Hitchcock and horror

Josh Kirby’s wicked, offbeat visual imagination inevitably resulted in commissions to illustrate the covers of a variety of supernatural, horror and murder mystery books. These included ghost stories for Collins, horror anthologies for Corgi, Pan and Panther and werewolf themes for Sphere.

This provided a steady income throughout the 1960s and ‘70s (at around £55 per cover) but the need to conform to the sometimes inflexible ideas of art editors could make it a frustrating process; consequently Kirby kept a low profile over his involvement in many such projects.

He was happier, however, in the world of master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) and painted an intriguing series of portraits in Renaissance-style detail. The American author Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49) held a similar appeal and Kirby re-interpreted his face several times. Ray Bradbury’s seminal science fiction book The Ilustrated Man (1951) was a distinctive influence on Kirby’s ‘living flesh’ portraits of both men.