The Lurid and the Alluring: Pulp Magazine Cover Art from the Robert Lesser Collection
Monday June 20th 1994, 3:52 pm
Filed under: Exhibitions

On Display, June 20-August 7, 1994
Allen Anderson

Trigger-Man from Texas, For Lariat, November 1944
The Six-gun Saga of Blue Strange, For Lariat, January 1946

Anderson was a prolific producer of covers and illustrations for the Fiction House magazine chain. His western and detective magazine covers were widely popular, but he painted covers for all of the pulp magazines issued by Fiction House. He also produced work for the comic books the company published.

Walter M. Baumhofer (1904- )

The One-Eyed Joss, For Clues Detective Stories, January 1938
The Pool Where Horror Dwelt, For Dime Mystery, December 1934
Strong as Gorillas, For Adventure, April 1940
She Seemed to Enjoy Her Hellish Work, For Dime Detective, January 1938
The Red Skull, For Doc Savage, August 1933
Meteor Menace, For Doc Savage, March 1934
Pirate of the Pacific, Doc Savage, July 1933

Baumhofer studied at the Pratt Institute, and got his start in illustration in the 1930s. He used his versatile skills to provide illustrations for such diverse magazines as The Ladies’ Home Journal, Outdoor Life, True, Adventure, and Dime Mystery. His definitive illustrations for Doc Savage, however, set a standard for pulp excellence.

Earle K. Bergey (1901-1952)

Woman with a Bloody Dagger, For Thrilling, Date Unknown

Bergey was born in Philadelphia and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts from 1921 until 1926, when he began work in the art department of the Philadelphia Ledger. He also prepared art work for pulp magazines published by the Fiction House chain. After 1935, Bergey went freelance, producing illustrations and covers for The Saturday Evening Post and other slick magazines, as well as the pulps that were the source of most of his income and fame, including Strange Stories, Startling Stories, Thrilling, Thrilling Wonder, and Popular Love. In the early 1950s, Bergey created a number of paperback covers for the Popular Library. He was best known for his lush illustrations of beautiful, scantily-clad women in perilous situations; the “brass-brassiere” school of science fiction illustration is notorious for its implausible but appealing depictions of women in tiny or transparent outfits, accessorized with brass breastplates.

Rudolph Belarski (1900-1983)

The Ether Robots, For Thrilling Wonder Stories, December 1942
The Galloping Ghost, For Wings, Spring 1936
O’Leary, the Devil’s Undertaker, For War Birds, January 1936

Belarski began work at the age of twelve as a slate picker for a Pennsylvania coal company. A picture he drew on a wall was seen by one of his bosses, who was so impressed that he gave the young man the job of painting safely posters. Almost entirely self-taught as a painter, Belarski worked his way through the Pratt Institute while working as a waiter and sign painter. His remarkable versatility as an artist can be seen in the range of his published work in pulp magazines: his exciting paintings appeared on the covers of Thrilling Wonder Stories, Wings, and War Birds, as well as The Phantom Detective, Mystery Book, Argosy, and Western Round-Up. In 1948, Belarski took his talents to the world of mass-market paperback publishing, creating dozens of covers for the Popular Library, and influencing the look of the entire industry. In 1957, he joined the staff of the Famous Artists School, and left the hectic world of freelance art.

Hannes Bok (1914-1964)

For Out of the Storm, Painting for Book Dust Jacket, 1944

Born Wayne Woodard, in Duluth, Minnesota, Hannes Bok was a self-made man and self-taught artist. His first professionally published painting appeared on the cover of the December 1939 Weird Tales; he subsequently produced covers and illustrations that have made many consider him the greatest science fiction artist of the 1940s. After World War II, Bok found a new and important place in science fiction and fantasy illustration when he began painting for book jackets; some of his finest work was done for small specialty presses, among them Shasta Books, Fantasy Press, and Arkham House. Bok left illustration in the 1950s, and ended his life as an astrologer.

Howard V. Brown (1878-?)

The Challenge of Atlantis, For Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1938

Brown was born in Lexington, Kentucky and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Students League of New York. His earliest science fiction art was done for Argosy in the late 1920s; he also provided illustrations for Astounding Science Fiction, Thrilling Wonder Stories and Startling Stories in the 1930s, becoming known as one of the greatest BEM (Bug-Eyed Monster) painters in the pulps.

Raphael De Soto (1904-1987)

Beware the Golden Bowl! For Dime Mystery, March 1943
The Murder was a Pleasure, For Dime Detective, July 1940
Revolt of the Underworld, For The Spider, June 1942
Death and the Spider, For The Spider, January [1942]
Stand Up and Fight, For Adventure, March 1938
Eyes Behind the Door, For Detective Tales, December 1947
Blood on My Doorstep, For New Detective, July 1949
Dance of the Death Doll, For Dime Mystery, September 1942

Born in Spain, De Soto went to Puerto Rico with his family at the age of seven. After high school, he attended Columbia University where he studied architecture. In 1930, he began drawing interior illustrations for Top-Notch, a Street & Smith pulp magazine, and in 1932 began painting covers, primarily on western themes. By the end of the 1930s, he was producing art work for Pines Publications, Ace, and Popular Publications: his covers for The Spider are classics. Like many other versatile pulp artists, De Soto moved into the paperback field after the decline of the pulps. In 1960, he left illustration entirely and concentrated on his work as a portraitist and art teacher.

Virgil Finlay (1914-1971)

Burn, Witch, Burn, For Famous Fantastic Mysteries, June 1942
Minos of Sardanes, For Fantastic Novels, November 1949
Hallowe’en in a Suburb, For Weird Tales, September 1952

Studying art primarily through books, high school art classes, and the free night school at the Rochester, New York, Mechanics Institute, Finlay worked as a house painter and on a radio assembly line until he submitted his first illustrations to Weird Tales in 1935. Using a time-consuming but delicately detailed pen-and-ink stipple technique that could be very successfully reproduced on rough pulp paper, Finlay’s early black-and-white pictures were among the first illustrations in Weird Tales to receive letters of praise from fans and authors: even Frank Paul’s art work had been disliked by many fans who felt that the space would have been better used for more fiction. Within a very few years, Finlay was contributing art to American Weekly, Amazing Stories, Fantastic Adventures, Captain Future, Strange Stories, Famous Fantastic Mysteries, Strange Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and many others, and his work remained in great demand until the boom in pulp magazine publishing ended in the early 1950s. Until his death in 1971, he remained active as an artist, drawing characteristic interior illustrations for astrology magazines, and moving into an entirely new area of art in the late 1950s when he began painting large abstracts on canvas.

Robert Fuqua

West Point 3000 A.D., For Amazing Stories, November 1940

“Robert Fuqua” was the brush-name for the prolific commercial artist, Joseph Wirt Tillotson: between 1938 and 1951, he published eighty covers for Amazing Stories alone.

Tom Lovell (1909- )

A Gamble in Corpses, For Detective Tales, March 1937

Lovell was born in New York City and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Syracuse University in 1931. While still in college, he began illustrating for pulp magazines: his first published illustration appeared in Gangster Stories. In the early 1950s, also worked in the paperback field, creating covers for Bantam paperbacks. He is best known for his historical and western illustrations, and some of his paintings hang in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Howard W. McCauley (1913-1983)

The Daughter of Genghis Khan, For Fantastic Adventures, January 1941

Born in Chicago, McCauley originally intended to work toward a career in aviation, but switched his interest to art, studying at the Art Institute of Chicago and the American Academy of Art; he studied privately with J. Allen St. John, whose illustrations for Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books had led McCauley to an early interest in science fiction and fantasy illustration. McCauley worked as a staff artist for the Ziff-David publishing house, creating covers and interior illustrations for Amazing, Fantastic Adventures, Imagination and Imaginative Tales. His versatile talents were also used to create advertising art for Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Orange Kist and Schlitz beer, as well as calendar art.

H. L. Parkhurst (d. 1950)

Murder for Exercise, For Spicy Detective, April 1937
Dear Little Dude, For Spicy Western Stories, December 1939

Parkhurst studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he completed a four-year course in anatomy in two-and-a-half years; he subsequently worked as a newspaper illustrator and an advertising art director, working with Colgate, American Tobacco, and Eastman Kodak. During the Depression he began freelance illustrations for pulp magazines, working closely with Fiction House Publishing and the Trojan Magazine Company, publishers of the “Spicy” series of pulps.

Frank R. Paul (1884-1963)

Marooned in Andromeda, For Wonder Stories, October 1930
The Synthetic Men, For Wonder Stories, December 1930
The Vanguard to Neptune, For Wonder Stories Quarterly, Spring 1932
The Spore Doom, For Wonder Stories, February 1934
The Time Express, For Wonder Stories, December 1932
Future City, For Super Science Fiction, 1939
Planet of the Knob Heads, For Science Fiction, December 1939
In the Spacesphere, For Wonder Stories, June 1931
Quartz City on Mercury, For Amazing Stories, September 1941, Back Cover
Golden City on Titan, For Amazing Stories, November 1941, Back Cover
Stories of the Stars Alphecca, For Fantastic Adventures, February 1946, Back Cover
The Moon Era, For Wonder Stories, February 1932

Born in Austria, Frank Rudolph Paul studied architecture and art in Austria, Paris and New York. His long association with Hugo Gernsback, the father of modern science fiction, began in 1914 when Paul was hired to illustrate Gernsback’s non-fiction magazine, Electrical Experimenter, in 1914. In 1926, Gernsback began publishing the first magazine devoted entirely to science fiction, Amazing Stories, and Paul regularly provided black-and-white interior illustrations as well as full-color covers for this popular pulp magazine, as well as for Science Wonder, Air Wonder, and Wonder Quarterly which began publication in the late 1920s. Astounding Stories, the most famous of the 1930s-era science fiction pulps, owes much of its success to Paul’s bright, distinctive covers. Fan recognition of his role in the visual history of science fiction came in 1939 when he was guest of honor at the first World Science Fiction Convention. Paul continued painting for science fiction magazines through the 1950s.

Norman Saunders (1907- )

Black Pool for Hell Maidens, For Mystery Tales, June 1938
Give Hijackers Hell! For Detective Short Stories, July 1938

After completing high school in his native Minnesota, Saunders began his formal art study through a mail-order program, and continued his studies at the Grand Central School of Art in 1934. He had begun his career in magazine art even before completing his studies: in 1928 he was working for Fawcett Publications on magazines such as True Confessions. Saunders performed freelance work for a wide variety of pulp magazines, becoming known for his western, science fiction covers, and mystery illustrations. He was also known as a fast working, producing an average of two paintings a week from 1935 through 1942. After his service in the army in the second world war, he branched out into paperbacks, and painted covers for all the major paperback publishers, including Ace, Ballantine, Bantam, Dell, Lion, and Popular Library. In 1965, Saunders started working for the Topps Card Company, creating a range of non-sports card series, including Batman and Robin and “Wacky Packs.”

Harold Winfield Scott (1898-1977)

Japs Invade California, For Click, February 1941
The Devil’s Highway, For Top Notch Detective, September 1930s

A 1923 graduate of the Pratt Institute who later returned to teach illustration there, Scott is best known for his western illustrations for pulp magazines published by Street & Smith, and his covers for The Avenger.

Malcolm Smith (1912-1966)

Invasion of the Micro-Men, For Amazing Stories, February 1946

Smith received his art training at the American Academy of Art in Chicago. In 1940 he began freelance work for Amazing Stories, which was published by the Ziff-Davis Company, eventually becoming art director for company’s pulp magazine line. He returned to freelance work in 1948, working in the cooperative commercial art studio, Bendelow and Associates. Other Worlds and Fate profited from his talents when he resumed work as an art director in the 1950s.

J. Allen St. John (1872-1957)

The Fire of Asshurbanipal, For Weird Tales, December 1936
Golden Blood, For Weird Tales, April 1933
For Tarzan: Lord of the Jungle, Painting for Book Dust Jacket, September 1928

St. John was born in Chicago, but spent his early childhood in Europe, and the time he spent in the art museums of Europe led him to an early decision to become an artist himself: by the time he was thirty years old, he had a successful career as a landscape and portrait painter in the New York City area. He moved back to Chicago after the turn of the century, and began nearly fifty years of work as an illustrator for numerous publishing enterprises in the Chicago area, including Weird Tales and A. C. McClurg, the publisher of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novels about Tarzan and Barsoom. St. John complemented his work as an illustrator by serving as an instructor at the Art Institute of Chicago and the American Academy of Art, where he taught painting and illustration.

Paul Stahr (1883-1953)

The Hothouse World, Argosy, February 21,1931

Born and raised in New York City, Stahr studied at the Art Students League, the Art Academy of New York and the National Academy of Design. His earliest work was painting posters for Broadway shows, and during World War I, posters for the Red Cross, Liberty Loans, and national defense. After the war, he turned to magazine illustration, working for Life, Collier’s, Harper’s Bazaar, and the best-selling of all pulp magazines, Argosy.

Herbert Morton Stoops (1888-1948)

Viking Invaders, For Blue Book, April 1941

Stoops grew up in Idaho and attended Utah State University before going to work as a staff artist for newspapers in San Francisco and Chicago; while living in Chicago he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. His career was interrupted by army service during World War I, and upon his return he began work as a magazine illustrator. He is best remembered for his covers for Blue Book he regularly provided the monthly cover illustrations for over thirteen years but he also worked for Collier’s, This Week, Cosmopolitan, and many other magazines.

F. Blakeslee; John A. Coughlin; John Drew; Laurence Herndon; George Rozen; H. Ward; Edgar Franklin Wittmack

The world of pulp magazine illustration was the world of commercial art tight deadlines, low profit margins, and an emphasis on the product rather than the creator. The artists who created these vivid images, superb craftsmen by any measure, performed their work, received their wages, and moved on to the next task. An unfortunate result of this is that we know nothing about many of the creators of the great illustrations of the pulp era: we know their names, but we know little more.

F. Blakeslee

Patrol of the Cloud Crusher, For G-8 and His Battle Aces, June 1930s
Red Wings for Vengeance, For Fighting Aces, May 1941

John A. Coughlin

Eyes of Guilt, For Detective Story, August 9, 1930

John Drew

Woman in Fur, For Best Detective, February 1932

Laurence Herndon

Tarzan: Guard of the Jungle, For Blue Book, November 1930

George Rozen

Dead Man’s Chest, For The Shadow, Fall 1948
The Grove of Doom, For The Shadow, September 1933
Room of Doom, For The Shadow, April 1, 1942
Vengeance Bay, For The Shadow, March 1, 1942

H. Ward

Gunsmoke Gulch, For Spicy Western, April 1936
Drunk, Disorderly and Dead, For Dan Turner: Hollywood Detective No. 2
The Whisperers, For Spicy Mystery, April 1930s

Edgar F. Wittmack

At the Tomb, For Everybody’s Magazine, ca. 1926

Unknown Artists

Interplanetary Graveyard, For Future Fiction, March 1942
Prohibition Gangster, Flynn’s Detective Fiction, 1932
Murder Shrine, For Secret Agent X Detective Mysteries, March 1936