On the eve of the release of the 25th Bond movie No Time to Die, The Salisbury Museum celebrated the life and work of writer, illustrator and teacher Richard Chopping (1917 – 2008), best-known for illustrating the original book covers for James Bond.
Richard Chopping was a master of the trompe-l’œil technique, producing highly realistic three-dimensional images, and it was this distinctive style that led him to be commissioned by Ian Fleming to illustrate nine of the James Bond book covers from 1957 to 1966.
The exhibition featured some of the original working drawings for the books, including the striking skull design for Goldfinger– one of Chopping’s personal favourites, and a commission that had been declined by his former friend and subsequent arch-rival, Lucian Freud.
The exhibition looked at Chopping’s entire output, positioning his work for Fleming firmly within the context of his 40-year career. Highlights from his early years included his illustrations for Butterflies in Britain (1943) and the collection of children’s short stories Mr Postlethwaite’s Reindeer (1945). There were also delicate wild flower drawings, prepared for an ambitious 22 volume series on British wild flowers by Penguin, which was abandoned due to spiralling costs, and Chopping’s original design and preparatory studies for the book cover of his first novel The Fly (1965) which was a success despite being described by one reviewer as a ‘just about the most unpleasant book of the year’.
With many works which have never previously been displayed, the exhibition proved to be a highly-popular genuine treasure-trove for the Chopping cognoscenti and for those who discovered his work for the first time. The show revealed a talented artist whose work should perhaps be as well-known as the fictional spy he helped make famous.