Giorgio De Gaspari, Above Suspicion, c.1960s

Giorgio De Gaspari, North From Rome, c.1960s
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Born in Milan in 1927, De Gaspari’s father was a draughtsman from whom the young Giorgio learnt to draw.  Accepted into the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan his first job after graduating was to fill in for the popular cartoonist and illustrator, Walter Molino, whenever Molino was unable to complete a commission.

His first illustration was published in 1947 for the Sunday paper, La Domenica del Corriere, a paper well known for its illustrations. De Gaspari’s output was prodigious, producing more than 1000 illustrations for the paper, contributing until 1970.

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s De Gaspari was commissioned to produce illustrations for children’s books, working for Italian publishers Valladri, Agostoni, Lucchi and Fabbri.  He illustrated some classic titles, such as Pinocchio, Don Quixote, The Three Musketeers, Moby Dick, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and various fairy tale collections.

De Gaspari also worked as part of the D’Ami studio in Milan, receiving regular commissions from English clients, among them Fleetway Publications. For Fleetway he produced a number of covers for the Sexton Blake series. De Gaspari continued to provide covers for Fleetway's genre fiction or “pocket libraries”, including Cowboy Picture Library (30 covers, 1958-60), Thriller Picture Library (39 covers, 1958-60) and Super Detective Library (4 covers, 1960).  In the U.K. he became best known for his work with the magazine, War Picture Library, illustrating 32 of the first 48 covers between 1958 and 1960.

De Gaspari’s work was highly innovative, characterised by bold juxtapositions of colour, and dramatic compositions that played with perspective.  He would often experiment with materials, tools and techniques, introducing gritty textures, sometimes scratching surfaces, layering materials or including sand in his images.

In 1966 he dropped out.  Abandoning his career to travel the world, he eventually returned to Italy where he made Venice his home.  He constructed a floating studio from salvaged materials off a small island in the Venetian lagoon, eking out a living by painting portraits of tourists in Saint Mark’s square.  He resisted offers of work by former colleagues, who regarded him as a master of his form, and rejected approaches by influential figures from the art and design world keen to stage solo exhibitions of his work.  He died in Venice in October 2012.