14 Apr

Baader-Meinhof Library Escape

James McMullan Collection Box 3 Folder 9. For Esquire magazine, 1978.

I had the great pleasure of visiting James McMullan at his studio a couple of weeks ago; we’ll be adding a many more beautiful pieces of original art, as well as print samples, to the McMullan Collection in the Archives – more on that to come! In the meantime, I thought I’d revisit one of my favorite projects of his, a 1978 illustration for an Esquire article on the Baader-Meinhof Group’s escape from a Berlin library. The materials in the Archives detail McMullan’s process step-by-step, showing exactly how he composed and executed the complicated tableau.

McMullan described his inspiration for the art in an essay for Revealing Illustrations (Watson-Guptill, 1981):

`When I read the manuscript by Jon Bradshaw, which described the details of how Andreas Baader, the imprisoned gang leader, and four accomplices, engineered an escape from a room in a heavily guarded library, my mind sped back over the years to a diagram I had seen in True Detective magazine. The diagram showed where Lana Turner’s lover, Johnny Stompanato, had been stabbed in her bedroom and where his body had fallen. With a series of crude drawings and dotted lines, it also showed the subsequent movements of Lana and her daughter Cheryl in the room. The drawing was a cutaway view that let you see into the room as though you were a child playing with a dollhouse, with all the walls intact but the roof removed. I recall looking at the drawing for a long time thinking about what had gone on, particularly all the parts of the story that I was convinced were being left out by the magazine.

With that memory in mind, McMullan outlined his general ideas for the true crime scene.

James McMullan Collection Box 3 Folder 9. For Esquire magazine, 1978.

Then he staged the scene and took photos (which featured a special guest appearance by the Pratt Library, chosen because it contained a balcony, and Pratt students).

James McMullan Collection Box 3 Folder 9. For Esquire magazine, 1978.

He also took photos at home to model the window escape.

James McMullan Collection Box 3 Folder 9. For Esquire magazine, 1978.

A new sketch based on the photos includes all the figures in position and some ideas about color.

James McMullan Collection Box 3 Folder 9. For Esquire magazine, 1978.

The final art (at top) incorporates the diagrammatic nature of the sketch, placing the figures on a grid (a recurring McMullan motif) to emphasize the ghostly before and after movements of the Baader-Meinhof gang.

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14 April 2015
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James McMullan
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