“But you have to see him because… he’s a very handsome man!” were the words Lola, the receptionist of the Alhambra Publishing House, blurted out to her extremely busy brother and director of the company, Pepe Zambrana. He interviewed him, of course, and set in motion a long-running relationship between the publishing house, headed by Erich Ruiz, in Madrid’s Claudio Coello street, and that young 27-year-old, who stood in the lobby with a folder of drawings under his arm. These things were commonplace in the 1960s. José Antonio Alcázar produced countless front covers and sleeves for Alhambra and its offshoot record label Fidias, along with his fine caricatures, logos and Christmas greetings… On the whole this graphic pioneer was behind the entirety of the publishing house’s graphic art.

He hailed from Estudios Moro, a bona fide pool of graphic artists from Madrid and the place where he painted the backdrops to films produced by Pepe Moro, Madrid’s answer to Walt Disney. It was in that hotbed of creation where a devotion to the majestic Ronald Searle (3 March 1920 – 30 December 2011) and the fantastic André Francois (9 November 1915 – 11 April 2005) was nurtured. In these Fidias covers placed before the discerning eyes of our readers, we can observe the influence of these European geniuses, coupled with Alcázar’s highly fertile imagination, great sense of humour, dexterity, and his jovial calligraphy and spectacular “cookery”, as well as the type of innocence that was alive and well in the 1960s.

Our pioneer carried out his works in gouache, inserting a paint brush into an indomitable ruling pen and pressing it against blotted rag paper to lend the backdrop resonance. He often preferred an indirect approach, for instance the imprint of the lines from another sheet of paper, or the use of handmade stamps or direct brushstrokes. He tells of how his artistic endeavours relied heavily on the discovery of the scalpel/cutter/x-acto, enabling him to cut colour surfaces, letters… Those were the great inventions to emerge from the 1960s.

Alcázar returned to Estudios Moro, before they sent him on to the advertising agency they had founded, under the name of Compás Needham, and the place where he spent the rest of his career, working first as an Art Director and then as a Creative Director in various agencies. In the end he would succumb to his fascination with painting, to which he applied his tireless cookery, talent and imagination. But that’s a story for another day.

By Nacho Alcázar