Illustration Art Gallery

The very best from the wide, sometimes overlooked, world of illustration art, including original artwork for book illustrations and covers, comic books and comic strips, graphic novels, magazines, film animation cels, newspaper strips, poster art, album covers, plus superb fine art reproductions and high quality art prints.

Our gallery brings together artists from all over the world and from many backgrounds, including fantasy, horror, romance, science fiction, education, sport, history, nature, technology, humour, glamour, architecture, film & tv, whimsy, even political satire and caricature.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jordi Penalva

Jordi Penalva was one of the leading for Fleetway's War and Battle picture libraries in the 1960s and, as such, featured heavily when David Roach and I compiled The War Libraries index some years ago. In the seven years between 1963 and 1969 he provided about 75 covers for each title, marked by their quality. In The Art of War, David describes Penalva's work as combining "a wonderful, gritty sense of the dramatic with a textural, highly accomplished painting ability." His were the most interesting in creating the heroic ideal, "his heroes ruggedly handsome soldiers often striking dramatic poses, usually surrounded by blazing guns, smoke, explosions and vast swathes of colour."

Penalva had, prior to that, been the regular cover artist for Cowboy Picture Library where he debuted in early 1958. In total he painted 146 covers for the library, including covers for 44 of the 48 issues that appeared in 1961. In the early years he also provided covers for the weekly Sun comic as well as Thriller Picture Library and Lone Rider Picture Library. Some of his most dramatic covers appeared on the 'Front Line' series of the Fleetway Super Library series.

Penalva was born in Barcelona in 1927, the younger brother of Antonio Bosch Peñalva, who was also a notable artist, providing covers for many issues of Schoolgirls Picture Library and June & School Friend Picture Library). His full name was Jordi Bosch Peñalva, the Spanish tradition being to retain the mother's surname as well as his father's family name. However, as his older brother signed his work 'Bosch Penalva', Jordi used his mother's maiden name when signing his work.

Penalva was educated at the Escola d'Arts Aplicades i d'Ofocos Artostocs de Barcelona (School of Arts and Artistic Trades), popularly known as the Esola de la Llotja (School Market), before attending the Escuela de artes y Oficio de Barcelona (School of Arts and Trades). He subsequently furthered his studies of anatomy at the Fomento de las Artes Decoratives and, completing his education, was a free student at the Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes de Sant Jordi (School of Fine Arts), studying under painter Ernesto Santasusagna. He also studied architecture and was employed briefly in the architectural section of the Generalitat, the Catalan government.

He also began producing illustrations in the late 1940s for publishers Janés and Juventu, and, more memorably, producing covers for Lars and Bruguera for books by P. C. Wren and Zane Grey. One of his contemporaries, Jorge Longarón, recalls that even this early work showed a quality beyond Penalva's years, comparible to artists Riera Rojas and Juan Palet and even the leading American artists whose work appeared in Collier's and the Saturday Evening Post.

Around this time, Penalva would have been called up for military service and, in 1952, he moved briefly to Brazil. Returning to Spain he began illustrating covers for magazines and books. Through the Belgian agency A.L.I. and the Spanish-British agency Bardon, he began working for Fleetway, producing over 300 covers, not only for their various pocket libraries but also weekly comics like Hurricane.

In the mid-1960s, Penalva also began working for D. C. Thomson's rival Commando pocket library and over the next decade produced 180 covers, averaging just over one a fortnight between 1969 and 1974. Penalva was also supplying illustrations and cover for Scandinavian magazines—notably for Semic's newspaper strip reprints of The Saint, James Bond, Modesty Blaise and others—and for the German publisher Bastei.

Penalva, like many other Spanish artists, could also be found contributing to James Warren's magazines, providing covers for Eerie, Vampirella, 1984 and The Rook in 1978-82—his cover for Eerie 96 was voted the best cover of 1978. During the same period he was painting covers for DAW Books and Playboy Press.

In the late-1970s to mid-1980s he was also painting covers for Josep Toutain's magazine 1984 (later Zona 84), Comix Internacional and Thriller in his native Spain as well as comics from other publishers, including Blue Jeans, Super Bumerang and Kung-Fu.

Subsequently, Penalva was able to concentrate on painting, in oils, watercolours and acrylics, with occasional more commercial diversions, such as producing paintings for commemorative plates, providing background paintings for the Spanish animated movie Katy, Kiki y Koko (1988)—he had previously been involved as a layout artist on an earlier Spanish animated film El mago de los sueños (1966)—and occasional returns to painting book covers, such as the Circle of Magic series by Debra Doyle & James D. Macdonald, and illustrations for a C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa childrens' book (based on the TV series), in the 1990s.

Examples of Penalva's work can be found for sale here.


  1. Does Mr. Penalva commission for book cover art? I have a frontier western series (Outdrew) I must discuss with him.
    Thank you,
    Barbara Teter, PhD, MPH

  2. If he's still alive at nearly 90, I imagine he's retired. Unfortunately, I've no contact details for him.