Thursday, November 26, 2009


To celebrate Jim Silke's book tribute to the art of master pulp cover painter Robert Maguire, Dames, Dolls and Gun Molls, you will find below an excerpt from an interview with Maguire, published at the American Art Archives. The full article is a must-read:

"Why did I leave the paperback business? I got out ’98, ’99. They wanted the paintings to look just like photographs -- couldn’t even tell from the brush strokes. They didn’t want me to paint like me anymore. Can you imagine? By that time I was supposed to be well known, but these people (publishers) had no clue. Basically, the sales force became the most powerful element. If a book sold well, the next 4 or 5 books had to be just like it. There’s no future in that. Not every artist has a great new idea all the time, but frequently they do! And they fired the good art directors (too much money) and hired second-string art directors who didn’t have any real clout with the publisher. The good art directors could take a young artist and help mold him."

It’s impossible to imagine that publishers didn’t want Robert Maguire to paint like Robert Maguire. From the late 40s, sporadically through the sixties, and back with a vengeance from the 70s on, Maguire’s paperback covers sold books far more than the books’ authors or titles. His ability to capture a sexy girl, often holding a gun, a knife, or even a voodoo doll, is instantly obvious.
His women were always intriguing, whether the world was crashing around them or whether they were in decisive control. Each is glamour-page gorgeous. But talent for curvy dames was bolstered by a knack for dramatic action, bold and exotic colors, and striking throws of hues and shadows; these enticed millions of readers to do what they were supposed to do: buy the books.

Maguire often set his women against some muted slab-gray background or low-key pattern of jagged screens, but just as often he stood them out against deathly greens, bloody reds, or morguish blues. Of course, basic black also served him well, as for what has become a signature piece, Black Opium (C.I. note: This painting is considered by many as the definitive crime noir paperback cover):

No comments: