• Steven Heller

Upside Down, Right-Side Up

Rex Whistler (1905–1944) was an English stage set designer, muralist and illustrator. His most noted work during the early part of his career was for the café at the Tate Gallery, completed in 1927 when he was only 22. He was also commissioned to produce posters and illustrations for Shell Petroleum and the Radio Times.

His most amusing, disturbing and “grotesque” work, which he called “Reversible Faces,” was a series of upside-down and right-side-up portraits published the year of his death. “The lines are satirical or comic,” noted his brother Laurence, who wrote poems to accompany the images, “or even a little serious, as occasion demands.” The publisher wrote that the brothers’ subsequent tome of reversible faces, OHO!, “is unique among books. For it has no front or back, or rather, two of each. So the reader is enabled to enter the Whistler Brothers gallery in two directions.”

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