November 16, 2011

Hail & Farewell: Peter Campbell


Designer, critic, and painter Peter Campbell, best known for his contributions to the London Review of Books—which included a biweekly watercolor for the magazine’s cover and a review—died October 25 in London from cancer. He was 74.

In a tribute, LRB editor Mary-Kay Wilmers writes that:

Peter was always at the heart of the LRB. He designed the first issue in October 1979 – a 28-page insert inside European editions of the New York Review; redesigned it six months later after the papers’ divorce; and in 1997 re-redesigned it. But saying that gives no sense of his importance to the paper. As much as the original editors and the founder, Karl Miller, Peter shaped the LRB. Unlike us, he never lost his temper. More adjusted than most to his own wants and necessities, and so better able to accommodate other people’s, he was an exemplary person to work with.

According to a Guardian obituary, Campbell was the magazine’s most prolific contributor, writing “more than 300 pieces, mainly about art but also, eclectically, about such things as escalators, weeds, bicycles, bridges and hearts.” He also helped design the London Review Bookshop, which opened in 2003.

The cover of the November 17th issue of the London Review carries Campbell’s final watercolor, a fox walking in front of his home, a modest house that he charmingly wrote about in the September 22th issue of the Review.


Kelly Burdick is the former executive editor of Melville House.