DOKK Library

Tom Phillips's illustrations for the folio edition of Waiting For Godot

Authors Claudia Parra Peter James Harris

License CC-BY


                  WAITING FOR GODOT

                                                                              Claudia Parra∗
                           Universidade Estadual Paulista “Júlio de Mesquita Filho”(UNESP)
                                                                 São José do Rio Preto, Brazil

                                                                        Peter James Harris**
                           Universidade Estadual Paulista “Júlio de Mesquita Filho”(UNESP)
                                                                 São José do Rio Preto, Brazil

      In the light of the imagery associated with Samuel Beckett’s Waiting
      for Godot, in set designs, posters and book covers, the present article
      examines Tom Phillips’s illustrations for the Folio Society edition of
      Waiting for Godot (2000). Considering that Phillips’s images embody a
      particular style in form and structure, functioning as pictorial elements
      recalling contexts, images and relations, we propose that the artist expands
      the visual interpretative frame of the play, predicating his work on the
      premise that readers will have had previous contact with the work either
      in performance or as a text.
      Keywords: Samuel Beckett; Tom Phillips; Illustrated Book; Art.

 Doctoral student in the Graduate Program in Literature at the State University of São Paulo, São José do Rio
Preto campus, under the supervision of Prof Peter James Harris:
   Professor of English Literature, responsible for heatre Studies in the PPGL (Postgraduate Programme in
Literature) at UNESP (State University of São Paulo) in São José do Rio Preto:

                         Esta obra tem licença Creative Commons
18   Claudia Parra e Peter James Harris, Tom Phillips’s Illustrations for the Folio Edition...


           A country road. A tree. Evening. Two men in bowler hats. hey wait for
     Godot. Godot does not come. hey keep waiting. hey do not move. he light
     suddenly fails. In a moment it is night. he moon rises. Next day, same time,
     same place. Vladimir and Estragon are still waiting for Godot, who once again
     fails to appear. Silence. he sun sets, the moon rises. hey do not move. his is
     the essence of the plot of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, the two-act play
     in which nothing happens twice and which is now recognised as one of the
     masterpieces of twentieth-century drama. he play has achieved iconic status in
     Beckett’s oeuvre of novels and plays, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize
     for Literature in 1969, cementing his status as the leading dramatist in the genre
     of absurdist-tragicomic theatre.
           Waiting for Godot was written in the fertile ive-year period following
     the end of World War II when Beckett returned to Paris from unoccupied
     France. In this proliic burst of creativity, prior to En attendant Godot
     (the original version of Waiting for Godot, written between 9 October
     1948 and 29 January 1949), he wrote his irst play, Eleutheria (1947),
      as well as four novels, Mercier et Camier (1946), Molloy (1947), Malone meurt
     (1947-8) and L’Innommable (1949-50), and a number of short stories. En attendant
     Godot premiered in Paris at the héâtre Babylone on 5 January 1953. Ater a
     somewhat hesitant initial reception – “… the general audience reaction was by
     all accounts favourable, though some theatregoers were hostile … he critical
     reaction too was mixed at irst: some critics were for it, some against, but none
     was indiferent” (Beckett, E., 2000, 8) – the production had a run of around 400
     performances. he irst English production of the play opened at London’s New
     Arts heatre on 3 August 1955, where it received thirty-one performances before
     it transferred to the Criterion heatre, running for a further 226 performances.
     Waiting for Godot has gone on to become a London staple, having received twenty-
     three productions in the ity-ive-year period between 1955 and 2010 (Harris,
     2011, 157-225). he play’s presence in the Irish theatrical canon is conirmed by
     the fact that, in the period from 1920 to 2013, the only Irish plays to receive more
     West End productions were Wilde’s he Importance of Being Earnest, Sheridan’s
     he Rivals, Shaw’s Pygmalion and Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer (Harris,
     2015, 183). Samuel Beckett himself is far and away the most frequently produced
     Irish dramatist in London, his plays having received almost double the number
     of productions (102) of Oscar Wilde’s ity-seven productions in the period
     from 1990 to 2013 (Harris, 2015, 184). Around the world Waiting for Godot is
     recognised as an undisputed classic, having been widely translated and staged
     in innumerable productions as well as having generated academic interest on an
     almost industrial scale. Outside the works of Shakespeare, Waiting for Godot is
     arguably the most ubiquitously recognised play in the theatrical canon. In fact, it
     should be noted how far Beckett’s writings have extended beyond the theatrical
     and literary spheres and have broadly impacted on visual culture, providing a
                     Ilha do Desterro v. 71, nº 2, p. 017-034, Florianópolis, mai/ago 2018   19

range of iconographic elements that have inspired artists throughout the world.
For Oppenheim (1999), any approach to the dramatist’s work acknowledges
the range of media involved in his productions, opening up the possibility of
employing discourses drawn from other areas in order to investigate these texts
and explore the diversity of artists who inspired him and were inspired by him.
Furthermore, strengthening the idea that the connection between the Beckettian
world and the arts is a two-way road, Knowlson (2003, p. 72) remarks that
Beckett’s post-Second World War plays and novels were still heavily inluenced
by the visual arts, albeit on a progressively diminished scale. One feels that if it
were possible to X-ray Beckett’s stage images, they might well reveal some of
the ghost-like igures of the Old Masters lurking beneath the surface. Regarding
the renowned Waiting for Godot, the present article argues that the global extent
of the awareness of Beckett’s masterpiece, even amongst those who have never
seen it performed, enabled Tom Phillips to pursue what may be described as a
minimalist approach to illustrating the Folio Society’s edition of the play, which
sets up a dependence between the illustrator’s work and a knowledge of the play.
     In his Preface to the Folio edition, Edward Beckett, Samuel Beckett’s nephew
and trustee of the Beckett estate, stresses that “Reading a play and watching a
play are two diferent experiences but they complement and enhance each other”
(2000, 12). For the purposes of the present study this notion of the complementary
relationship between the play in performance and its published text may be said
to have provided the keynote. In our analysis of this illustrated edition of Beckett’s
text, we have therefore sought to take into account not only an investigation of
the relationship between the illustrations and the text, but also the ways in which
they relect the play in performance.
     Considering that Phillips’s drawings embody a particular conceptual
style, the present study also discusses how symbols and their association with
referential points work as pictorial elements, evoking contexts, images, and
relations in order to expand signiicant possibilities. For Perry Nodelman, “the
objects themselves become meaningful through the contexts they evoke, which
relate them to our general knowledge and experiences of life, of literature, and of
visual art” (1990, 101). hus, based on the objects represented in Phillips’s images
and their symbolism, our study seeks to discuss the reader’s endorsement and
denial of those images with his/her previous experience of the elements present
in the play-text itself.

Tom Phillips

    Any viewer of a work by Tom Phillips is likely to be led on an excursion
through forms, angles, colours, designs, sounds and atmospheres. he artist’s
persistent preoccupations have provided him with a voice of his own, conferring
a particular style on his art, which ranges from painting to concrete poetry to
opera. “Always a igurative artist …, he is as happy with a text as image as with
a igure. Collage and the garbled text are staples of his practice, and the literary
20   Claudia Parra e Peter James Harris, Tom Phillips’s Illustrations for the Folio Edition...

     allusion, reference or cryptic aside are irresistible, which leaves him always close
     and sympathetic to the art of the idea and the concept” (Blundell-Williams,
     2005, 41). he artist is particularly engaged with the processes of art, painting
     and how the residual mixes of colour let on the palette at the end of the studio
     day may generate images of themselves. “He makes lists, diagrams, puts things
     together, works with systems of structure and perspective. And sometimes, as
     in his portrait of Michael Kustow that won the prize, some or even all of these
     interests, the literary allusions, the formal references, the pictorial structure and
     conventions, come together in one piece” (Blundell-Williams, 2005, 41). Phillips
     has also worked as a critic, curator and translator, but today, at the age of 80 and
     retired, he limits his role to that of being an occasional broadcaster and public
     speaker of wit and vision.
          Born in London in 1937, Trevor homas Phillips came to painting
     comparatively late. He attended Bonneville Road Primary School in Clapham
     from 1942 to 1947 and continued his secondary education at Henry hornton
     Grammar School. Ater his father’s death, he was admitted to St Catherine’s
     College at Oxford University, where he studied Anglo-Saxon literature and spent
     much of his time acting, doing theatre designs and making music. He attended
     Edgar Wind’s lectures on iconography in Renaissance Art, as well as drawing
     classes at Ruskin School. In 1960 he signed up for an evening life-drawing course
     at Camberwell School of Art under Frank Auerbach. During this period, Phillips
     experienced moments of enlightenment, connected to his academic background
     and pioneering approach to art education and, added to this, an explosion of a
     new form of printmaking, silkscreen. One year later, he married Jill Purdy and
     began studying full time at Camberwell College of Art. Although the emphasis
     of the college was still on drawing from life, the classes in abstract exercises by
     Charles Howard were a source of inspiration. He graduated from Camberwell
     School of Art in 1964, going on to exhibit a selection of his works at the Young
     Contemporaries exhibition.
          he following year was an important one in Phillips’s life because it marked
     his irst one-man-show exhibition at the AIA gallery in London. He started
     teaching at Walthamstow Polytechnic, where he met the pianist John Tilbury,
     for whom he wrote his irst musical composition, Four Pieces for John Tilbury.
     Four years later he won the John Moore prize, one of the many prizes he would
     win in his career, such as the Frances Williams Memorial Prize of 1983 for his
     illustration and new translation of Dante’s Inferno. In 1984 he was elected to the
     Royal Academy, and he was the second artist to receive a retrospective of his
     portraits at the National Portrait Gallery in 1989.
          Among his most successful works are the touchstone of his oeuvre, A
     Humument (1966), a ive-edition collection, still in progress, of second-hand
     books entirely reworked and altered on every page by painting, collage and
     cut-up techniques; 20 sites n years (in progress since 1973), photographs taken
     during the same week, at the same time, in 20 locations that describe a circle
     around his studio; and portraits of Samuel Beckett, Iris Murdoch, Sir Harrison
                     Ilha do Desterro v. 71, nº 2, p. 017-034, Florianópolis, mai/ago 2018   21

Birtwistle, Richard Morphet (curator of the Tate Modern collection until 1998)
and Brian Eno. All these paintings are at the National Portrait Gallery in London.
  His portrait of Samuel Beckett is one of several works by Phillips relating to
the dramatist. In fact, according to the artist himself, Beckett has a hold over his
history as well as his imagination. Phillips is of a generation for which Beckett’s
work provided new (if slightly awkward and bare) mental furniture (Phillips,
2000, 13). he portrait, a lithographic work, came from the drawings the artist
sketched at the Riverside Studios, during a rehearsal for Waiting for Godot in
1984, but what Phillips did not know was that, almost twenty years later, he
would be invited to “draw for Beckett” again, providing the illustrations for the
Folio Society edition of Waiting for Godot.

Waiting for Godot at he Riverside Studios

     Waiting for Godot was irst published in French as En attendant Godot in
1952 and in English in 1954. It remains not only Beckett’s best-known work, but
is also considered an icon of the twentieth century. Writing in he New York
Times on 22 April 2009, Charles Isherwood stated that the play “is among the
most studied, monographed, celebrated and sent-up works of modern art, and
perhaps, as inluential as any from the last century […]. he play became the
ur-text for theatrical innovation and existential thought in the latter half of the
twentieth century” (Isherwood, 2009).
Tom Phillips was just eighteen when he saw the irst British production
of Waiting for Godot, directed by Peter Hall (1930-2017). Almost three
decades later, in 1984, he was invited by David Gothard, director of the
Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, to do some drawings of Beckett him-
self whilst he was rehearsing the play with members of the San Quentin
Drama Workshop (Phillips, 2000, p. 13). According to Matt McFrederick,
the Riverside Studios became an accommodating alternative theatrical
home for Beckett in London:

          Rehearsing at the Riverside was ‘a happy time for [Beckett]’, where he
          was in a relaxed mood amongst friends enjoying the creative energy
          and hospitality shown to him. … he rehearsals saw Beckett ine tune
          the productions before they went on tour with Beckett paying greater
          attention to the shape and precision of the performance. He would oten
          give the actors line readings or ofer more speciic notes on performing the
          characters in his plays. Beckett was also open to performing in rehearsals
          himself … (2014).

     For Jess Wiesner, from Chelsea Space, the place “was a hotbed of creative
activity and the notoriously media shy Beckett was comfortable enough there
to conduct interviews with the press, be seen drinking in the Riverside bar, and
allow artists and school children into the rehearsals” (2006). Tom Phillips spent
ive or six days in the theatre, sitting in on the rehearsals, which enabled him to
observe the playwright quite well. He describes Beckett as “a quiet and kind man”,
22   Claudia Parra e Peter James Harris, Tom Phillips’s Illustrations for the Folio Edition...

     but notes that he “grew noticeably tired of being questioned about his work and
     being treated with inappropriate bonhomie by some of the egrets. He was giving,
     all the time, both to actors and academics; and there was no one who had anything
     to ofer him” (Phillips, 1992, 192-3). Even during the breaks, Beckett was oten
     in danger of being inundated by enquiries from the academic circus and, on the
     few occasions Phillips had the opportunity to bring up a conversation with the
     playwright, they talked mainly about trivial matters, like smoking and cricket.
     However, as we shall see, in 2000, when the Folio Society invited him to work on
     their edition of Waiting for Godot, it was from these snatched conversations that
     Phillips drew his inspiration for the illustrations for a play with a “total absence
     of visual clues” (Phillips, 2000, 13).

     Waiting for Godot: Images and text

          he Folio Society’s Waiting for Godot is a collectors’ edition, which uses the
     text of the second Faber edition of 1965, with a preface by Edward Beckett. It is
     one of the only two limited editions ever produced. Just forty copies (of which
     seven were signed by Beckett himself) of the irst limited version were published
     between 1977 and 1979, illustrated with fourteen original etchings by Dallas
     Henke (Ackerley; Gontarski, 2004, 490). he Folio Society’s edition, produced
     for the publisher’s members, would have had a print run considerably larger than
     forty but has nonetheless long been out of print. he Folio Society was founded in
     London in 1947, and is known for its carefully crated editions of selected works
     from the literary canon. he company states that they consider each volume an
     individual object of value and that they care very much about the quality of every
     single book. According to the company,

                 [a] Folio book is a unique object, one in which typography, illustration,
                 paper, and printing and binding techniques all play a part in creating a
                 harmonious whole. he Folio Society has celebrated the particular joy to
                 be derived from owning, holding and reading a beautiful printed edition.
                 Our aim is to create books that are unique in their aesthetic and in their
                 quality – this is what makes a Folio collection something to cherish. (THE
                 FOLIO SOCIETY, 2017)

         he publisher also mentions their commitment to the art of book illustration,
     an essential and treasured aspect of their publications:

                 We commission illustrations by emerging talents including Jonathan
                 Burton, Jillian Tamaki, Sam Weber, and Anna and Elena Balbusso, or
                 seasoned masters such as Quentin Blake, Paula Rego, John Vernon Lord
                 and Tom Phillips. Wood engravings, paintings, collages, pen and ink, ...
                 variety is at the heart of Folio’s remarkable catalogue of commissioned
                 artwork. And in a celebrated range of non-iction books, our team of
                 picture researchers know how to unearth images that are truly worth a
                 thousand words. (THE FOLIO SOCIETY, 2017)
                     Ilha do Desterro v. 71, nº 2, p. 017-034, Florianópolis, mai/ago 2018   23

      The Folio’s manufacturing process maintains the highest standard and is
monitored for evenness of ink-weight and freedom of blemishes. The books
are sewn in 16-page sections (called signatures), mostly with decorative
head and tail bands, and gilded or coloured top edges. Other features are the
slipcase and the traditional protective covering of fine editions. The bindings
incorporate a complexity of design and materials which place them in a class
of their own and require exceptional manufacturing standards. The Waiting
for Godot edition meets these criteria. It is a 29-cm hardcover book with
green endpapers and a slipcase. No dust jacket. Pictorial yellow boards. Spine
lettered in dark green. 110 pages typeset in Monotype Walbaum, printed on
Klippan Book Design Smooth paper at Butler & Tanner, Frome, and bound by
them in Hiflex Antique paper printed with a design by the artist. Besides the
cover illustration and the frontispiece, four full-page coloured illustrations
are included in the edition. The frontispiece is a lithograph and the four
illustrations are cross-hatched pen and ink drawings.
      he irst image [Fig. 1] appears on page twenty opposite the opening of the
play-text. As can be observed in the other images in this edition of Waiting for
Godot, Tom Phillips makes use of objects which function as motifs in the play.
Figure 1, for example, portrays two bowler hats, one above the other. Each hat
is situated in its own light-coloured circle, which intersect in the middle of the
page to form an ellipse of white reminiscent of the intensity of light formed by
the overlapping of two spotlights on a stage. he cross-hatched image is produced
with an almost monochromatic palette of black and sepia ink which results in
shades of brown, grey, black and white, with the two hats and their respective
circles of light set in a rectangular frame. Just as the intersecting circles of light
resemble pools of light on the stage, so the dark rectangle recalls the area of the
stage itself. Since the illustration accompanies the beginning of the text, the two
bowler hats evoke the presence of Estragon and Vladimir on the stage. hroughout
the play, these characters wear hats. According to Phillips, the hats did have some
small qualiied authorisation and endorsement from Beckett himself and they
also “appear in the stage directions and at one point, unusually for a play with
only ive characters, one of whom is a hatless boy, there are ive hats on stage”
(2000, 14). It should be pointed out that this moment occurs in Act II, when
Pozzo and Lucky reappear, “Lucky wearing a diferent hat” because Pozzo had
trampled on Lucky’s own hat ater his monologue. he “remains” of his hat are
seen at the “same place” at the opening of Act II.
24   Claudia Parra e Peter James Harris, Tom Phillips’s Illustrations for the Folio Edition...

     Fig. 1 he Bowler Hats

          It can also be inferred that, in addition to the implied reference to the
     characters Estragon and Vladimir, the pair of hats evokes the two-act structure of
     the play. Recalling one of his conversations with Beckett at the Riverside Studios
     in 1984, Phillips refers to Beckett’s cautious endorsement of his perception of the
     duality at the heart of the play:

                 I mentioned that Waiting for Godot reminded me of the many double
                 acts (two tofs, two tramps, comics with straightmen and stooges etc.)
                 and their routines and sketches. “All those bowler hats, you mean? ...yes,
                 mmm, yes, …something in that” said Beckett. I then went boldly on to
                 say that the play felt like watching one such double act being invaded by
                 another. “Mmm, yes,” said Beckett, “…something in that”. (2000, p. 14)
                      Ilha do Desterro v. 71, nº 2, p. 017-034, Florianópolis, mai/ago 2018   25

Fig. 2 he Five Hats

     he bowler hat motif is in fact a leitmotif, present in three of the four
illustrations. Accordingly, the last image in the book (Fig. 2), on page ninety-
three, depicts ive hats and the number ive at the top right corner of the picture,
but this time they are “disintegrating hats” as if each image had been cut up
and reunited in a disjointed collage. As, pointed out above, Tom Phillips refers
to the moment when there are ive hats on stage at the same time. However,
the symbolism of the hats goes beyond their allusion to the characters or even
their number in the play. he bowler hats are associated with one of the most
powerful moments in the play: Lucky’s speech at the end of the irst act. Having
been in almost total silence since his irst appearance, with no evidence of
rational thought beyond his exploited situation as Pozzo’s slave, he is jolted
into action precisely ater Vladimir has approached him cautiously and placed
his own hat back on his head (Beckett, 2000, 56). Hats may be interpreted as
symbols of authority and power: “[s]ince the hat covers the head it contains
thought, …. he covered head, as with the cap, denotes nobility and freedom in
contradistinction to the bare-headed slave” (Cooper, 1987, 80). Lucky’s initial
entrance emphasises his relationship with Pozzo as that between a slave and his
master. Lucky enters irst, with a rope around his neck which is long enough to
enable him to reach the middle of the stage before Pozzo, his master, appears
26   Claudia Parra e Peter James Harris, Tom Phillips’s Illustrations for the Folio Edition...

     holding a whip. “Pozzo at the sight of Vladimir and Estragon stops short. he
     rope tautens. Pozzo jerks at it violently” (Beckett, 2000, 35-6). Nonetheless,
     when his hat is replaced on his head, the “speechless-slave” produces a free
     torrent of words which is only silenced when Vladimir once again removes
     the hat. On a irst hearing, Lucky’s speech appears to be a total dissolution
     of language and thought, verbal chaos, perhaps symbolising twentieth-
     century anarchy, although subsequent acquaintance reveals the “method in his
     madness”. Like the “disintegrating hats”, Lucky’s speech is formless, a scrambled
     mixture of words. Without his hat he remains in silence, for his thoughts are also
     fragmented. he disintegrating hats may be seen as a reference to the trampled
     remains of Lucky’s hat which are never removed from the stage loor.he next
     illustration [Fig. 3], on page twenty-nine, may be interpreted as a diagram of
     the chaotic randomness of the interactions between the ive characters in the
     play. he image consists of a labyrinth or maze of white lines etched onto the
     same rectangular background of cross-hatched ine lines in dark brown and
     red ink. he interwoven lines all terminate in arrowheads which come to rest
     beside ive Xs, clearly representing the ive characters. he labyrinth gives the
     impression of a frantic coming and going with no evident resolution, thus
     establishing a igurative representation of the play’s narrative structure, which
     has no traditional beginning, middle and end. he interwoven lines may also
     be seen as representing the movements of Estragon and Vladimir on stage as
     exempliied in the following stage directions:

                 Exit Vladimir hurriedly. Estragon gets up and follows him as far as the limit
                 of the stage. Gestures of Estragon like those of a spectator encouraging a
                 pugilist. Enter Vladimir. He brushes past Estragon, crosses the stage with
                 bowed head. Estragon takes a step towards him, halts. (Beckett, 2000, 28)

          Relecting the non-linear narrative structure of the play, these two characters
     are in constant movement, much of which is purposeless, apart from their over-
     riding motivation of waiting for Godot. Consequently, at the end of each Act,
     “they do not move” (Beckett, 2000, 110).
                      Ilha do Desterro v. 71, nº 2, p. 017-034, Florianópolis, mai/ago 2018   27

Fig. 3 he Labyrinth

     he inal illustration to be considered is that on page seventy-one [Fig. 4],
which we have entitled “he Four or Five Leaves”, based on Beckett’s description
of the tree at the beginning of Act II. he bowler hats once again make an
appearance, four of them at least, but the primary focus of the illustration is the
“four or ive leaves” referred to in Beckett’s stage direction. he colour and form
of the ive leaves are not identical, and nor is the single leaf at the centre of the
image identical to that depicted on the front cover of the book. However, what
these two leaves have in common is that they are both transected by white lines
which form a diagonal cross, reminiscent of the ive Xs in Figure 3. As in the
previous illustrations, the background is formed of a vertical rectangle of reddish-
brown cross-hatching. At the top of the rectangle four squares are delineated by
white lines, and in the centre of each one there is a diagonally placed leaf in the
middle, each of which has a unique form and colour. From let to right there is a
black leaf, a white one and a brown one, each without veins, followed by a black
leaf with white veins. he large leaf at the centre of the illustration is grey with
white veins. At the bottom of the vertical rectangle there are four further squares,
smaller than those at the top of the image, each of which contains a black bowler
hat, rendered greenish on its right-hand side by relected light. he slightly larger
hats in the central squares recall those seen in Figure 1 since each is located at
the centre of a circular pool of light, as it were from a theatrical spotlight. he
28   Claudia Parra e Peter James Harris, Tom Phillips’s Illustrations for the Folio Edition...

     slightly smaller hat in each of the outer squares is also located in a circular pool
     of light, which is not so bright and less well-deined than those around the two
     central hats. he background of the four squares is composed of small distinct
     pointillistic dots, with the exception of the second square from the let, which is
     cross-hatched. he leaf motif is one of the devices which distinguishes the play’s
     minimalist set at the beginning of Act II from that seen throughout Act I, for
     the lealess tree seen in the irst half of the play has sprouted “four or ive leaves”
     during the Interval. he skeletal tree, like the moon which rises at the end of
     each Act, has become recognised as one of the most iconic representations of the
     play. Phillips responds to the play’s minimalist set by using the leaves as a visual
     synecdoche for the tree itself:

                 he other motif came out of a preliminary discussion with the Folio
                 Society’s Director in which we talked about the tree which Beckett
                 speciically describes as having “four or ive leaves”. I enjoyed speculating
                 as to what the leaf was like that may or may not have been there. I assume
                 that somewhere in a learned paper there exists a thesis on this Berkleian
                 leaf which might also discuss the parallel number of leaves and hats.
                 Fortunately I have neither seen nor read it since I am happy to think in
                 Beckett’s words, “Something in that... yes, mmm, yes”. (1992, p. 192-3)

          Phillips’s response to Beckett’s deliberate vagueness with his “four or ive
     leaves” is ingenious, since he has created a group of four leaves at the top of the
     illustration, which can constitute a group of ive if the much larger leaf at the
     heart of the image is included. As in the play itself, the responsibility for the
     interpretation lies with the beholder. he larger leaf serves a similar enigmatic
     function to the number 5 placed at the top right corner of the illustration in
     Figure 2. Only four characters in the play wear bowler hats, so the ith hat is
     Lucky’s trampled hat, which he discards. Likewise, the viewer must decide for
     him or herself whether there are four or ive leaves.
                       Ilha do Desterro v. 71, nº 2, p. 017-034, Florianópolis, mai/ago 2018   29

Fig. 4 he Four or Fi

Fig. 5 Portrait of Samuel Beckett
30   Claudia Parra e Peter James Harris, Tom Phillips’s Illustrations for the Folio Edition...

          he book’s frontispiece [Fig. 5] consists of Tom Phillips’s celebrated portrait of
     Beckett. It is a full-page illustration which replicates the coloured lithograph irst
     exhibited in the Primary Collection at the National Portrait Gallery in London in
     1984. he size of the original image is 27 7/8 in x 16 7/8 in (708 mm x 428 mm). It
     shows Beckett towards the end of his life, during a rehearsal for Waiting for Godot
     at the Riverside Studios in 1984. According to the artist, the portrait seeks to echo
     Beckett’s own simplicity (Phillips, 1992, 192-3). he phrases at the bottom of the
     picture, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better” are
     quoted from Beckett’s short prose piece, Worstward Ho (1983). he portrait is
     remarkable since its subject is seen from behind, depicted in silhouette against
     the brightly lit stage loor, on which stands Lucky at his entrance in Act I, the long
     rope snaking away from his neck, with Pozzo’s heavy bag and picnic basket in
     either hand. Despite being seen from behind and in silhouette, the viewpoint of
     the artist watching the rehearsal, Beckett is instantly recognisable because of his
     “majestic” ears. Phillips comments that,

                 [a]t the beginning I did not know quite how to set about drawing him.
                 I’m not a very good lightning sketcher. To move up in front of him would
                 evidently have been an intrusion on his work there. Sitting behind, trying
                 to form a strategy, I gradually realised that the back of his head was as
                 eloquent as the front, and as recognisable… Initially I positioned myself
                 so that I caught some of the side view of his face but settled in the end, in
                 doing the most inished of the drawings, for a full back view in which each
                 of Beckett’s majestic ears is seen to good advantage: they are ater all the
                 most sensitive ears for language alive. (1992, p. 192-3)

          hus, while Beckett, seated in the foreground, with his back to the viewer,
     is depicted in silhouette, Lucky, in the middle ground, is facing the viewer and
     fully illuminated by the stage-lights. As in his illustrations to Waiting for Godot,
     Phillips relies on his viewer bringing prior knowledge of the play or, in this case,
     the playwright, to make a complete interpretation of the image possible. he
     portrait of Beckett is, above all, a depiction of the playwright at work as a director
     of his own play, the quintessential “man of the theatre”. As Phillips explains:

                 Beyond the head from this viewpoint was of course the stage and his
                 play. Beckett’s privateness as a person would be both respected by the
                 unobtrusive artist at his back and relected in the picture which would
                 emphasise, as he would, the work in favour of the man. Beckett has a half-
                 military, half-monastic stillness which was helpful to my task. Mirroring
                 this on the stage was a character who is condemned to remain still for a
                 large slice of the action, Lucky. Ater a few false starts, this seemed the
                 ideal combination for an image which corresponded to physical and
                 moral aspects of the event, an image which might have “theatre”. (1992, p.

         he binding design [Fig. 6] is an important element in the Folio edition
     because it serves as a visual overture to the style of Phillips’s illustrations
                      Ilha do Desterro v. 71, nº 2, p. 017-034, Florianópolis, mai/ago 2018   31

themselves, introducing their minimalist symbolism. he book is bound in beige,
with a line from the illustration on the front board being continued across the
spine and disappearing of the edge of the back board, thus unifying the three
structural components of the binding.

Fig. 6 Book Binding

     he illustration on the front board consists of a single leaf diagonally placed,
at the centre of which two white lines intersect, forming a diagonal cross. It is
one of these two lines which continues around the spine and disappears of the
edge of the back board. he playwright’s name is situated above the leaf, while
the play’s title is placed beneath it. he block capitals of the words and the outline
and veins of the leaf are etched with an almost childlike simplicity into the cross-
hatched lines of the brown and grey background. he efect is reminiscent of lines
etched into wet spray paint.
     he irst ‘O’ in the word “Godot” in the title is free of the hatching serving as
a background to the rest of the title, and the resultant beige circle thus represents
a full moon appearing through thin cloud, a clear reference to the moon that
rises at the end of each of the play’s two acts. Ever since the play’s premiere, the
moon has been understood to be a fundamental symbolic element in the play, not
only as part of the setting but also on playbills and programmes and the covers
of published editions of the play. In their endlessly repeated wait for Godot the
rising of the moon marks the end of each day’s fruitless activity and signals the
inevitability of a repetition the following day: “the moon is universally symbolic
of the rhythm of a cyclic time; … he birth, death and resurrection phases of the
moon symbolise immortality and eternity, perpetual renewal…” (Cooper, 1987,
32   Claudia Parra e Peter James Harris, Tom Phillips’s Illustrations for the Folio Edition...

     106-7). In the play, the moon rises at the end of each Act, ater the Boy has come
     to inform Estragon and Vladimir that Godot is not coming:

                 BOY: What am I to say to Mr. Godot, sir?
                 VLADIMIR: Tell him… (he hesitates) … tell him you saw us.
                 BOY: Yes, sir.
                 He steps back, hesitates, turns and exits running. he light suddenly fails. In
                 a moment it is night. he moon rises at back, mounts in the sky, stands still,
                 shedding a pale light on the scene.
                 VLADIMIR: At last! (Estragon gets up and goes towards Vladimir, a boot
                 in each hand. He puts them down at the edge of stage, straightens and
                 contemplates the moon.) (Beckett, 2000, 66).

          he rising of the moon depicts more than the end of a day in the play. It
     symbolises the closing of a cycle which will be repeated perpetually. he second
     act is a repetition of the irst. here is no diference in either the setting or in the
     time, indicating the rhythm of a cyclic time and providing the play with a circular
     structure. he moon thus serves as a metaphor for Estragon and Vladimir’s
     perpetual wait. he moon inserted within Godot’s name on the book’s cover is
     therefore a reference both to the play’s narrative structure and to the symbolism
     that lies at its heart.
          An illustration can assume diferent roles in a text in an illustrated book; in
     addition to its decorative function it may elucidate, change, expand, contradict,
     deride or even repudiate the text (Behrendt, 1997, 28). his reader/book
     interaction generates the experience in which the combination of words and
     pictures determines the individual’s response to an illustrated book (Nodelman,
     1990, 193). In our analysis of the Folio Society illustrated edition of Waiting for
     Godot two aspects are of particular importance: the reader’s previous contact
     with a non-illustrated edition of the play, and his/her experience of having seen
     the play in performance. In the case of a canonic play like Waiting for Godot, it is
     almost certain that the reader of the illustrated edition will have prior experience
     of the play, and will therefore bring this frame of reference to bear on interpreting
     symbols and images associated with the play. Tom Phillips’s spare, minimalist
     style leads him to concentrate on objects whose association with the play will be
     immediately apparent, but whose interpretation relies on an adequate knowledge
     of the play’s plot, characters and themes. According to Perry Nodelman, “hat
     people complete the meaning of these pictures by making use of their prior
     knowledge of other texts shows that the pictures themselves can imply narrative
     information only in relationship to a verbal context; if none is actually provided,
     we tend to ind it in our memories” (1990, 195). Nodelman’s fundamental insight
     here is not the relationship between pictures and words, but the fact that people
     tend to ind in their memories points of reference in order to establish closeness
     to the symbols they see. He states that, “Symbolism is the habit of mind through
     which physical objects come to represent abstract ideas other than their actual
     selves. […] Knowledge and experience can provide that familiarity (1990, 106).
                     Ilha do Desterro v. 71, nº 2, p. 017-034, Florianópolis, mai/ago 2018   33

With regard to Tom Phillips’s illustrations for Waiting for Godot, his work is far
from being a mere reproduction of pre-established imagery associated with the
play; on the contrary, his illustrations serve as an increment which invites readers
to forge their own renewed insights into Beckett’s masterpiece.

1. Although Eleutheria was Beckett’s irst completed play it was only published
   posthumously, in an English translation by Michael Brodsky, in 1995.
2. For further information about Tom Phillips’s life and work, access: http://www. and
3. Chelsea Space, located on the Millbank campus of Chelsea College of Arts, was
   established in 2005 and is a public exhibition space where guest art and design
   professionals are encouraged to work on experimental curatorial projects that
   might not otherwise be developed.

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     Oppenheim, Lois. Samuel Beckett and the Arts: Music, Visual Arts and Non-Print
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                                                                       Recebido em: 13/11/2017
                                                                         Aceito em: 04/01/2018