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007 book cover artist Richard Chopping dies aged 91

20-Apr-2008 • Literary

A well-known East Anglian (UK) artist who painted a series of covers for the James Bond novels has died at the age of 91, reports EADT.

Richard Chopping lived in Wivenhoe and was an artist, illustrator and writer. He was perhaps most famous for his work on the dust jackets of Ian Fleming's James Bond books.

Mr Chopping, known to many as Dicky, also went on to teach ceramics, textiles and creative writing at the Royal College of Art in London.

He established himself as a best-selling author and his mid 1960s novels The Fly and The Ring topped the book charts in both Britain and America.

Mr Chopping, who was born in Colchester in 1917, moved to Wivenhoe in 1944 and he is survived by his civil partner, Denis Wirth-Miller who he lived with for 70 years.

He died last Thursday at Colchester General Hospital from pneumonia following a large stroke and a period of poor health.

Mr Chopping had been commissioned to do the book covers for Bond's creator, Fleming after being recommended to the author by renowned painter Francis Bacon.

Bacon remained friends with Mr Chopping and Mr Wirth-Miller after he stopped staying in the cottage he rented from the couple and in 1978 he painted a diptych of Mr Chopping showing the illustrator's “handsome, rather cheeky face”.

Mr Chopping illustrated nine Bond books for Fleming, including Thunderball, The Spy Who Loved Me and The Man With the Golden Gun.

And Fleming inscribed the 1957 book From Russia With Love with: “To Dickie Chopping/The Executioner/From Ian.

He also told him in a 1956 letter: “Of one thing I am certain. Your picture will vastly help to sell the book”.

But the relationship with Fleming was to turn sour in a row over royalties, leading Mr Chopping to declare he regretted meeting him.

In 2000 he told the EADT: “He was a mean and vain man. I regret having anything to do with him.

“The paintings I did for his dust jackets are now worth thousands and they sold as many books.

“But he would not even let me have me royalties. Quite honestly, I'm sick to death of it all”.

He believed the popularity of his distinctive book covers in the trompe-l'œil style, in which items appear three dimensional, made it difficult for him to sell his work elsewhere because his style became associated with the million selling books.

And in a later interview he said: “He (Fleming) said to me 'I want to commission you to paint me a picture which afterwards can be used as a cover for one of my books'.

“It was very subtle. I have been swindled all the way along the line. I was quite fond of doing the early work but it became a bore and I hate the books.

“I don't like the violence, I don't mind a bit of sex but there is enough violence without needing to make it more glamorous.”

In 2002, three of the books signed by Fleming and dedicated to Mr Chopping fetched more than £41,000 when they were auctioned at Christie's in New York.

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