Tom Lubbock’s early newspaper collages

Posted on | December 6, 2012 | 3 Comments

Tom Lubbock illustration for an Independent newspaper Edinburgh Festival pub guide, 14 August 1989.

I lost contact with Tom Lubbock many years before leaving England in 1998, however landing last night on his almost two-year-old online obituary in the UK Independent instantly drove me to sheafs of yellowing newspaper clippings. I have hoarded these through many moves precisely because they contain Tom’s artwork.

Lubbock illustration for 10 July 1989 Independent piece by Leslie Forbes on the infiltration of Europe by sugar.

The clippings are from the 1989 Independent, a then three- or four-year-old start-up where Tom and I briefly worked together. For reasons that made no obvious sense, I had been appointed restaurant listings editor. Tom was a freelance contributor and friend of the founding arts editor, Tom Sutcliffe. Lubbock’s forehead often shone with sweat, perhaps because he was usually swaddled in enough sweaters, coats and scarves for a Russian winter. You hear about people with “twinkling blue eyes,” but Tom’s blue, blue eyes really did sparkle, as if his intelligence was not only brimming but also somehow carbonated. He didn’t have the-smartest-man-in-the-room syndrome, which was odd, because he usually was the smartest man in any room, but one with a reflexive authority problem that in a place as hierarchal as a newspaper sometimes gave him the sweating, sparkling, bristling quality of someone suffering a small nervous breakdown.

We both became part of a loose group with roots in the arts desk that was largely comprised of  clever young Oxbridge types with me an outlier American drop out from the University of Maryland. During the year or so that we caroused around London together our group had a pent-up asymmetry. Most if not all members were besotted by another, but in a way that was too rarely reciprocal. And so we joked that bit more aggressively and desperately about just about everything.

The first one of Tom’s collages I remember being published was of an evil-looking putto that Tom thought should top a page about restaurants with fine wines. Then came the page looking at the favored hangouts of crooks, priests and cabinet ministers. It didn’t take the newspaper’s design department long to decide that Tom’s art belonged in sections where its irreverence wouldn’t risk putting readers off their food. He went on to become well regarded for his collages and a distinguished art critic for the Independent. By the looks of his obituary, along with respect he also found love and contentment, but how perfect that his rebel collages got their foothold in the least notionally acceptable section. Without further reminiscence, here, dug out from old clippings files, are some of the earliest, the first for all I know, of Tom’s collages to appear in the British mainstream press.

Lubbock illustration for a 13 April 1989 article by Independent crime correspondent Terry Kirby on where crooks gathered.

6 March 1989 Lubbock illustration for Independent guide to the great wine cellars of British restaurants. The grotesque cherub’s face included clippings of photographs of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Lubbock collage for a 13 April 1989 article by Independent religious affairs correspondent Andrew Brown about where clerics gathered.

Comments

3 Responses to “Tom Lubbock’s early newspaper collages”

  1. Michele Zack
    December 6th, 2012 @ 10:51 am

    I’m sorry he died, your lovely appreciation for his work made me want to know more about him and his work. Was he old? Did his work appear other than in newspapers.

  2. EmilyGreen
    December 6th, 2012 @ 11:02 am

    What a nice comment. A web page has links to Tom’s criticism, essays for Granta. http://tomlubbock.com

    This is a lovely review of his book “Until further notice I am alive” by a whip smart member of our brief, long dispersed old gang, critic Jane Shilling: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/biographyandmemoirreviews/9183239/Until-Further-Notice-I-Am-Alive-by-Tom-Lubbock-review.html

  3. karin bugge
    December 8th, 2012 @ 3:53 pm

    “He didn’t have the-smartest-man-in-the-room syndrome, which was odd, because he usually was the smartest man in any room, but one with a reflexive authority problem that in a place as hierarchical as a newspaper sometimes gave him the sweating, sparkling, bristling quality of someone suffering a small nervous breakdown.”

    Now I know the guy, though I never met him.

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