Celebrating John Hanna

Cr_articleThe April edition of Creative Review carries an article I contributed on the illustrator John Hanna. Some readers may remember I posted about him in 2009, having stumbled across some copies of a magazine called Country Fair. The original post is here. The cover illustrations were all signed simply ‘Hanna’, but I was surprised to find next to nothing about him online. There was a flurry of comments that confirmed his identity as John Hanna and led to some sketchy biographical information, but then things went quiet.

Early this year, a new comment appeared on the post. It was from John Hanna’s son, Max. We exchanged emails and I ended up meeting him to find out more about his father’s life and work.

To read the full story, you’ll have to track down the Creative Review article – available to buy here or subscribe here

There are a few images that didn't make the article but are worth sharing:


poster for the British Travel Association, featured in the Graphis Annual 1955/6 and found by Sandi Vincent on Flickr. 


Also this detail from a Shell ad, from the Graphis Annual 1956/7, again rediscovered by Sandi Vincent. 


A personal piece, combining a tiger, walrus and kangaroo: the Tigerusaroo.



Two birthday cards lent to me by John's son Max.



And two more Country Fair covers, copyright the estate of Macdonald Hastings, and kindly supplied to me by Jenny Duff, who is now selling a range of John Hanna place mats (echoing a promotion that took place in the 1950s).

The Creative Review article includes an appreciation of the work by contemporary illustrator Joe McLaren, whose work you can see here.


Finally, thanks to Max Hanna for getting in touch and sharing a fascinating story.

Remembering John Hanna


If you were reading this blog in 2009, you may remember a post appealing for information about illustrator John Hanna, who created a series of beautiful covers for Country Fair magazine in the early 1950s. Remarkably little information existed about him online, but thanks to a few plucky commenters we managed to track down more information about his life and work.

Now designer-maker Jenny Duff has been in touch to say she’s been given permission to create a series of table mats reviving those original illustrations. The illustrations were offered to her by the family of journalist and publisher Macdonald Hastings, who edited Country Fair. According to Jenny’s website, the family remember using copies of the magazines as table mats when they were children, so it’s fitting that they should be reincarnated in this way.

They make for a lovely collection. Maybe it’s proof that good work will always be rediscovered eventually, however long it takes.

Hannanother thing


So the mystery is (almost) solved. Gretel Parker has emailed in a copy of an article in the August 1955 Country Fair, celebrating John Hanna’s fiftieth cover illustration. It’s nice to know he produced at least fifty – we’ve only got five, so there are obviously plenty more to discover.

It also seems he is the same John Hanna cited in the link that Adam posted in the comments – an Australian who arrived in London in 1947 and made his living as a commercial artist and cartoonist. So we now have the full biog and background. Only remaining mystery is why his works aren’t more widely available, or indeed available at all. Reading the article, it seems he was extremely popular in his time. Strange the way people can drop off the radar like that, leaving barely a trace on Google. There seems to be a fan site for everything these days, so it's a surprise when you find a gap like this. Or maybe it’s just the modern mindset: if it’s not on Google, it doesn’t exist.

Anyway, thanks to those who have put us out of our ignorance. Look forward to hunting down more cover illustrations in years to come.

Desperately seeking Hanna

Country_fair5 We found these Country Fair magazines a few years ago in a shop in Lewes and have had the covers framed on our wall for a while. They’re signed with a single name – “Hanna”.

We really like the pictures, in a sentimental, anthropomorphic kind of way.

One day we thought we’d Google “Hanna”, hoping to buy some larger prints. We expected thousands of results to come up, but could hardly find any. So we forgot all about it for a while.

Then, a few weeks ago, we came across this book from Prion Books – a compendium of articles from the magazine. We bought it, hoping to find out more about the illustrator, but there was no mention. We even emailed the publisher about it and got no reply (boo).

However, this sparked off another bout of Google detective work, and we’ve finally established that he’s called John Hanna. He was obviously quite respected in his day – there’s a photo of him in a National Portrait Gallery collection (which also gives the helpful clue that he was Australian).

Thing is, we still can’t find out much more about him. Let alone where to get hold of his work.

Can anyone shed any light? We feel like we must be missing something obvious.