Art from the Golden Age of SF Illustration

Emshwiller Little Green Tourists

What was your first introduction to Science Fiction literature ?

It very likely was a striking cover on a book or magazine. At the Worldcon, we celebrate SF in all its aspects, and that most definitely includes the art of SF illustration.

Noreascon 4 plans to present an exhibit of the greatest and most memorable art from the Golden Age of SF illustration, but we'll need your help to do it. We'd like to create an exhibit of 100 or so of the best pieces of SF art from 1950 to 1975. Can you help us select and locate them?

SF art came of age in the early 50s when a new crop of talented artists entered the field at the same time as the SF market exploded. Add to this the introduction of better production techniques which allowed a leap in the reproduction quality of SF cover art, and (arguably) you have a Golden Age of SF illustration. It began in the 50s, and it's still going on today.

Look at the covers of Astounding. During the 40s, there were some striking covers, but starting around 1951 or 52 the covers suddenly become classics. For many of us the art of this period defined SF art. Through the 50s, SF art got better and better and by the mid-60s there were artists at work who are every bit the equals of the best of today's masters.

Think of the artists:

  • John Schoenherr
  • Frank Kelly Freas
  • Jack Gaughan
  • Paul Lehr
  • Ed Emshwiller
  • Richard Powers
  • Gray Morrow
  • Alex Schomberg
  • H.R. Van Dongen
  • Frank Frazetta
  • Tim Kirk
  • Jeff Jones

Masters all — these are the artists that attracted generations of readers and inspired the next generation of writers and artists.

Part of our inspiration for this exhibit is the two brilliant retrospectives we've seen in the past ten years. At Magicon in 1992, Vincent Di Fate assembled a remarkable art retrospective of fifty pieces covering the entire history of SF art, and at Chicon 2000, Phyllis and Alex Eisenstein presented art from their collection and a number of others to show an extraordinary group of pieces (this was the highlight of the entire convention for me).

We'd like to show 100 or so of the most memorable pieces from 1950 to 1975: the classic covers and interiors that you and every fan will remember when you see them. The problem? To find them and to arrange to borrow them! Do you own a piece which might be appropriate for the show which you'd be willing to loan? Send us a picture — it doesn't have to be high resolution or anything, just enough so we can know what piece it is. You don't even have to send a picture — just tell us on what book or magazine cover it was used and we'll find it. Tell us who the artist was, how big it is, and where it was published. You can mail the information to our address or email it (digital photos are fine) to:

Help us make this one of the highlights of the convention — the kind of exhibit where you can be lost in wonder for hours.

All of the pieces of art on this page have been offered to us for inclusion in the exhibit, but we want more! This page shows just a few of the pieces we'd like to be able to show.

— Mark Olson

Emshwiller Have Spacesuit Will Travel Cover

Schoenherr Wings of a Bat

Lehr Red and Purple

Hunter Robot in Rowboat

Jones Nine Princes in Amber

Gaughan Andre Norton pb book cover

SchoenherrGunpowder God