February 3 marks birthday of Robert McGinnis, an American pulp icon and artist known for his illustrations of more than 1,200 paperback book covers and more than 40 movie posters.
Robert, who was born on this day in 1926 in Cincinnati, is not a celebrity and much of the public doesn’t know him. But McGinnis is among the small group of artists who defined how America saw itself in the 50s and 60 through his book cover illustrations, movie posters, and his prolific, award-winning artwork which spans more than six decades.
Like many people of his generation, McGinnis discovered his vocation largely by accident. After finishing school, he became an apprentice at Walt Disney Studios, and then studied fine art at Ohio State University.
After wartime service in the Merchant Marine he entered advertising and a chance meeting with Mitchell Hooks in 1958 led him to be introduced to Dell Publishing began a career drawing a variety of paperback covers for books written by such authors as Donald Westlake (writing as Richard Stark), Edward S. Aarons, Erle Stanley Gardner, Richard S. Prather, and the Michael Shayne and Carter Brown series.
From there, his reputation crossed over to the movie world and the result was a stunning body of work including poster illustration for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Barbarella, and several James Bond and Matt Helm films. McGinnis’s attention to detail was such that his reputation when he was assigned to do the artwork for Arabesque he requested Sophia Loren’s tiger stripe dress be sent for him for a model to wear so he could get the right appearance.
In 1985 McGinnis was awarded the title of “Romantic Artist of the Year” by Romantic Times magazine for his many romance novel paperback covers. Since 2004, McGinnis has created some of the cover illustrations for the Hard Case Crime paperback series.
In recognition of his excellent paintings, in 1993 he was elected to the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame and joined the likes of Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, Winslow Homer, Robert Peak, Frederic Remington and Frank McCarthy.
We would like to honor the lifetime achievements of Robert McGinnis and his contributions to pulp culture by remembering and sharing some of his cover and movie poster works. What comes here is a collection of what many have considered his best works.
Note: The most notable work of the artist has been collected The Art of Robert E. McGinnis by Titan Books.