Retro Heaven

Sci-Fi Artist Frank R. Paul

The life and artwork of Frank R. Paul…

f-threeBorn in 1884, Frank R. Paul’s artwork for Amazing magazine in particular set the standard for future artists to follow. His output during the 1920s and 1930s was prolific, he captured scenes of science fantasy in such a way they epitomized the vast unknown of space and the exciting possibilities of space travel and played an integral part in the creation of ‘the golden age of science fiction’

In the era of the iPhone it is difficult to imagine the sense of wonderment which Paul’s work would have given to young and old alike, his fantastical imagery coupled with bold, if not garish colouring would have made for a mesmerizing sight on any magazine shop shelf. There can be little doubt that his architectural training in London helped him to design the huge machines, spaceships and cities of the future which raised serious debate amongst people as to the possibility of an alien life force. Indeed, he is widely credited as the creator of the first water colour picture of a space station.

Whilst he wasn’t an accomplished figure artist, the female face and form was a particular weakness, he managed to convey the relationship between human and alien in accordance with the short story he was depicting both in cover art and interior illustrations. It would be inconceivable to think that his artwork did not have a significant role in generating magazine sales, any man born before the advent of a Sony PlayStation will doubtless recall boyhood hours spent copying artwork such as these and, dare one say it, far less time reading the stories?

His period at Amazing magazine made him the world’s first professional science fiction painter and whilst his use of primary colours of pure red and yellow were attributed to a tight-fisted publisher who used three colour printing it did, nonetheless, set the standard for other Pulp Magazine artists to follow and indeed copy.

Frank Rudolph Paul died in 1963.



2 replies »

  1. The artists who produced book and magazine covers are desperately undervalued so it’s nice to see you giving Paul some well deserved publicity. When it came to selling pulp there’s no doubt that the covers were generally a greater draw than the authors – the cover sold it to customers not the authors in most cases be it sci-fi or detective pulp fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Erich, Yes, I agree and it should be noted that in most of these cases the difference in quality justified the conclusion you make. Detective fiction is a good case in point, both genres seemed to follow the same path; wonderful artwork to accompany poor writing in its formative years only to see a near total reversal in more modern times. I note recent attempts to marry the two together with a return to old fashioned dust jacket designs, whether they pulled it off or not is another matter!


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