Olga Lehmann’s album covers

From 1953 to 1957, artist Olga Lehmann designed a fair few LP covers for the Argo label. I thought they deserved to be gathered together in one place – so below are the ones I’ve come across. There may be a couple missing.

(At the very bottom of the page there are watercolour sketches for five of the album covers that I was put onto by someone who happened across this post.)

There’s plenty of information around about the Chilean-born artist and her remarkable, broad-ranging career as a portrait artist, costume and set designer, illustrator, and painter of murals. If you’re interested in finding out more, there are some links at the bottom of the page.

Her work for Argo was a sideline, coming at a time when she was pretty flat out doing stuff for films. When she did her first LP cover for the label, she’d just finished doing the costume design and a set portrait for the Errol Flynn film The Master of Ballantrae (released in 1953). Here’s what else she was involved with in those Argo years.

Presumably because he was impressed by her work on The Master of Ballantrae, Flynn commissioned her in 1953 to paint a swashbuckling mural – Captain Bligh and all – for the entrance lobby of his Tichfield Hotel in Port Antonio, Jamaica.

And, I guess, (how far ahead of a film’s release does the storyboard get written/drawn?) she was already at work on the storyboard for 44-year-old Errol’s next film, the 1955 medaeval pot-boiler ‘The Dark Avenger’.

What else in 1953? One of many collaborations over the years with herbalist, holistic vet and poetess Juliette de Bairacli Levy, illustrating her novel ‘The Bride of Llew’.

The following year’s work included the cover illustration for Mary Elwyn Patchett’s kids’ book ‘Evening Star’ and the costume design for the 1956 rampaging-Mau-Mau-and-elephants romp ‘Safari’, putting Vivien Leigh into some body-hugging, daytime jungle wear and something suitably elegant for night-time clinches with Victor Mature.

More storyboard work (and assistant art director) for the 1956 film Around the World in 80 Days, the credits sequence for ‘Safari’ and costume design for ‘The Big Money’ and ‘Gamma People’ (kitting out gamma-ray-fried goons, brainwashed commie kids and Leslie Phillips for the latter).

Lehmann did the set design and the costumes, and devised and designed the ‘house of cards’ dance sequence for the ‘rocking and rolling romance’ film Let’s be Happy – the lovely (and now ageing) Vera-Ellen’s last film – a box office flop. She also designed the costumes for the Australian pioneer days adventure film ‘Robbery under Arms’.

Work on two classics: The Adventures of Tom Thumb, for which Lehmann designed the costumes and the credit titles, and the Inn of the Sixth Happiness, for which she did the storyboard.

Click on the Tom Thumb poster for the credits sequence.

Throughout the 1953-57 period she was also doing illustrations for BBC publications like London Calling, Radio Times and the schools music programme Singing Together.

The connection with Argo became a family one in 1955, when Lehmann’s husband, writer and broadcaster Richard Carl Huson, joined the label as Director of Public Relations.

Another little footnote: it was Lehmann’s sister (then editor of Architectural Design Monica Pidgeon) who introduced Argo founder Harley Usill to would-be field recordist Deben Bhattacharya in 1953. A good move for both Argo and ‘world’ music.

Lehmann sources
Some interesting stuff from the British Film Institute. Click here.
A nice tribute page by Mandie Stone with a promise of a whole lot more. Here.
The Olga Lehmann Wikipedia page. Here.




T. S. Eliot – The Waste Land

read by Robert Speaight
(Argo RG 10)


Dylan Thomas – Under Milk Wood

BBC Cast, including Richard Burton

(Argo RG 21-22)


Edric Connor and The Caribbeans – Songs from Jamaica

(Argo RG 33)


Eric Robinson – Music For You

(Argo RG 40)


Renaissance Singers – William Byrd Mass for Four Voices

(Argo RG 42)


Various artists – Constant Lambert Concerto for solo piano & Poems by Li Po

(Argo RG 50)


Robert Masters Piano Quartet – Faure Quartet for piano & strings

(Argo RG 55)


Edric Connor and The Southlanders – Songs from Trinidad

(Argo RG 57)


Edric Connor – Calypso

(Argo RG 58)


Carmen Prietto with Bert Weedon – Songs from Mexico

(Argo RG 70)


Various Artists – Robert Still Quintet for 3 flutes & Sonata for viola and cello

(Argo RG 74)

76 - rg76-78 beggar's opera 1955

Various artists – John Gay The Beggar’s Opera

(Argo RG 76-8)


Various artists – Bela Bartok Sonata for two pianos & Contrasts

(Argo RG 89)

 tm 49 - elgar rostal horsley lehmann 1957

Max Rostal & Colin Horsley – Elgar Sonata for violin and pianoforte

(Argo TM 49)

lehmann - purcell rg 113 1958

The Jacobean Ensemble – Purcell Sonatas

(Argo RG113)



under milk wood
RG 21 – Under Milk Wood

RG 55 – Faure

RG 58 – Calypso


RG 89 – Bartok

TM 49 – Elgar

~ by folkcatalogue on July 21, 2010.

2 Responses to “Olga Lehmann’s album covers”

  1. I found this original artwork by Olga Lehmann on sale through Ebay at the following link.
    This album cover is not listed above but you mentioned that some may not be included.
    Do you think that this is her work?
    Do you think that this could be an original watercolor?
    I note that the seller is in Malta and has no history.
    He is asking $600.00.
    I wonder what you think of this piece and the price.
    Thanks for your insight.

    • Hey, thanks for putting me on to this. Yes, I think it’s her work – a draft for RG 89. The same person has four other watercolour sketches for Argo album covers for sale on the Artprice website.

      What do I think of it? I really like all her stuff. No idea about the price, but doesn’t surprise me. Going to put the drafts up on the post. Thanks again.

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