Charles Mozley : artist, illustrator, and graphic designer

Mozley Cautious heart smallAn exhibition was held in the University Library of the work of the artist, illustrator and graphic designer, Charles Mozley (1914-1991), in May 1996. As well as the material generously lent by donors, the exhibition displayed items from the University's Special Collections, notably the Printing Collection and several of the publishers archives.

[Detail of original artwork for the jacket of The cautious heart (1958), reproduced with the permission of Random House UK Limited from the Chatto & Windus Archives]



This exhibition brings together a selection of the work of Charles Mozley, one of the most talented, versatile, and prolific artists, illustrators, graphic designers, and print makers of the post-war period, in a way that has probably not been done before. Most of the material on show is drawn from the collections of the University Special Collections, including its extensive publishers' archives, and from the collection of David Knott. Inevitably it concentrates on the work Mozley produced for publication, but the generosity of donors - the Mozley family through the good offices of Juliet Mozley, and R S Atterbury - has allowed some idea of the range of his artistic endeavours to be shown.

Charles Mozley was born in Sheffield in 1914. His talent for drawing was recognized at an early age, and he attended Sheffield School of Art. There he studied painting and drawing, and acquired a sound knowledge of the processes of what was then called commercial art. Subsequently he won a national scholarship and moved to the Royal College of Art in London in 1934. While still in Sheffield he had an exhibition of his work which was favourably noticed locally. His Self-portrait in oils, at the age of seventeen or eighteen is shown. His success continued in London, and after graduating from the Royal College in 1937 he taught life drawing, anatomy, and lithography for a short while at Camberwell. Thereafter he was essentially a free-lance professional artist for the rest of his career.

At the outbreak of the Second World War Mozley joined the Army and spent the next six years in uniform. Like many other artists he worked in camouflage; subsequently he was in military intelligence. He had begun to gain commissions before the war, from London Transport, and from Country Life, for example. During the War his painting 'Kentish Lane, 1940' was reproduced in War pictures by British artists no. 4 : Army (Oxford University Press, 1942).

After the war commissions came at a great and increasing rate, in the form of film and theatre posters (such as that for Alexander Korda's film An ideal husband, 1947), advertisements and commercial work of all kinds. He contributed to the various series of poster-prints popular at the time, among them School prints, Society of London Painter-Printers, and Lyons lithographs. His Henley, 1951, can be seen. In the same year, 1951, he painted murals for the Festival of Britain on London's South Bank. Shell were one of his patrons over a long period - the poster Loyal greetings from Shell and BP of 1953 is also on display; a distinct body of work was undertaken for the wine trade; he also undertook interior design. It is doubtful if he ever wanted for work again.

Mozley became increasingly in demand as a jacket designer and book illustrator, both in Britain and in the United States. He produced work for most of the leading English publishers. His very many book jackets were perhaps the most public manifestation of his graphic design. As a book illustrator he produced in the region of eighty different titles including around thirty for children, and was perhaps better known for these than those for adults. He was at the height of his powers and influence in the period from the early 1950s until the late 1970s. Many examples of his graphic design work of this period may be seen.

Throughout his life Mozley continued to paint, make prints, and exhibit, in group shows, and individually; his Venice paintings and lithographs were auctioned in 1979 in aid of the Venice in Peril Fund, and there are exhibitions recorded at the Savage Gallery (1960), the Mermaid Theatre, and the King Street Gallery.

However, Mozley's work and career provides more than 'a graphic mirror of the post-war era', to adopt a phrase coined by Nicolas Barker. He worked for publication with brush, pen, pencil, and crayon, but whatever the medium his range and ability were apparent. He was at his best when he worked with sympathetic editors, and was able to influence the typographic design, the paper used, or the reproduction methods employed. Such was the case with the Limited Editions Club of New York. Particularly when he worked with printers he knew and who understood his requirements, as at the Westerham Press, he was incomparable. His understanding of the processes involved in graphic reproduction, and his belief that it was up to the artist to see that his work was effectively reproduced was his great strength. He was perhaps at his best as an auto-lithographer, working directly onto the plate or acetate sheet, making his own separations by eye, rather than by photography. Here his sure and lyrical line was allowed a free rein. As an illustrator he had an exceptional ability to create character and personality, and to suggest relationships (or their lack) between characters and sometimes between characters and the onlooker. He could establish an atmosphere, period, or context for a text without necessarily referring to any specific incident in the narrative.

This is not the place to make any definitive assessment of Mozley's standing either as an artist or graphic designer. He has always had his supporters and admirers, particularly among the printers and publishers with whom he worked so much, like Rowley Atterbury of Westerham. John Ryder has written admiringly of the unpublished Ulysses illustrations. Edward Hodnett has described him as one of the most spirited lithographers of the 1960s. Nicolas Barker has written of a talent in the graphic arts that could justly be compared with Toulouse-Lautrec's. That the standard of the work is uneven should be no surprise in view of the great quantity of work that he undertook. His very versatility could be his undoing, for he was able easily to throw off an unimportant commission in a short time, and inevitably he recycled ideas and favourite motifs on occasion. His heavy involvement in commercial work must have damaged his efforts to establish a reputation as a serious artist (as did no doubt his famous quick temper and resentment of patronage), and this undoubtedly irked him. But this is perhaps of less significance to us today, when the somewhat belittling term 'commercial artist' has fallen into disuse, and few designers reach as readily for their pencil or brush.

Early ephemera and Motif

Among Mozley's commissions of the 1950s was work for the City Music Society and the British Council. Particularly in the programmes for the Music Society he demonstrated his understanding of the processes of graphic reproduction. His bold original drawings were made with a brush and black poster paint and the second colour was drawn separately, thus avoiding the need to make a colour separation photographically. No retouching by the block maker was allowed. Thereafter close attention to the choice of paper, and inks, and careful make-ready during printing produced what he considered a lively representation of the original, rather than a mere approximation of it. Mozley wrote an account of this work, carried out in co-operation with the Westerham Press, in The Penrose annual for 1954. He expected artists to be aware of the possibilities of the various processes available, and to achieve their effects accordingly. The responsibility for the finished work lay with the designer, not with the craftsman who was asked to reproduce it.

Motif was the fourth graphic arts journal of the publisher James Shand, in succession to Typography (1936-39), Alphabet & image (1946-48), and Image (1949-52). In 1958 Ruari McLean, having parted from George Rainbird, was engaged to edit the new journal. He wrote subsequently: 'Motif was given its name, after many deliberations, on the pavement outside 58 Frith Street after a dinner in Soho. The word came from Charles Mozley and was immediately accepted; and James Shand asked him to do a cover design for the first issue. That was at midnight; by ten next morning, Charles appeared with ten sparkling finished roughs, from which we chose the one we liked the best. Looking back I cannot now think why he never made another contribution to the journal, apart from a drawing on page 84 of the first issue' (Matrix 8 (1988), 166).

Book jackets : artwork and printed specimens for Chatto and Windus

Original artwork for the jacket of The bell (1958)At least sixty book jackets by Charles Mozley are known, excluding those which appear on books which also contain his illustrations, but the suspicion is that there may be many others. He accepted commissions for jacket designs throughout his career. They were made for many of the leading English publishers of the period and contemporary comment is generally agreed as to their effectiveness. It is hard to resist the suggestion that more than a few undistinguished novels went further in the world than they deserved on the strength of their Mozley jackets. Among the more famous authors published from time to time in Mozley jackets were Nicholas Mosley, Dan Jacobson, and Maurice Edelman. The distinguished work done for Chatto included books by Iris Murdoch, Aubrey Menen, Jacquetta Hawkes, and several for William Sansom under Chatto's Hogarth Press imprint. The Chatto &Windus artwork files provide, in many cases, an opportunity to compare the finished artwork with the printed jacket. Many of the designs carry instructions to the printers. 

[Original artwork for the jacket of The bell (1958), reproduced with the permission of Random House UK Limited from the Chatto & Windus Archives]

Mozley's editor at Chatto was Norah Smallwood, and her correspondence with him throws some light on the commissioning process. Significant departures from the author's intention were not allowed, and the designer was required to put them right. Mozley originally gave Demoyte, in The sandcastle, a shock of black hair, but had to alter his drawing to take account of Murdoch's description of Demoyte as having a gentle film of scant white hairs. When the author was 'delighted' with a design, as Sansom was said to be with Among the dahlias, then everyone else was delighted too. Generally Chatto were very pleased with Mozley's work for them, and payment in the form of a cheque for fifteen or sixteen guineas was promptly on its way. Mozley's outstanding five-colour design for Sansom's The cautious heart was predicted by Mrs Smallwood to be one of his most successful, although her gratitude was slightly tempered by the thought of what it might cost to reproduce.

Book illustrations

The sheer volume of book illustration undertaken by Mozley is remarkable. So also is the generous amount of illustration included in many individual titles - frequently involving colour plates, monochrome in-text illustrations, decorations, illustrated endpapers, and binding designs. The four books which Mozley illustrated for the Limited Editions Club of New York between 1962 and 1971 contain some of his very best work in this form. He was able to influence design and production where standards were in any case higher than normal. For the first, Shaw's Man and superman, Mozley provided nine bold paintings, including the title double spread, around sixty monochrome brush drawings, and the design on the binding cloth. The multicoloured plates were reproduced by silk screen under his supervision on Fabriano paper of three different colours, and are stunning. However, they arguably lack the characterization which is so usually Mozley's trademark.

In 1964 the Club published John Galsworthy's The man of property. This time Mozley provided twelve full-page colour lithographs, each backed up by a monochrome lithograph printed in sepia. The plates bleed off the page. In addition there are numerous line drawings printed in sepia. The lithos were drawn on the plates and printed under the artist's supervision at the Stellar Press, Barnet. The backed-up plates showed the aftermath of the scene depicted in the colour plate in the monochrome illustration. Here characterization is more apparent.

Mozley's third book for the Club, published in 1967, was H G Wells's The invisible man. He contributed twelve colour plates, again working with the Stellar Press, thirty black and white drawings and illustrated endpapers. Primarily they evoke a sense of period and atmosphere.

His last book for the Club, Pushkin's The captain's daughter & other stories, 1971, can be regarded as the most successful, perhaps, of all his book illustrations. Mozley determined the generous format and produced fourteen colour lithographs and nearly sixty monochromes. The whole job was printed at Westerham under his supervision, on paper ordered by Mozley directly from Amalfi, Italy. It presents a vivid and spectacular cavalcade of Pushkin's characters.

Original proof pull of one of the lithographed illustrations for Moll Flanders (1962)A number of other works are also shown, including the limited editions commissioned by Cyril and Barbara Sweett, and the very successful Moll Flanders of 1962 and The Tellier house of 1964. Also deserving mention are the illustrations for a commemorative edition of James Joyce's Ulysses, which The Bodley Head finally decided not to proceed with. Several commentators consider it might have been Mozley's greatest illustrated book. Some idea of what was missed can be seen in Ulysses and the Bodley Head, six auto-lithographs by Mozley, issued in an edition of 165 copies in 1961 and those drawings which have been subsequently reproduced by John Ryder in Matrix and elsewhere.

[Original proof pull of one of the lithographed illustrations for Moll Flanders (1962), reproduced with the permission of Random House UK Limited from the Chatto & Windus Archives]

Charles Mozley illustrated over thirty children's books between the late 1950s and the mid-1970s. They represent a distinct and substantial part of his oeuvre. Many were done for Franklin Watts of New York and include such classic titles as Black Beauty, Perrault's Famous fairy tales, Pinocchio, and Sleeping Beauty. Another group is the Girl with ... titles of Elisabeth Kyle, published by Evans. Mozley employed the full range of his techniques in his children's illustrations, but in particular pen drawings. Some reproduce his watercolour illustrations throughout. Even the most routine of these commissions display his talent for characterization and atmosphere, and in addition, humour, in a way which is not always apparent in his work for adults. Attention may be drawn to his drawings for Wilde's Fairy tales (Bodley Head, 1960); the titles for Margaret Mahy, and Bill Naughton, part of a successful series of works for Dent between 1969 and 1976, and his last such commissions in this genre, and work for some of Noel Streatfeild's titles in the same period.

In the 1980s, when he was reaching his seventies, Mozley embarked on what was probably the biggest commission of his career - an illustrated edition of Chaucer's Canterbury tales, using Nevill Coghill's translation in the Penguin Classics series. It came from John Deuss, a Dutch-born entrepreneur, at that time very active in the retail oil business in the United States. Just what lay behind the commission is not clear but apparently it was Deuss's intention to present the work to libraries, perhaps also to clients. (A set was presented to the University of London Library, Senate House.) An edition of the complete Tales was envisaged, which might have run to twelve volumes in all. In the event only the 'Prologue' and seven tales were published in four volumes, each in 1,000 copies. In fact these volumes are infrequently met with, and there is a suggestion that some part of the edition was irretrievably damaged in storage. The scale of these volumes and the quantity of illustration in each is such as to suggest that an edition of the complete work was a thoroughly over-ambitious project. The eight sections of the Chaucer were issued in portfolios as unsewn bifolia sections printed on one side only. Every one presents some text and at least one illustration, sometimes two or three, in a variety of colours printed at one pass. Thus around two hundred and fifty different illustrations were required for these eight tales alone. Perhaps it is hardly surprising that the complete edition, which at this rate might have required something in the region of eight hundred, was not completed. Nevertheless, the texts provided ample opportunity for Mozley to employ his great gift for characterization, and the generous proportions of the page give full scope to his flowing lines, in a way that few if any of his other commissions for illustration do. There is much that is excellent in the Chaucer volumes, even if it was not a totally successful work.

The first volume was printed at Westerham. The typographic arrangement, printed letterpress, was by Ted Gowin, and Mozley drew directly onto the litho plates in the manner which suited him best. Subsequent volumes were filmset and printed by Pennington Fine Lithographers in London, Mozley drawing directly onto the acetate film. The University Library has a copy of the third volume - The merchant's tale & The shipman's tale - and some openings are shown.

Among his miscellaneous commissions, Mozley's work for the wine trade forms a distinct group, and includes some of his most delightful images. It appeared in books, in journals like Wine magazine, in house journals like Hedges and Butler's Grape and grain, on menus as for the Vintage Dinners, and in prints. A love of the wine-producing regions of France and Italy and their products is very strongly evident in them, and they convey a feeling of joie de vivre and generally seductive hedonism centred on a love of wine, women, and the southern landscape, which Mozley regularly but skilfully recycled for his satisfied clients. The châteaux of Bordeaux lithographs were the major work in this area.

Finally, a number of paintings, drawings, and prints, in addition to those already mentioned, show the broad range of Charles Mozley's work. Also apparent is the extent of interaction between all his varied activities, and the way in which activity in one field is informed by, and in turn influences, work in another - the extent to which the work is in fact an integrated whole, regardless of the reasons for which individual pieces were undertaken. Perhaps this is symbolised best in the caricatures of fellow graphic artists - particularly Berthold Wolpe, whom Mozley seems never to have tired of drawing.


The University Library acknowledges with gratitude the generosity of those donors who have lent material for this exhibition : Miss Juliet Mozley on behalf of the Mozley family, and Mr R S Atterbury, formerly managing director of the Westerham Press.

Thanks are due to Mr Atterbury also for agreeing to talk to the Imprint Society of Reading in advance of the opening of the exhibition.

Gina Dobbs on behalf of Random House UK Limited kindly arranged permission to reproduce items from the Chatto & Windus Archives.

The exhibition was conceived and selected, and this brochure written, by David Knott, who gratefully acknowledges the help of Michael Bott in pursuing Charles Mozley through the Library's publishers' archives; Library colleagues Ian Burn for his work on this brochure, and Geoff Gardner; also Martin Andrews of the University's Department of Typography & Graphic Communication, for much advice and practical assistance.

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