Cover Artists

Covers of the Week #19

Elaine Duillo

Elaine Duillo was the undisputed “Queen of Historical Romance” covers. She was a giant in the competitive field of pulp fiction artwork, where women were few and far between. Duillo painted hundreds of book covers, was an inductee of the Illustrators Hall of fame, and was the matriarch of a talented artistic family. She passed away on July 30, 2021, at the age of 93.

This amazing cover artist influenced generations of illustrators, revolutionized romance cover art, and helped give rise to the pop culture phenom Fabio. Pictured is one of Elaine’s most-loved covers, Defy Not the Heart, and it is also my all-time favorite cover. Although she created many gorgeous stepbacks, or “tip-ins,” as those in the industry called them, Duillo was not a fan. She believed the eye-catching covers she designed for romance novels were meant to be seen, not hidden away. Yes, to that! I say. Those gorgeous jackets should be displayed proudly, not covered like some dirty secret!

We at Sweet Savage Flame lament her passing. Our thoughts and sympathy are with her family. We celebrate Elaine Duillo’s life as she brought much joy and beauty to countless tens of millions of readers worldwide.

Here is a small sampling of my favorite romance covers painted by the late, great Elaine Duillo for this week of Monday, August 16 – Sunday, August 22, 2021.

This Side of Heaven, Katherine Robards, Dell, 1991, (Interior stepback)

5 replies »

  1. Truly THE standard setter for historical romance illustration. I had the great pleasure of speaking with her on a few occasions, and oh the stories she had to tell. Her talent is beyond compare.

    • You’re so fortunate to have gotten to speak with the “Queen” herself! The closest I’ve gotten to her is reading a long article in Illustration magazine, which has been a valuable source of information. There really was no one like her in romance. Well, except for her daughter Melissa, who lamentably has left the field. Although now she’d doing what she loves and is passionate about: fine art and portraits.

  2. Elaine Duillo eye-catching covers drew me to romance like no other. I’ll never forget when i first saw Johanna Lindsey’s Warrior’s Woman. That cover dazzled; it was pure eye-candy!

    You’re so fortunate to have met with Elaine. She must have had great stories to tell! The closest I’ve gotten to her in reading an article from Illustration magazine. One thing I learned is that she hated stepbacks. She was proud of her work and enjoyed showing it off!

    • Although there are some very talented cover artists today, I am an old-school girl at heart, and will always prefer painted covers to digital images. One of my favorite cover artists who successfully transitioned from painted to digital is Victor Gadino. His style is unique but you can see the Duillo influence. I instantly recognize his artwork by his emphasis on musculature and fine attention to detail, especially in the fabrics. We have a page dedicated to his art, and I also highlighted his work in a blog post a while back.

      Duillo’s daughter Melissa was almost a match for her mother, but she left the field of book illustrations for fine art and portraits.

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