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Maggs Bros Ltd opens of its new headquarters with exhibition of Evelyn Waugh's graphic art
Bruno Hat, Napoleon, 1929. Photo: Maggs Books.

LONDON.- Maggs Bros Ltd announced that to mark the opening of its new headquarters at 48 Bedford Square, a Grade I listed building in the heart of Bloomsbury, it will stage a landmark exhibition of the celebrated novelist Evelyn Waugh’s graphic art, opening on 18 July 2017.

The exhibition includes original artwork and printed material, both for sale and on loan from private collections, the Brotherton Library of Leeds University, and the Waugh family. Waugh’s initial ambition was to be an artist, and he produced many excellent illustrations for his own work and others, uniquely combining the then profoundly unfashionable Victorian aesthetic with that of the Jazz Age.

Maggs believes it will be the first such exhibition devoted to this fascinating and important part of Waugh’s creative life. It will coincide with the publication of the first volumes in the Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh by Oxford University Press, and will precede an exhibition in late August and September at the Bodleian Library entitled City of Aquatint: Evelyn Waugh’s Oxford.

Highlights include:

• A manuscript of Waugh’s second novel Vile Bodies, 1930, accompanied by a colour proof of Waugh’s most famous design for the dust jacket and title page illustration. The proof is inscribed by Waugh to Bryan and Diana Guinness (née Mitford): "This is to be the cover. Do you like it? I do." Part of the Elliott collection, the manuscript is being lent by the Brotherton Library of Leeds University.

• A painting of Napoleon by the invented artist "Bruno Hat," a hoax that fooled many in British high society and was masterminded, in part, by Waugh, 1929.

• An original untitled pen and ink and wash drawing by Evelyn Waugh: Cocktail hour in a hotel lounge with cactus, modern literature, a cephalopod in a fish tank, a bare-bottomed statue and negro waiter. Signed and dated 1929. Possibly an unused illustration for Vile Bodies.

• The brilliant 1938 dust jacket design for Waugh’s celebrated journalism novel Scoop. Although not formally attributed to Waugh, it is understood that he played a major hand in its conception and design. It is one of the most well-known dustjackets of the period, and had to be revised after Lord Beaverbrook's Daily Express (parodied as the “Daily Beast”) objected to the similarity of their title lettering.

• A brilliant blackly comic Christmas card hand-made by Waugh, using a reproduction of Gaetano Zumba’s wax diorama illustrating the horrors of the Plague as a representation of family life at home.

• A selection of drawings done by Waugh for the Oxford undergraduate magazines Cherwell and the short-lived Oxford Broom. From Cherwell, a series illustrating the “Seven Deadly Sins” from 1923 that includes No.1 “The intolerable wickedness of him who drinks alone”, and No. 5 “That grim act, parricide.”

Says Ed Maggs: “We’re very proud to be hosting this pioneer exhibition of the work of Evelyn Waugh as an artist. It’s always been a somewhat under-rated part of his life, and we hope to show that his black humour and vicious irony found as equal an expression in his artwork as in his writing.”

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