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The Peter Cross Special


Prologue

It is a wonderful Sunday in mid September. Sunbeams are touching the ground of a small park, in which birds fly from tree to tree jauntingly chirping. Just a few steps away from this scenery, there is a big car park that belongs to the premises of an old castle. There, where coaches of various travel agencies use to be parked, cars and vans from all over the envirous can be seen today. This is because of a disc market taking place in the rooms of the castle that has been carried out there regularly for some three years.

After the entrance-fee has been paid, the usual search for rarities, new releases that might be purchased at low prices and other items the vendor on the other side of the table priced much too low for ingnorance begins.

Mostly, it is the same initial letters that are of interest at this "hunt": "B" (Banks, Brand X), "C" (Collins), "G" (Genesis, Gabriel, GTR), "H" (Hackett) and "M" (Mike & The Mechanics) respectively "R" (Rutherford). "Such a bad luck!" one may think. "Can't find anything of interest today except for the standard discs I've got anyway."

But then there comes the idea that is to make this day a special day: "Wasn't  there that guitarist who founded Genesis in the late sixties together with Mike and the boys of Garden Wall? His name was... Anthony... Anthony...yes! Anthony Phillips." Quite curious whether one will really find an LP of this artiste, one searches the box with the letter "P". And indeed, soon one holds a record in one´s hands, the cover of which shows a medieval scenery in a dreamy landscape. But besides knights and a lute player also other fabulous elements as, for instance, a fairy can be seen. The title of the album is The Geese & The Ghost, and on is very surprised finding the names Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford amongst others in the list of guest musicians. And since the work of art on the cover and its details are so fascinating, there is no hesitation about buying the LP.

At home, one takes the disc out of the sleeve and carefully lays it on the turn-table. The music coming out of the loud-speakers of the stereo set within the following some fifty minutes and the picture on the cover form so fantastic a harmony that it is soon hard to consider them two different things.

After such an experience one wants to enjoy other moments of that kind and starts to collect the other albums Anthony Phillips recorded in the course of the years. One is especially glad, of course, finding out that the artist who has painted the picture for The Geese & The Ghost produced the works of art for many other of Anthony's albums as well.


Well, the first encounter of the odd today's Phillips fan with Ant's music might have been like this, and there is one name standing for the whole "cover paintings fascination": PETER CROSS

Ten cover paintings has this artist made for the albums of his friend, and anyone who is a fan of Ant's music certainly appreciates and loves the works of art reproduced on the covers, too, that are painted by the Englishman. So he who is a fan of these paintings just needs to make a little step to be amidst the incredibly fascinating world of Peter Cross!

However, we hope that those of you who have not known this man by now, will be delighted by the following pages likewise.


Biography

Peter Cross was born on May 24th, 1951 in Guilford, Surrey. In the 1920s already his uncle proved there was an aptitude and inclination to the art of painting in his family. Yet this uncle managed to exhibit paintings of his own in the Royal Academy in London. At the moment, Peter lives together with his wife Kim and the children Timothy and Emily-Mei in a house in Surrey, in which he has also established his studio.

He studied at Technical College in Twickenham which was not an art college! But this may be the explanation for Peter's propensily to integrate technical respectively mechanical elements in his pictures. At the beginning of his career Peter first worked as a technical illustrator before he began to work independent as a free-lance artist in 1975. Moreover, he taught at the schools Parkside in East Horsley and Ewell Castle. In 1977, with the cover painting for Anthony Phillips's album The Geese & The Ghost the starting shot for a fertile co-operation of long standing between these two friends was given, for Peter Cross would in course of time provide many more record sleeves with his works for Ant. In the years 1978, 1979 and 1980 four absolute masterpieces followed with Wise After The Event, Sides, Private Parts & Pieces I and Private Parts & Pieces II - Back To The Pavilion, which are hardly to be exceeded as to subtlety and aura. They not only increase the impression of Ant's music, but have become a well-known accompaniment of the latter, so that with all records by Anthony Phillips the covers of which are not designed by Peter Cross you get the feeling something was missing.

In 1982 besides the picture for Ant's album Private Parts & Pieces III - Antiques also the first children's book illustrated by Peter was published; it was entitled Trouble For Trumpets, did even come out in Germany as Die Florins kommen and led to the fact that children's books should play an important role in the artist's future career as well. On account of the great success of Trouble For Trumpets the second adventure was not long in coming and was to be found in the shelves of the bookshops in 1984, entitled Trumpets In Grumpetland. In Germany this work was published as Die Florins im Norrin-Land. One year later, he delivered two more cover paintings for Anthony: Private Parts & Pieces V - Twelve and Harvest Of The Heart, the latter of which is just the enlargement of a cut of the Private Parts & Pieces I cover (only the blazon was replaced by a new one).

In the following years, Peter gave life to some other animals in several children's books. There was, for example, the four volume book series Dinosaur Days, first published in 1985, that came out as a one volume edition in 1993, entitled Little So-And-So And The Dinosaurs. With Dudley Dormouse he drew a far smaller creature in 1986 that went through adventures in five stories. Four of these adventures are contained in the paperback The Adventures Of Dudley Dormouse, published in 1990. Despite all his business with children's books he found time to paint a picture for Ant's 1986 album Private Parts & Pieces VI - Ivory Moon. Particularly in the children's books illustrated by Peter you can see he is able to change his drawing style. Of course his pictures are still provided with a good deal of wit, but here and there many details were dispensed with.The fact that not only children but their parents, too, were very enthusiastic about Peter's books made him create works also for adults. The result were two absolute masterpieces about events of historical importance for England. At first, the book 1588 And All This was published in 1988 which deals with the destruction of the Spanish Armada by the British Navy. Two years later, England's fight against Hitler in World War II was the subject of the book The Boys' Own Battle Of Britain. Either book features incredibly elaborate art of painting, humour, details and play on words and is based on historical facts, expressed in an utmost demanding way. As regards the style, these two books remind us of previous pictures - both very funny and almost meticulously and with much phantasy detailed.

Two successful exhibitions in Chris Beetles' renowned gallery in London made Peter Cross more and more known. What followed was an order of the Wine Rack spirits trading company, for who he has been illustrating their price-lists since 1991. These catalogues, coming out twice a year, have become very extraordinary brochures - owing to Peter's contributions -, featuring an incredibly interesting kind of "visual play on words".

In 1992, Anthony Phillips's Private Parts & Pieces VIII - New England was released, and - unexpected by the fans - once again a painting by Peter Cross adorned the cover of the album.

Thanks to the facilities Chris Beetles offered in his gallery, a passion and speciality of Peter's was presented to a wide public: boxes with many open partitions in which obscure objects of all kinds can be seen, mostly modifications of banal objects of everyday life. Usually a box is subordinated to a subject as literature, countries or persons; the objects used, often painted over, particularly deal with the subject chosen. Any box as a whole is so fascinating that you stand still in front of it, being captivated and impressed by this "little world". The creating of three-dimensional works of art, however, was only just begun with these boxes. For in this artist's head there are many more other and different ideas as to three-dimensional works, mostly about landscapes.

Being in charge of a financial foundation for these plans it was necessary - at least for certain projects - to take a more commercial way. He was given order to draw an extensive series of greetings cards. The leading figure of these card is Harbottle the hamster. As per Peter, the hamster was the only pet never used in illustrations of that kind. With "Harbottle & Co." he created a little firm in which "his" hamster may do his more or less foul work. By the way, the commercial success led to the plan to commercialize "Harbottle & Co." on a large scale soon. Besides more cards also T-shirts, cups, shorts etc. are planned.


In future times, we can certainly expect plenty of news from Peter Cross who - also amongst experts - is renowned as one of the most imaginative and witty illustrators in England.


Author: Bernd Zindler
Photos: Helmut Janisch

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