Elaine And John Duillo, Continued…

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More about the husband and wife team of 20th century illustrators, Elaine and John Duillo:

Meanwhile, husband John was an in-demand illustrator for PBO’s as well, known most for westerns and doing some 500+ covers during the 1950’s and 60’s. It’s estimated that his Zane Grey, Max Brand and Louis L’Amour books sold over 100 million copies. Late in his commercial career, Duillo also did numerous covers and interior illustrations for the men’s adventure and so-called men’s sweats market, including a number of notorious women-in-peril pieces typical for that market (and the kind we’ll skip here). He retired from commercial illustration in the mid-1970s to focus on western art and historical Civil War painting and etchings. John was a President of The Society Of American Historical Artists.

See a prior post for art and info from Elaine Duillo.

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Elaine And John Duillo

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I posted about artist and illustrator John Duillo some time back (at the main site, not Tumblr) but never pointed out that Duillo was but one half of a powerhouse commercial illustration duo along with his wife, renowned romance novel illustrator Elaine Duillo.

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Both Elaine and John were born in 1928. They met while attending the Manhattan High School of Music and Art, later marrying in 1949. From her start with Balcourt Art Service in 1959 through her retirement in 2003 (the year John Duillo sadly passed away), Elaine painted a broad range of magazine and paperback book covers, from mystery/crime fiction to science fiction and racy ‘sleaze’ titles, though she was most widely recognized as one of the premier romance novel artists, initially for gothic novels and later for Regencies and so-called bodice rippers. Duillo’s style was so popular it became known in the industry simply as “Elaines”. She sold her first cover for $150. At her peak, Elaine Duillo covers typically went for $8,000 or more. Elaine Duillo is an Illustrators Hall Of Fame inductee.

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The mark she made on the romance genre is unquestioned. Still, you indulge me if I wish she’d squeezed in a few more crime fiction covers here and there, being certain that she’d have given that market’s greats some real competition.

See a following post for art and info on John Duillo…

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Duillo’s Crooks & Molls

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Like many of the academically trained artists from the post-WWII era of paperback and pulp magazine illustration, John Duillo’s real interest wasn’t gangsters, gumshoes or femmes fatales, much less the damsels in distress (more accurately, women in peril) that he’s best known for. His real passion was western art and the Civil War. Still, a fellow has to eat, and following a stint in the U.S. Navy, Duillo studied art with Adja Junkers and photography with Berenice Abbott, then worked in commercial illustration, as an art director, set designer and a photographer. From 1960 onward, Duillo is credited with over 500 book covers, constantly in demand for expertly rendered westerns in particular. Search online, though, and you’ll likely be scrolling through a gallery of his color cover illustrations for the late 1950’s through early 1970’s men’s “adventure” magazines, apparently called upon when women in peril images were needed…which seemed to be all the time for those particularly weird publications, and lets just say the images became increasingly ‘perilous’. Quite sinister, in fact. If the 1930’s shudder pulps’ covers seem a little pervy to modern eyes, the so-called ‘men’s sweats’ are diabolically so. WWII Nazis and Japanese soldiers, Cuban revolutionaries, Soviet KGB officers, motorcycle gang leaders and sundry robed and hooded cultists abound, and all of them are gleefully tying up women and threatening them with bizarre tortures – whips, racks, snake pits, alligator ponds, blowtorches, iron maidens — you name it — or in the ‘tamer’ pieces, more conventional forms of sexual assault. Yikes. We’ll skip those here.

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Cowboys roping steers and rebels waving stars-n-bars flags aren’t my thing any more than than leering sadists. It’s too bad John Duillo didn’t get more illustration assignments for routine mystery/crime fiction book covers or the remaining crime fiction magazines that were still left during his peak years. He was a talented artist, and I’d love to see what he could’ve done with more gangsters, gunsels, gun molls and gumshoes, given the chance.

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