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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Paperback covers

The new issue of Filmfax has an excellent article on the career of Robert McGinnis, one of the two or three best illustrators associated with the art of iconic paperback covers.

I'm glad to see that we've begun to pay such due and respect to the men and women who, since the mid-1800s really, have made commercial art just that--art.

I recently saw a collection of Robert Louis Stevenson book covers. Really extraordinary work in the Howard Pyle style. I also saw some Argosy covers from the early 1900s that were done very much in the way of orange crate art. If you've never see any of it, try your website or library. Fascinating and sometimes gorgeous work, generally flamouyantly romantic.

The old "Almanac" shows of the 1950s once did a piece on the depictions of Alice in Wonderland and The Three Musketeers and Sir Walter Scott down the decades and even centuries.

The History channel did a few shows on German culture after Hitler took over. Aside from such smooth moves as banning all Jews from the German film industry--thus de facto ending the German film industry or at least its greatness--they showed some of the popular art of the day. I wanted to see much more. The script talked about how stark and warlike such art became but they didn't show any of it, though if Reifenshtal was at all typical, God help us. Crowds of any size have always scared me. You can imagine then how I react to her work.

I was reminded of popular art because of science fiction artist Kelly Freas' death a few weeks ago. There was something too coy in most of his stuf for me, though his depiction of Algis Budys' "Who" (steel hooded head but otherwise human neck, chest, and fingers holding a cigarette) is one of the classic pb covers of the 1950s.

I say all this with great envy. If I couldn't write, I'd want to paint. But I haven't a scrap of talent for it. I took a painting course one time and the instructor gently suggested, after only three weeks, that I stick to writing.


Blogger Bill said...

Don't forget Art Scott's great book, THE PAPERBACK COVERS OF ROBERT MCGINNIS. Great stuff.

February 2, 2005 at 6:14 PM  

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