most significant British illustrators and designers of the 20th century, who produced work that is at once wide-ranging and highly distinctive. Developing an assured technique and an impressive general knowledge, he could adapt his style to almost any subject matter, from ancient to modern, and any mood, from the whimsical to the tragic. He was also industrious, meticulous and dependable. As a result, he defined the look of Radio Times for over four decades and became a mainstay of JM Dent’s Everyman’s Library while also creating impressive murals and stained glass windows and an astonishing variety of advertising.
Fraser was also chosen to illustrate the May 1953 coronation number of the Radio Times. This was an unusual issue because he drew not only the heraldic illustration on the front, but also the back cover advertisement for Batchelors Foods in a similar style. The event marked the first time the BBC’s listings weekly had used colour since before the war. The Batchelors advert was also used on the back of that week’s Listener. Fraser drew for the Radio Times from 1926 until 1982, the year before his death.
He was a member of the Society of Industrial Artists, which was founded in 1930 at the Ye Olde Cock Tavern in London’s Fleet Street, and has evolved into today’s Chartered Society of Designers, complete with royal patronage.
An Aeroplane magazine cover of a Fairey Battle from 13 April 1935
The Aeroplane and Astronautics was published by Temple Press and in the 1940s claimed to be ‘the most influential aviation journal in the world’. Temple was founded in the Victorian era with titles such as Cycling and Motor. In 1949, it became part of George Newnes and then part of the IPC conglomerate in the 1960s.
Aeroplane has a history of great covers, which like many trade and technical magazines, carried advertising.
Although the cover is the prime place for gaining such revenue, most consumer magazines and newspapers moved away from front page advertising, a trend that accelerated after the Second World War. However, it’s a tactic that is returning, particularly among free titles, but even the biggest newspapers are now giving their covers away as wraparounds, and back covers are now often adverts.
To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design