Clifford Harper is a worker, illustrator and militant anarchist. He was born in Chiswick, West London - at that time within Middlesex - on 13 July 1949. His father was a postman and his mother a cook. Expelled from school at 13 and placed on 2 years probation at 14, he then worked in a series of "menial jobs" before 'turning on, tuning in and dropping out' in 1967. After living in a commune in Cumberland, he started a commune on Eel Pie Island in the River Thames near Richmond, Surrey, in 1969. In 1971 he took part in the All London Squatters organization, squatting in Camden, North London, then Stepney Green, East London, and Peckham in South East London, while being very active in anarchist circles. In 1978 he settled in Camberwell where he has lived ever since. After contracting TB in France in 1969 Harper was hospitalised for 3 months in 1971, which left his heart badly damaged and led to heart failure in 2002. In early 2006 he survived heart attacks and in 2008 was diagnosed as diabetic.
Beginning in the early 1970s he became a prolific illustrator for many anarchist, radical, alternative and mainstream publications, organisations, groups and individuals including Freedom Press, Undercurrents, Respect for Animals, BIT Newsletter, Arts Lab Newsletter, Idiot International, 1977 Firemans Strike, Libertarian Education, The Idler, Radical Community Medicine, Anarchy Magazine, Black Flag, Anarchy Comix, Common Ground, Industrial Worker, Aberlour Distillery, Country Life, Graphical Paper and Media Union, The Times Saturday Review, Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival, New Scientist, Oxford University Press, Penguin Books, Times Educational Supplement, London Anarchist Bookfair, Public and Commercial Services Union, The Sunday Times Magazine, Catholic Worker, Soil Association, The Bodleian Library, New Statesman, Cienfeugos Anarchist Review, Headline Books, The Financial Times, Resurgence, Scotland on Sunday, Town and Country Planning Association, Movement Against A Monarchy, Nursing Times, John Hegarty, The Listener, Zero, McCallan Whisky, Solidarity, New Society, News from Neasden, House & Garden, The Tablet, Radical Science Journal, Royal Mail, The Co-ops Fairs, Picador Books, Pluto Press, Working Press, Anarchismo, Insurrection, Our Generation, Ogilvy & Mather, Vogue, Radio Times, National Union of Teachers, Faber & Faber, Pimlico, Trades Union Congress, Transport and General Workers Union, Serpents Tale, Compendium Books, Poison Girls, Yale University Press, Verso, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, Elephant Editions, Intelligent Life, Landworker, Zounds, Honey, New Musical Express, Knockabout Comics, Trickett and Webb, The Times, See Sharp Press, Countryside Commission, Industrial Common Ownership Movement, BBC Worldwide, Stop the War Coalition, Aganovich, The Folio Society, Unison, Unite the Union, Anarchist Studies, Country Standard,Strike, Fitzrovia News, Anarchist Black Cross and many others. In 1992 he won a W H Smith Illustration Award and in 2002 he was the winner of the Trade Union Press and PR Award for Best Illustration.
His early drawing style was typically exemplified by the utopian 'Visions' series of posters, for the Undercurrents 1974 anthology Radical Technology. These were highly detailed and precise illustrations showing scenes of post-revolutionary self-sufficiency, autonomy and alternative technology in urban and rural settings, becoming almost de rigueur on the kitchen wall of any self-respecting radical's commune, squat or bedsit during the 1970s. Of these posters Harper writes:
Funnily enough they were particularly popular in Spain following the death of Franco and the liberalisation that followed that happy, but long overdue, event. I think the reason for their success is that although they are utopian images they depict an existence that is immediately approachable—all it would take is the seizing of a few empty buildings and the knocking down of a few meaningless walls...
Heavily influenced by George Grosz, Félix Vallotton, Fernand Léger, Eric Gill and, most of all, the narrative woodcuts of Frans Masereel, Harper's style evolved in the 1980s in a bolder, expressionist direction, with much of his later work resembling woodcut, although he mainly works in pen and ink, and watercolour.
Like all really good ideas, Anarchy is pretty simple when you get down to it - Human beings are at their very best when they are living free of authority, deciding things among themselves rather than being ordered about. That's what 'Anarchy' means - Without Government.
This has become a definitive and popular introduction to the subject, combining a thorough and inclusive overview of anarchism with his distinctive illustration. England's principal radical illustrator, he had a strong association with Freedom Press from 1969 up to 2005 as well as many other anarchist groups, publications and individuals. Harper remains a "100% committed" and engaged anarchist activist, having been deeply involved with organising the UK's annual Anarchist Bookfair, re-designing Freedom newspaper in 2005, producing books, pamphlets, posters, book covers, postcards and drawings for, and supporting, anarchists everywhere. His drawings have been used and reproduced by anarchists and others in nearly every country of the world. He has produced a book of anarchist postage stamps "For after the Revolution" and created his own small publishing project Agraphia Press. He does a great deal of work for the Trade Union movement in Britain and he began an association with The Guardian in the early 1990s. His work has appeared every week in the The Guardian. A book of Harper's collected illustrations for The Guardian's regular Country Diary column was published by Agraphia Press in 2003. Graphic Anarchy, an exhibition of his work, was held in 2003 at the Newsroom Gallery, London. He is currently writing and illustrating an entirely new version of his book Anarchy: A Graphic Guide. You can see some of the new drawings at www.facebook.com/AnarchyAGraphicGuide. Although in poor health, Harper continues to work as an illustrator. One of his drawings, 'Solidarity', was displayed on a giant screen in Cairo's Tahrir Square in 2011.
Books by Clifford Harper
- Class War Comix - New Times (Epic, 1974 & Last Gasp, 1979)
- Radical Technology - includes 6 'Visions' and other drawings by Clifford Harper (edited by Peter Harper, Godfrey Boyle and the editors of Undercurrents, Wildwood House, 1976)
- The Education of Desire - The Anarchist Graphics of Clifford Harper (Annares Press, 1984)
- Anarchy, A Graphic Guide to the History of Anarchism (Camden Press, 1987)
- The Unknown Deserter - the Brief War of Private Aby Harris in Nine Drawings an A6 chapbook (Working Press, 1989)
- An Alphabet an A6 chapbook (Working Press, 1989)
- Anarchists: Thirty Six Picture Cards (Freedom Press,1994)
- Prologemena to a Study of the Return of the Repressed in History (Rebel Press, 1994)
- Visions of Poesy - an Anthology of Anarchist Poetry (co-edited with Dennis Gould and Jeff Cloves, Freedom Press, 1994)
- Stamps: Anarchist Postage Stamps for after the Revolution (Rebel Press, 1997)
- Philosopher Footballers: Sporting Heroes of Intellectual Distinction (Philosophy Football, 1997)
- The Guardian Country Diary Drawings (Agraphia Press, 2003)
- The Ballad of Robin Hood and the Deer (Agraphia Press, 2003)
- The Ballad of Santo Caserio (Agraphia Press, 2003)
- An article about Harper's art appears in the Anarchist publication Organise! here
- Agraphia Clifford Harper's official website: redisigned with over 100 image slideshows.
- Interview with Lasthours.org.uk
- Drawings for the new Anarchy-A Graphic Guide can be seen at www.facebook.com/AnarchyAGraphicGuide