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Botten, Bill

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Artist.

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(1935-    ) UK artist, originally a graphic designer; he then worked as an art director for Sphere Books before turning freelance, at least half of this work – over 100 covers – being for the publisher Jonathan Cape, mostly in the 1970s and early 1980s. His covers for Cape in particular were brightly coloured, sophisticated highly imaginative, and were sometimes infused with surrealistic humour. Noteworthy instances of his approach include his cover for John T Sladek's The Müller-Fokker Effect (1970), where a man's nose is executed as a female nude, but with trousered legs emerging from its nostrils; his cover for J G Ballard's Low-Flying Aircraft (coll 1976), depicting two mildly anthropomorphic cars that seem to be observing – or perhaps escaping from – seven antique airplanes, a panorama that, typically of his work, is only fully visible when the wraparound cover is opened out; and his cover for Ballard's The Unlimited Dream Company (1979), a bizarre portrait of a family on the grounds of a country estate featuring a vulture on the children's swing set and an undressed handyman painting a bench. A more ethereal mood is conveyed by his cover for Ballard's Myths of the Near Future (coll 1982), showing a blonde woman sitting on a shore amidst exotic plants and animals, while his slightly early cover for Ian McEwan's First Love, Last Rites (coll 1975) depicts a nude woman who is half-landscape and half playground for rats, one of whom peers up from between her legs. Another intriguing effort, for Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children (1980), offers a landscape of half-buried clocks with human faces, all striking midnight.

Botten stopped working for Jonathan Cape in the 1980s to focus on freelance projects, though he has more recently expressed an interest in again working on book covers, a move that many admirers would welcome. [GW]

Bill Botten

born London: 19 May 1935


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