Book Covers: The Harland Miller Way

Reading through the New York Times' Style magazine this morning (the Spring Design Issue is now online at, I stopped in my reading tracks at the London home of designer Harriet Anstruther and her photographer husband Henry Bourne. It was a curious and intriguing mix of interior decoration – minimalism meets Cecil Beaton with a lick of hot pink – but what was really interesting was seeing a Harland Miller print over the fireplace.

If you haven't heard of Harland Miller until now (and I admit I'm still coming up to speed: where have I been?), he's a British artist who has achieved a level of fame – or perhaps notoriety – for painting enormous Penguin book covers. Courtney Cox bought one for her Malibu beach house. So, too, did the Soho House hotel group and Elton John, among many others. But instead of the usual (and perhaps ubiquitous) Pride and Prejudice-style cover, Miller reinterprets them and puts his own rebellious spin on them. A Harland Miller title is nothing like a Jane Austen one.

His work is described as "switching between being sardonic, hilarious and nostalgic". He claims the covers reflect the contradictions associated with love – the idea that it is a torment as well as a pleasure. I, like many, just like the humour in them.

And if you don't like the ones floating around the auction houses, you can also commission him to do your own cover. I'd have 'Don't Become An Author' on mine.

Here are some examples. (And if you're offended by profanity, please look away now. I apologise for what's to come. But I didn't paint them. Although for the prices he gets for them, I wish I did!)

The Hemingway one, an oil on canvas measuring 213.3 x 154.9 cm,  sold at a Christie's auction in New York in 2009 for US$22,000. That was a bargain. Miller's Penguins can go for as much as US$50,000.

The prints go for slightly less, but the paintings have that grubby, rough, old-book-cover look about them that I like.

Do you ever think, like me, that you should have continued with those painting classes at RMIT...?

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