As you can see, this comes from the June 1949 edition of the British magazine Woman’s Own. It was the first page you saw in this issue when you turned over the cover. Which publisher now would give an illustrator such prominence? And which illustrator would get it? Perhaps David Downton. It’s an interesting thought since Downton could be, in some respects, a descendent of Rix.
Aubrey Rix was only at the beginning of his fame when he featured here. He became a well-known and wealthy figurative illustrator, working on narrative and fashion illustration. He defined a generation of women though his drawings. You had to have the ‘Rix look’. He was represented by Artist Partners (I think his brother worked there too). By the time I got to AP Rix had been pushed aside by the little photographer johnnies of the 1960s and had made a disastrous deal (I don’t know whether it was through AP or not) over the rights to the Letraset figures he had drawn which meant he got no royalties on these ubiquitous little stick-on men. But he was still alive. I can’t remember why, but I was sent round to his ‘penthouse’ flat (it was just on the top floor of the small block he lived in) in Ham or Richmond. (If Christine Isteed or Sandy are reading this perhaps they could correct my faulty memory).
I was warned to be a bit careful as Rix was, er, ‘unconventional’. It was 11.30 am when I arrived but Rix opened his front door to me clad only in a satin dressing gown, a cravat and a fairly visible toupee. He invited me in and I began to think that perhaps he greeted all young male callers like this. I couldn’t have been more wrong about his sexual tastes.
He gave me a guided tour of his rather beautifully furnished flat, pointing out the photographs of him and all the beautiful women he had gone out with in his heyday. One or three of them were Miss World winners. Then he entertained me with tales of life as a celebrity illustrator: the yachts, the Rollers, the houses everywhere. He told me tales of hanging out with Richard Burton and Liz Taylor on their yacht. He had been the centre of attention and had money pouring into his bank account and drawings pouring out of his pen nib. It sounded like a brilliant life.
Then David Bailey came along and the world changed.
Rix went off to make me a cup of coffee and left me sitting in his lounge, next to a baby grand piano. Above the fireplace there was a large Degas painting of a ballerina. As he returned with the coffee he saw me admiring the painting and quickly harrumphed: “Don’t get too excited dear boy- it’s one of mine. All the real ones went years ago.”
AP have a little bit on their website where you can see more of his work: http://www.artistpartners.com/history/aubrey_rix.html
And here is the link to his obituary: