Les Sardines A L’Huile – review

Illustrated by Glyn Boyd Harte

Published by Design for Today ISBN 978-1-912066-54-4

Reviewed by Karl Andy Foster

It is great to see Glynn Boyd Harte’s work revitalised as a conglomerate of drawings that work perfectly as auto-lithographic prints. We have here a Ratchford cloth covered (in silver grey) perfect bound book, jam-packed with gold and silver delights. From the debossed cover to the skilfully rendered designs within you will discover the range of items that reside in the category of tinned oily fish.

I first saw the work of Gynn Boyd Harte long ago in copies of The Best of British Illustration annual. Later upon visiting the Thumb Gallery in Soho, London I discovered his one person show. There were drawings and lithographic prints for sale there (all this was beyond my pockets at the time, but the seeds of desire were sown in me that day). I was hooked and looked out for his work thereafter.

I’m pleased to announce that the people over at Design For Today have produced this delicate and impressive limited-edition book that promotes an essential aspect of the artists mission – to elevate and promulgate that which has already been constructed by other means. To show us the hidden that is in plain sight if we but take the time to look. This is what art is for and this work is the result of passion, obsession and refined taste.

Originally published in 1985, this monograph contains tiny masterpieces that balance technical constraints alongside the hand-rendered interpretations that bring each design to life. The sardine tin images are identified using specific colour palettes (reds, yellows and blues), the line work is exquisite, typography is attuned to the function over form requirements of these metallic sarcophagi. The artist perfectly evokes the heat of the Mediterranean Sea where the sardines are caught.

These everyday mass-produced objects are linked to tradition and are imbued with decorations akin to the bejeweled crowns of the Kings of 15th Century Iberia. For very little money most of us can purchase and eat a preserved dish of fish, but without needing the admission fee for a museum we can also marvel at the ingenuity of these aluminum chambers adorned by master artisans. Thanks to my many visits to the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, England I fully appreciate that artisans must instill magic and beauty upon the commonplace to elevate objects to the status of the divine. Glynn Boyd Harte’s work is divine and it’s still making an impression upon me. I’m pleased to tell you that my pockets are now much deeper!

Les Sardines à l’huile by Glynn Boyd Harte is published by Design for Today on 1 September as a limited facsimile edition of the original book for £65

1st September 2021

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