Hugo Guinness

Some illustrators carry with them an inimitable, easily identifiable style of drawing, one that evolves into something of a personal trademark. Artist Hugo Guinness fell squarely into this camp; he built his reputation and much of his career on a deceptively complex style of black-and-white rendering that favors a "block" style of graphics. Not unlike James Thurber, Guinness would often begin by zeroing in on an object commonplace yet frequently overlooked, and focus his energies on finding a new way to depict it, often though not always with a bittersweet quality. In time, Guinness's work attained such popularity that it began to cross the boundaries of mass media, appearing with equal force in books, films and other venues. It also did considerable business on the fine art circuit, and appeared in many gallery showings. A native of London, Hugo Arthur Rundell Guinness was born in 1959 as the only son in a family of five children. Hugo's parents, housewife Pauline Mander Guinness and World War II naval veteran turned corporate banker James Guinness, raised their children amid an atmosphere of great affluence and social privilege. In fact, both qualities were likely in the blood from the outset, as James was a direct descendant of the iconic and wealthy Guinness family, responsible for Guinness alcohol products and the Guinness Mahon Irish merchant bank. Following graduation from prestigious Eton College, Hugo essayed a series of occupations including advertising copywriter for the Collett Dickenson Pearce agency in London, investment banker for Guinness Mahon and ultimately, entrepreneur of Coldpiece Pottery, best known for their line of candles. Yet Guinness's illustrations are what truly pushed him over the top. He cultivated such a distinct and venerable approach that many prominent periodicals began to pick up and display his work, including The New Yorker and The New York Times. He also made a sideline career out of lino-cut prints, marketed and sold through the retailer John Derian, Inc., and then expanded his design skills into creating a line of Coach bags, an apparel line for the label Pussy Glamour, and other products. Coach also did a short, black-and-white promotional film of Guinness, both whimsical and informative, in which the artist dissects and limns the creative process belying his work. Guinness's contributions to motion pictures drew consistently favorable attention, and not merely in the design capacity that one might anticipate given his background. He teamed up with his friend Wes Anderson on several occasions, first to do on-camera paintings at the character Eli Cash's house in the 2001 comedy-drama "The Royal Tenenbaums," and then in 2009, performing as the voice of Nathan Bunce in the animated picture "The Fantastic Mr. Fox." Then, six years later, he and Anderson co-authored the screen story for the Stefan Zweig-inspired period comedy "The Grand Budapest Hotel" (2014). The duo gleaned many honors for their work on this picture, including a BAFTA nomination, a Critics' Choice Award, and an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.