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, October 19, 2011

Robert Maguire

Robert Maguire was one of the leading illustrators of American paperback, producing over 600 covers over a period of fifty years from 1950. Many fans consider him the best crime noir artist of his era, his work gracing the cover of pulp magazines Hollywood Detective and Manhunt and books with titles like My Gun, Her Body, I'll Kill You Next, Tall, Dark and Dead and Kiss for a Killer. Hardboiled writers like Bruno Fischer, Hal Ellson, David Goodis, Richard S. Prather, Jack Webb and Day Keene became best-sellers in the 1950s and 1960s, in part thanks to Maguire's eye-catching covers, the majority of them featuring iconic examples of 'good girl art'.

Robert A. Maguire was born on 3 August 1921, the son of a draftsman architect, and attended Duke University, although his education was interrupted by World War II. Released from service with the 88th Infantry, Maguire began studying under Frank Reilly at the Art Students League in New York where two of his contemporaries were Clark Hulings and James Bama, all three artists graduating in 1949.

Maguire found immediate success painting covers for Trojan Publications's line of pulp magazines. Before long he was working for the burgeoning paperback market, over the next few decades producing covers for almost every mainstream publishing company in New York: Pocket Books, Dell, Ace Books, Harper, Avon Books, Silhouette, Ballantine, Pyramid, Bantam, Lion, Berkeley, Beacon and Monarch. During a lull in the paperback market in the 1960s, he worked for Norcross Greeting Card Company painting Christmas scenes and other wholesome subjects...  not a gun or a dame in sight! A chance meeting with Walter Papp (a pulp illustrator who had graduated to book covers) led him back to paperback cover art.

Maguire usually used photo-reference for his covers, posing female models as femmes fatale, whilst often taking the male roles himself; a single trip to shoot three or four rolls of film provided him with enough reference for horses for several years. With no time to read the books, he relied on a brief from the publisher's art director, which usually involved little more than the girls' hair colour and how sensual they wanted the cover. Maguire would then produce five or six sketches, then a colour rough of the chosen image before painting the finished cover, usually in oils.

In the 1970s and 1980s, with the type of hardboiled novels he had illustrated now consigned to history, Maguire turned to other genres, painting covers for romances, westerns and science fiction, as well as best-sellers by the likes of John Irving and Herman Wouk. He quit painting covers around 1999, claiming that publishers now wanted paintings that looked like photographs and the choice of images was ruled over by salesmen and second rate art directors, offering nothing of interest creatively.

Robert Maguire was married twice, first to a model, whom he subsequently divorced; his second marriage, to Janice Maguire, lasted over twenty years. He died on 26 February 2005. A study of his work, Dames, Dolls and Gun Molls by Jim Silke, was published in 2009.

Examples of Robert Maguire's cover art can be found for sale at the Illustration Art Gallery.

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