Friday, 9 March 2012
Leonard Rosoman, who died a few days ago aged 98, was one of the most distinguished artists to illustrate for Folio. In addition to book illustration, he was a painter, printmaker, teacher (David Hockney was one of his pupils) a Royal Academician and an official war artist during the Second World War. Leonard’s first book for us was Aldous Huxley’s Point Counter Point in 1958 and this was followed by Brave New World in 1971, which stands out from the books of that period with the futuristic style of its typography and binding design as well as its striking illustrations.
I first got to know Leonard when we commissioned illustrations to Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks in 1989, and this was followed by Brideshead Revisited in 1995 and The Magic Mountain in 2000. The latter two books were in colour, and exemplify Leonard’s distinctive palette, dominated by shades of yellow and green.
Although he was an old man by the time I came to know him, he resolutely refused to act his age, and he retained the chirpy enthusiasm of a college-leaver to the end of his days. Each commission was given the same serious attention as though it were his first – when he took on Brideshead Revisited at the age of 87, he rushed off to Yorkshire with his sketch pad to draw Castle Howard – working from a photograph would have been unthinkable to him. Hard to think that he was old enough to have experienced English country house life before the War, and had also served as a war artist, which made him uniquely well equipped to illustrate Waugh’s masterpiece.