Fleming’s Favourite Artist | The Ken Lewis Exhibition | 04 March – 26 March 2022
An exhibition dedicated to the work of Ken Lewis, illustrator of the first three original James Bond Covers (Casino Royale, Live & Let Die, Moonraker) opens on Friday 04 March at Spacecraft Westbury.
Representing Ken Lewis at opening night will be members of his family. Ken’s daughter, Judy Jones, has curated the entire exhibition, sorting through which incredible illustrations to include from the vast collection of his work.
And they are incredible.
What grabbed my attention when Judy spoke about her dad’s drawing style and where he worked (during one of our life drawing sessions), was that he illustrated the original covers of the first three James Bond books. Ian Fleming walked down the corridor where they both worked, when 007 was still just a number, and asked his friend and colleague Ken, if he would draw the cover to Casino Royale, the new novel he’d written. This exhibition tells that story…which is one of many.
As an illustrator myself, Ken’s work is what I aspire to, and this exhibition is for illustrators. And James Bond fans. I’ve examined Ken’s work up close… the precision airbrushing, the colours, the paper, it’s a celebration of drawing from a different time. Speaking to Judy, I know Ken was a very humble man, known professionally for his exceptional ‘cut-away’ artwork demonstrated in his illustrations to accompany magazine articles during the 1950s/60s. And he clearly loved sports cars.
We speak to Judy Jones, Ken’s daughter….
“When you first asked me if I would like to exhibit my dad’s work, I felt quite emotional as I am so so proud of my dad as he was such a humble man that never realised his own skill. I feel so privileged to have this opportunity to display his work. It has been inspiring to look through his work again and choose the works to display – it has generated many happy memories. I feel that it is quite a load as I want to represent him well and in the manner that he would feel happy with, though to be honest if he was still alive, he probably wouldn’t let me but I’m sure if he felt that this could inspire other artists and illustrators, he would be more than happy to share his work and skills, of which he had so many. What we have to display is only a small portion of his life’s works, there is so much out there that is lost.
In answer to your questions, Dad studied at Goldsmiths and evening classes whilst he was working at Kemsley newspapers, he then went onto work for the Sunday Times Magazine when Lord Thomson bought out the Kemsley group in the 1960s. The first launch on the Sunday Times Magazine was 4 February 1962.
Regarding the James Bond work, I think dad was quietly proud of his connection to the Bond books. Unfortunately, as he didn’t have a business head, he never realised the value of his work, to him it was always just a job. He did have some stories to tell about ‘Fleming’, as he always called him, though.
Another little nugget my brother came up with at the weekend, was that dad illustrated all the floor drawings in the Pitkin series of guides of cathedrals, historic places etc but was never accredited for them. Plus, I don’t know if I told you, but dad illustrated the maps for the Bernard Cornwall Sharpe series of books published by HarperCollins.
I think the more I look the more I find!!!”
You are warmly invited to join us for the opening night, Friday 04 March 2022, 7pm – 9pm.
This is going to be very special.
The Ken Lewis Exhibition runs from 04 March until Saturday 26 March 2022.
Opening: Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 5.30pm.