lesbian pulp and the lavender universe: The Art of Lesbian Pulp

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Art of Lesbian Pulp

Dime pulp magazines, the predecessors of the pulp paperback

Before pulp paperbacks there were the 10 cents pulp magazines, usually westerns, action and detective mystery stories. As the genre developed so did the art. Publishers and artists gradually started to realize that the bolder use of primary colors- the blues, yellows and reds made the images pop out more and feel more immediate. Instead of a book cover illustrating what had already happened, the bright colors would now engage you as if you were witnessing a scene in the present moment, as if it was taking place right in front of you.

Artist unknown
On the cover of the lesbian pulp book Appointment in Paris, a young American looks directly into the readers' eyes; you sense her fear and possibly a secret. She invites you to enter through the doorway with her to find out what mystery she holds. Her flushed red cheeks and lips make her appear more alive. The lush use of colors against a darker background brings her ever so closer to you. Her secret? Well what's a girl to do if you send her off to Paris for the summer?

The book jacket of Appointment in Paris is a lovely example of Good Girl Art also known as GGA. Good Girl Art is not art about a 'good girl' (far from it). Rather it is a painting of a woman, usually a sexy attractive woman (regardless of the storyline) that is done well. It's ‘girl art’ that is good.

Artwork by Robert McGinnis

The quality of the artwork for these 1950s books varied but several publishers employed tremendous talent. Most of the artists did this work while they were waiting for their big break into the world of fine art, and overall the cover illustrations were not highly valued at the time by the artists or the publishing houses. It is estimated that 90% were destroyed.

Recently, at an impressive exhibit and lecture at New York's Society of Illustrators, Robert Lesser, a pulp art collector confided in the audience that paintings he now owns valued at $30,000 were purchased not so many years ago for as little as $2,500.

Artwork by James Meese

One of the nicest covers I've seen is the hard to find lesbian pulpfiction, ‘The Girls in 3B’ (the title alone is terrific, isn't it?). Its artist James Meese is best known for his pulp fiction paperback cover art and painterly approach especially in the subtleties of skin and facial tones. During the 1950s he created many detective and crime pulp covers for Mickey Spillane and Agatha Christie books.

More by James Meese, note the execution of skin tones;
the subtleties and the translucency.

What's wonderful about these vintage books is the type of cover art that was used compared to today's book market. Miniature paintings that tell a complete story similar to the old movie posters before photography became the norm. If you want to own an original pulp paperback check out my online bookstore www.lavenderpulp.com

Artwork has initials 'SMZ'

1 comment:

  1. Book cover art is entertaining, and I love your focus here. Great start to a great blog!


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