Cecil W. Bacon, MSIA (1905 – 1992) was a British artist and illustrator who signed his work “CWB”. He designed posters, magazine covers and book jackets.
He studied at the Hastings School of Art. In 1926, he began working for an advertising agency in London, before turning freelance in 1929. Between 1932 and 1935 he designed posters for London Transport.
During World War II, he served in the Royal Air Force and was assigned to work producing propaganda artwork for the Ministry of Information. After the war, he produced designs for British Railways and the Post Office Savings Bank.
He was especially adept at scratchboard, a form of direct engraving where the artist scratches off dark ink to reveal a white or colored layer beneath. Scratchboard technique uses sharp knives and tools for engraving into a thin layer of white clay that is coated with dark, often black India ink. There is also foil paper covered with black ink that, when scratched, exposes the shiny surface beneath. Scratchboard gives highly detailed, precise, evenly textured artwork. In 1951, Bacon wrote a book on the topic.
Designs for book jackets are a significant part of Bacon’s work. I chose these for their stylistic range and for their association with hard-boiled, pulp and science fiction. Bacon varied his approach for each commission, opting for a Constantin Alajálov New Yorker-style drawing for The Little Sister, a light touch of Cubism for Mildred Pierce, a streamline approach for Red Gardenias and magic realism for The Lost Planet. All the title information appears to be hand lettered. It would be interesting to know to what extent the approach was prescribed by the publisher. How many ideas were rejected or returned for re-drafting? We can be certain that publishers placed a high value on Bacon’s reputation for reliability and for delivering on time.