Abbett’s Silver-Age Masterpieces

run for doom robert abbett

Robert Abbett is but one of the many 20th century illustrators often eclipsed by more famous names like Robert McGinnis, Robert Maguire, James Avati, Belarski, DeSoto and others. And he’s also one of the many artists whose paperback cover and magazine illustration work represents but a tiny part of their artistic career, so many of these academically trained artists well-skilled in and much preferring to work in other subjects altogether…Western art for McGinnis and James Bama, Civil War historical painting for Mort Kunstler, and so on. In Abbett’s case, his illustration fame is definitely overshadowed by his renown as a wildlife, landscape and outdoors artist. Born in Hammond Indiana, Robert Kennedy Abbett (1926 – 2015) studied at the University of Missouri and Purdue University, and once he achieved some success in commercial illustration, relocated to Oakdale Farm in rural Connecticut in 1953. There he became entranced with the autumnal landscapes, hunting and wildlife scenes, which became his trademark in his post-illustration fine arts career.

In fact, even within paperback cover illustration, it’s probably his work on many Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan, Barsoom and Pellucidar books that brought him the most acclaim, much more than general fiction, crime fiction or any so-called ‘sleaze’ books, which so many illustrators had in their portfolios (even if hidden way in the back).

run for doom kane

Working in a style reminiscent of Mitchell Hooks and other ‘silver age’ artists, Abbett had a tremendous command of figure drawing, but still enjoyed abstracted or vignetted backgrounds and settings, which became the trend in the late 1950’s through mid-1960’s. Bird dogs in New England fields may be his primary legacy, but for me it’s the way so many of his characters look precisely like those I imagine for my own in-progress writing (which is set in 1959, after all). Above is the original art for Henry Kane’s Run For Doom from 1962, as well as a so-so found image of the book cover. Below is one of my favorites: Robert Carroll’s 1961 Champagne At Dawn. No, I don’t mean the book. I don’t have it and never read it, and I’m not sure I’d go looking for a readable copy about ‘fly now, pay later girls’. But change that hair color to a deep brunette shade, and that’s more or less Sharon Gardner, AKA Sasha Garodnowicz, AKA the ‘Stiletto Gumshoe’. Well, maybe a slightly more ‘curvy’ version of Gardner/Garodnowicz/Gumshoe. I can forego a 1961 novel about stewardesses (I assume in 1961 they weren’t flight attendants yet), but I’d give anything to find a decent scan of the original art from that book!

Champagne At Dawn 1961

Alain Gourdon: “Aslan”

Une Filles Des Rues Art

I previously posted about the French illustrator Michel Gourdon (Euro-Pulp: Michel Gourdon, 2.1.19) known by some for his pinup art and by others for his numerous euro-sleaze paperback and pulp digest cover illustrations, including Italian Giallo digests.

Michel’s brother was also an artist: Alain Gourdon (1930 – 2014), better known as ‘Aslan’, and like his brother, followed a similar career path, generating numerous euro-pulp, paperback and digest cover illustrations, though better known in Europe and even in the U.S. as a pinup artist.

Une Fille Des RuesAlain Gourdon’s pinup art rep is largely due to his long association with the French men’s magazine Lui (adapted as Oui, in the U.S.) for which he contributed a monthly pinup illustration…particularly explicit illustrations, actually, none of which will be posted here. When American fans of retro-kitsch say ‘pinup’ art, they picture relatively benign (though still a little troubling) postwar era ‘Good Girl Art’ and think of the nod-and-a-wink illustrations from Gil Elvgren, Art Frahm, Alberto Vargas, Zoe Mozert and others. European postwar pinup art, particularly by the 1960’s, was something altogether different. Brown & Bigelow calendars and countless American manufacturers’ posters may have been hung up on military barracks and repair shop walls across the U.S. from the 1930’s through the 60’s. But I can’t imagine where an Aslan pinup could be hung without offending…well, everyone.

That said, Alain Gourdon, who ultimately left France and retired in Canada, had a good run earlier in his career with mystery novels, racy romances and even children’s book series, a few of which are shown here. His style and their overall look was much darker than those from his brother Michael, often as not with stark black backgrounds. THey’re quite different from what was being done at the same time here in the U.S., but in their way, perhaps a bit more noir-ish, you think?

Dossier HathertonEstocade A StockholmMatch NulRazzia Sur Anvers

Edmond Gray

Edmond Gray

Maybe I’m just looking in all the wrong places. I don’t think I’m misspelling the artist’s name. But I can’t seem to locate much (or any!) background or biographical information about postwar illustrator Edmond Gray. I’ll keep digging, but till I do uncover something, here’s a piece that’s always been among my favorites from that era.

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