When a group of Italian illustrators left the Cinecitta studios in Rome and arrived in London in the early 1960s they found a grey city receptive to their bold, colourful, sexy illustrations. Together with some like-minded British counterparts they flourished for a few short years in a quick-fire environment of trashy paperback covers, film posters and magazine illustrations.  These works (courtesy of the Lever Gallery) illustrate the dynamism of an illustration style that helped sixties London swing.     Michael Johnson,  White and Black Dress , c. 1965, acrylic on board.  Johnson painted this to pitch to art directors at fashion magazines. It was one of the first images Johnson created with acrylic paint, which first became available in the 1960s. Before this, illustrators used egg-based casein paint. The new acrylics had greater colour depth and were more resilient than casein being almost waterproof once dry.  ©Michael Johnson, courtesy of Lever Gallery

When a group of Italian illustrators left the Cinecitta studios in Rome and arrived in London in the early 1960s they found a grey city receptive to their bold, colourful, sexy illustrations. Together with some like-minded British counterparts they flourished for a few short years in a quick-fire environment of trashy paperback covers, film posters and magazine illustrations.

These works (courtesy of the Lever Gallery) illustrate the dynamism of an illustration style that helped sixties London swing.   

Michael Johnson, White and Black Dress, c. 1965, acrylic on board.

Johnson painted this to pitch to art directors at fashion magazines. It was one of the first images Johnson created with acrylic paint, which first became available in the 1960s. Before this, illustrators used egg-based casein paint. The new acrylics had greater colour depth and were more resilient than casein being almost waterproof once dry.

©Michael Johnson, courtesy of Lever Gallery

 Pino Dell’Orco,  A Free Agent , 1965, acrylic and pencil on board.   A Free Agent  was a love story set against the backdrop of the Cold War, written by Frederic Wakeman in 1964. Dell’Orco often works with one bold, abstract colour as the background, while detailed action dominates the foreground and appears to burst off the page.  This graphic layering gives his cover illustrations a 3D effect.  ©Pinto Dell'Orco, courtesy of Lever Gallery

Pino Dell’Orco, A Free Agent, 1965, acrylic and pencil on board.

A Free Agent was a love story set against the backdrop of the Cold War, written by Frederic Wakeman in 1964. Dell’Orco often works with one bold, abstract colour as the background, while detailed action dominates the foreground and appears to burst off the page.  This graphic layering gives his cover illustrations a 3D effect.

©Pinto Dell'Orco, courtesy of Lever Gallery

 Renato Fratini,  The Devil’s Profession , c 1965, acrylic on board.  Russell O’Neil wrote  The Devil’s Profession  in 1963. A novel about a good-looking, narcissistic actor who will do anything to get a Hollywood contract, becoming his gay agent’s ‘kept boy’, despite being heterosexual. The image is painted in greys and lit starkly, as if by theatre spot lights; the foreground figure is depicted in an almost androgynous way.  ©Renato Fratini, courtesy of Lever Gallery

Renato Fratini, The Devil’s Profession, c 1965, acrylic on board.

Russell O’Neil wrote The Devil’s Profession in 1963. A novel about a good-looking, narcissistic actor who will do anything to get a Hollywood contract, becoming his gay agent’s ‘kept boy’, despite being heterosexual. The image is painted in greys and lit starkly, as if by theatre spot lights; the foreground figure is depicted in an almost androgynous way.

©Renato Fratini, courtesy of Lever Gallery

 Michael Johnson,  Collage - Woman, Bullseye, Cities , c. 1965, acrylic on board.  Commissioned to illustrate a crime story in the German magazine,  Bunte , Johnson didn’t encapsulate the narrative with a single scene, as he would usually, but lifted a number motifs from the story and assembled them like pieces of evidence on a pin board. Johnson himself appears in the illustration as the photographer.  ©Michael Johnson, courtesy of Lever Gallery

Michael Johnson, Collage - Woman, Bullseye, Cities, c. 1965, acrylic on board.

Commissioned to illustrate a crime story in the German magazine, Bunte, Johnson didn’t encapsulate the narrative with a single scene, as he would usually, but lifted a number motifs from the story and assembled them like pieces of evidence on a pin board. Johnson himself appears in the illustration as the photographer.

©Michael Johnson, courtesy of Lever Gallery

 Gianluigi Coppola,  Wonderful Clouds , 1965, mixed media.   Wonderful Clouds  was written by the French novelist Françoise Sagan in 1960. This Penguin edition was published in 1965. Under the legendary art director Germano Facetti, Coppola’s modernist take on pulp fiction motifs made the novel accessible to whole new markets, while also attracting the avant-garde.  ©Gianluigi Coppola, courtesy of Lever Gallery

Gianluigi Coppola, Wonderful Clouds, 1965, mixed media.

Wonderful Clouds was written by the French novelist Françoise Sagan in 1960. This Penguin edition was published in 1965. Under the legendary art director Germano Facetti, Coppola’s modernist take on pulp fiction motifs made the novel accessible to whole new markets, while also attracting the avant-garde.

©Gianluigi Coppola, courtesy of Lever Gallery

 Renato Fratini,  Try Anything Twice , 1965, acrylic on board.  Fontana published Peter Cheyney's novel  Try Anything Twice  in 1965. Fratini caught the mood of the pulp thriller with a stylishly dressed woman on a chaise with a cigarette and a gun. Although this is classic pulp styling, the minimal composition looks toward modernism with more than a slight nod to Hitchcock. The unusual pose and nuanced expression also give the piece a depth not typical of the genre.  ©Renato Fratini, courtesy of Lever Gallery

Renato Fratini, Try Anything Twice, 1965, acrylic on board.

Fontana published Peter Cheyney's novel Try Anything Twice in 1965. Fratini caught the mood of the pulp thriller with a stylishly dressed woman on a chaise with a cigarette and a gun. Although this is classic pulp styling, the minimal composition looks toward modernism with more than a slight nod to Hitchcock. The unusual pose and nuanced expression also give the piece a depth not typical of the genre.

©Renato Fratini, courtesy of Lever Gallery

 Renato Fratini,  Too Many Women , c1965, acrylic on board.  Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe Novel,  Too Many Women  was published by Fontana around 1965. The candy pink background and feather boa are given a grown-up edge by a woman clad in skin-tight black.  ©Renato Fratini, courtesy of Lever Gallery

Renato Fratini, Too Many Women, c1965, acrylic on board.

Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe Novel, Too Many Women was published by Fontana around 1965. The candy pink background and feather boa are given a grown-up edge by a woman clad in skin-tight black.

©Renato Fratini, courtesy of Lever Gallery

 Gino D’Achille,  Nova – Life on a Council Estate 1 . c 1965, acrylic on board  Painted for  Nova  magazine, D’Achille captured the optimism of council estates in the sixties. The modernist architecture is elegant, from its ordered façade to the splash of blue amongst plain and simple materials. Offset with a lush tree and even playful chalk drawings on the pavement, the piece is designed to be compared to its partner,  Life on a Council Estate 2 .  © Gino D'Achille, courtesy of Lever Gallery

Gino D’Achille, Nova – Life on a Council Estate 1. c 1965, acrylic on board

Painted for Nova magazine, D’Achille captured the optimism of council estates in the sixties. The modernist architecture is elegant, from its ordered façade to the splash of blue amongst plain and simple materials. Offset with a lush tree and even playful chalk drawings on the pavement, the piece is designed to be compared to its partner, Life on a Council Estate 2.

© Gino D'Achille, courtesy of Lever Gallery

 Gino D’Achille,  Nova – Life on a Council Estate 2 . c 1965, acrylic on board  Painted for  Nova  magazine in conjunction with  Life on a Council Estate 1 , D’Achille peels away the stylish modernity of the building's façade to illustrate the council residents' imagined lives.  © Gino D'Achille, courtesy of Lever Gallery

Gino D’Achille, Nova – Life on a Council Estate 2. c 1965, acrylic on board

Painted for Nova magazine in conjunction with Life on a Council Estate 1, D’Achille peels away the stylish modernity of the building's façade to illustrate the council residents' imagined lives.

© Gino D'Achille, courtesy of Lever Gallery