Hard Edge Penguins

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Covers by Germano Facetti, 1972 and Martin Bassett, 1973

In the 1960s and 70s, Pelican books, Penguin’s non-fiction arm, often covered their books with abstract art. Op Art Penguins can be found here, but in this article we look at the use of so-called Hard Edge abstraction. It branded the books as contemporary and stylish and must have adapted well to face-forward bookshop display.

Hard Edge painting was a movement of international abstract art that developed during the 1950s and 60s. It typically involved large geometric forms in flat colours with sharp or ‘hard’ edges. The US artist Ellsworth Kelly was an influential painter of this movement which spread through the Western art world. 

Ellsworth Kelly, Curves on White (Four Panels), 2012
Ellsworth Kelly, Curves on White (Four Panels), 2012, Marion Goodman Gallery

Eugenio Carmi

These two covers from 1976 and 1978 are derived from artworks by Eugenio Carmi, a renowned Italian artist whose style in the 1970s embraced this form of cool geometric abstraction. Possibly it was art director Germano Facetti, himself Italian, who thought of Carmi whose coloured geometry was a good fit for Pelican at that time. These two Pelican books use details from Carmi’s paintings.

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Eugenio Carmi’s 1973 painting White Triangle shows the intense colour and rigorous geometry of both Hard and Op Art paintings of the time.

Eugenio Carmi, White Triangle, 1973
Eugenio Carmi, White Triangle, acrylic on canvas, 60cm x 60cm), 1973

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