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Amazing Pulp Magazine Collection Exhibit: Pulp Artists - Full Text

Exhibit showcasing the Library's extensive pulp magazine collection and provides historical context for this wildly popular - and influential - form of entertainment from the early 20th century.

Pulp Artists

Covers of pulp magazines featured colorful artwork on a much slicker paper stock than the body of the volumes themselves. As with the writers, pulp artists included many well-known and distinguished contributors. Early artists included N.C. Wyeth, who did covers for The Popular Magazine, and Edgar Franklin Whittmack provided artwork for Argosy and Short Stories.

Once the pulps began specializing in specific genres, later artists did the same. Nick Eggenhofer, for example, was known for his Western artwork. Other artists included Walter Baumhofer, Earle K. Bergey, Margaret Brundage, Edd Cartier, Virgil Finlay, Earl Mayan, Frank R. Paul, and Norman Saunders.

Included here are only a few of the more popular illustrators as represented in the CSUEB pulp collection. For a near-complete listing of pulp cover artists, we recommend the excellent, comprehensive The Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists website by David Saunders (son of Norman Saunders, one of pulp’s premier illustrators).

Rafael deSoto

Rafael deSoto (1904 – 1992) moved to New York City from his native Puerto Rico in 1923. Though he had been preparing for the priesthood, he decided to pursue his natural artistic talent instead. In 1930, with a limited command of English, he landed a job at the Street & Smith publishing house doing interior illustrations for Western-themed pulp magazines. By 1932, he was freelancing doing cover illustrations for a number of different pulp titles, including Detective Book, Five-Novels Monthly, Top-Notch, War Stories, Western Story, and Wild West Weekly.

After his marriage in 1939, he continued a prolific output of freelance work for a wide variety of pulp magazines: Ace G-Man Stories, Ace Sports, All Detective, Black Book Detective, Champion Sports, Dime Detective, Dime Mystery, Phantom Detective, Popular Detective, The Spider, Ten Detective Aces, Terror Tales, Thrilling Detective, Western Aces, and Western Trails.

De Soto was one of few pulp artists who was able to keep working throughout World War II, being classified as 4F in the draft. He kept producing artwork for more and varied pulp titles, right up to collapse of the industry in the 1950s. At that point, his work began gracing the covers of “slick” magazines like Collier’s, Ladies’ Home Journal, Redbook, and The Saturday Evening Post. Another market for his covers was the growing paperback industry.

By the time he retired from freelancing in 1964, he began a new career teaching illustration at the college level, and even continued doing commissioned art pieces.

Margaret Brundage

Margaret Brundage (1900 - 1976). The pulp magazine Weird Tales became a newsstand sensation in the 1930s due, in part, to the suggestive and (a bit) lurid cover art produced by a Chicago housewife, named Margaret Brundage.  

Brundage went to high school and art school with Walt Disney, but her creations - which graced the covers of over 60 issues of Weird Tales and illustrated the work of Robert Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, and others - were as far removed from Mickey Mouse and Snow White as anyone could image. Brundage showed women in distress, bondage, pursued by the devil, and in various states of undress. She also did other covers for Magic Carpet and Oriental Stories magazines.

Her art, while exceptional in many aspects (notably in her use of pastels), is typical of pulp illustration — full of bright colors, vivid
images, and excitement - stirring reminders that while the country was slogging through the Great Depression, people sought out romance, adventure, and escape through its popular pulp magazines like Weird Tales, Amazing Stories, and Astounding Science-Fiction.  

Brundage was also unique as one of the few women in the male-dominated field of pulp illustration.

Frank R. Paul

Frank R. Paul (1884 - 1963) was born in Austria. He immigrated to the United States when he was 22 years old, in 1906. He had studied architecture in Vienna, Paris, and London, and continued in the graphics field in the U.S., where obtained his degree in 1910. He had published some of his graphic designs in The New Jersey Journal, when science New York publisher Hugo Gernsback (showcased elsewhere in this exhibit) discovered him.

Gernsback commissioned Paul to do the cover art and interior illustrations for his first Amazing Stories issue in 1926. The publisher other Greenback pulps, including Science Wonder Stories, Air Wonder Stories, and Wonder Stories.

Paul also went on to do work for other pulp publishers, notably Fiction House and Martin Goodman. His artwork not only prompted countless readers to buy pulp issues at the newsstands, it also served to inspire a new generation of science fiction writers, artists, and readers who found his imaginative vision of future landscapes and other worlds a spark for their own creativity.

After working as a draftsman in a shipyard in World War II, Paul took on commissions for murals, and also freelanced illustrating for New York book publishers. Having spent most of his working career in New York City, he died in Teaneck New Jersey in 1963.