A Book Cover Legend
Harry Bennett was an artist whose career spanned decades, multiple genres, and many publishers. His dazzling style of swirls and whorls of flowing hair may be especially familiar to fans of Pocket Books‘ early historical romances. He created memorable covers for Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, and Jude Deveraux.
Bennett was born May 15, 1919, in South Salem, NY. He lived for forty years in Ridgefield, CT, the hometown of his wife.
Harry Bennett Life
Bennett was a commercial artist before enlisting in the Army in 1940. He fought bravely in World War II, retiring as a Major and winning the Bronze Star. After Bennett returned home from war, Harry Bennett married Margaret Shean in 1945. They had a daughter and three sons.
Career and Legacy
At the recommendation of his wife, he went to art school. He attended The Art Institute of Chicago and The American Academy of Art Chicago for two years before working again as a commercial artist, designing magazine advertisements.
Like Robert McGinnis, Bennett painted covers for pulp fiction works for many years, becoming a giant in the book cover illustration industry.
Bennett illustrated the first paperback edition of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. In total, he designed over 1,000 book covers.
Bennett Romance Covers
Harry Bennett had a long career creating covers for Simon and Schuster, particularly their Pocket Books division. He also illustrated covers for the Richard Gallen series, the Tapestry Historical romance line, and Silhouette books. He also painted covers for Avon and other big romance publishers.
Although his work inspired many other artists, Bennett’s has often been confused with that of H. Tom Hall. While their styles are similar, a keen eye needs only to look at the faces of the male models to spot the difference. Of his style, Bennet’s son Tom said:
My father had a great facility with mediums, and he experimented and adapted to new trends with different techniques. His favorite medium above all, in both his painting and illustration, was oil. He also worked extensively in egg tempera, inks, and various combinations of tempera and oil. In the 1950s and early ’60s he worked a great deal in water-based media like gouache. Later, he would occasionally work in acrylic. But late in his career, it was almost exclusively oil with a black oil medium.TOM BENNETT, KILLER COVERS OF THE WEEK
Bennett: Retirement and Death
In 1986, Bennett retired from professional work to paint and teach.
On November 29, 2012, Harry Bennett passed away from pneumonia at the age of 93, survived by his daughter and his wife of 67 years. His legacy continues on the covers of many beautiful books.
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