Robert McGinnis

Robert McGinnis

Robert McGinnis, Transformative Romance Cover Art

una DULCE enemistad mcginnis
Una dulce enemistad, Spanish language edition of Johanna Lindsey’s A Gentle Feuding

A Master Artist

Robert McGinnis is a legendary artist known for his wide variety of works. Along with H. Tom Hall, and Elaine Duillo, he forms what many consider to be the three premier book illustrators of the mid-20th century pulp revolution.

Robert McGinnis Murder Takes a Holiday, Saturday Evening Post
Murder Takes a Holiday, Saturday Evening Post

Born in 1926, McGinnis has spent over 70 years creating 1,200 book covers for almost every genre, approximately 40 movie posters, hundreds of magazine illustrations, portraits, and more.

McGinnis has been creating some of the most distinguished paperback book covers for over five decades. He started with pulpy detective fiction like Perry Mason and Mike Shayne mysteries. He also helped to establish the femme fatale look for Saturday Evening Post.

McGinnis Beauty is the Prize, Saturday Evening Post
Beauty is the Prize, Saturday Evening Post

Robert McGinnis: Pulp, Mysteries and Movie Posters

The paperback was introduced in the US by Pocket Books in 1939. At first, publishers treated the illustrations as they would mini hardcovers. When houses like Dell and Fawcett began producing paperbacks, they appealed to a more pulp/comic-book-oriented market.

McGinnis’s art was tailor-made for these books, especially the hardboiled mysteries.

He started with covers for characters Mike Shane, Perry Mason, and Carter Brown. Then he advanced to big-name spy thrillers like Ian Fleming’s James Bond series.

mike mcshane murder takes a holliday

His movie posters were exciting and vivid, like those for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

breakfast at tiffany's
Movie Poster for Breakfast at Tiffany’s

In addition, McGinnis designed covers for many other films, such as James Bond films and Blacksploitation flicks.

robert mcginnis cotton comes to harlem 1970
Robert McGinnis’s movie poster for Cotton Comes to Harlem, 1970

Robert McGinnis, Romance Cover Artist Pioneer

Eventually, McGinnis entered the Romance genre as an illustrator. It was a logical choice, as Bob McGinnis had a talent for depicting the feminine form most erotically (as well as males).

He started in Gothic romances for Avon. Soon after, he became the first official bodice ripper illustrator when Avon published Kathleen E. Woodiwiss‘ The Flame and the Flower and, later, The Wolf and the Dove.

thewolfandthedove mcginnis
The Wolf and the Dove, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Avon 1974

These were often controversial or shocking. McGinnis famously created revolutionary “naked man” covers for Johanna Lindsey’s books. Before McGinnis made the cover for 1980’s Fires of Winter, most clinch poses focused on the heroine’s busty figure, although they were nowhere as evocative or sensual as McGinnis’ work.

fires of winter mcginnis
Original artwork for Fires of Winter from The Art of Robert McGinnis

Soon other talented, former pulp artists, such as Elaine Duillo, would illustrate covers for these sensual historicals–as bodice rippers were called initially.

Later McGinnis would gain even more notoriety for the covers of A Gentle Feuding and, more famously, Tender Is the Storm.

tender is the storm mcginnis
From The Art of Robert McGinnis, Tender Is the Storm, Johanna Lindsey, Avon, 1985

McGinnis also illustrated covers for Patricia Hagan, Laura Parker, Bertrice Small, and many other authors. Without the influence of Robert McGinnis, Romance covers wouldn’t be the same.

McGinnisBack Cover of Love Wild and Fair by Bertrice Small, Avon
Back Cover of Love Wild and Fair by Bertrice Small, Avon, 1978


Robert McGinnis’ artwork has been hailed for its progressive sensual reverence of the female form.

Robert McGinnis Rocco's Niece
Rocco’s Niece, Adrian Marsh, Avon, 1971

“The McGinnis Woman is a mix of a Greek goddess and man-eating Ursula Andress. While today she might be interpreted as a sex object or adornment, she was conceived, in her day, to represent the empowered woman. The McGinnis Woman possesses a whirling narrative force all her own, a perfumed cyclone of sexuality, savvy, mystery, and danger. She also sells books—lots and lots of books.”

(Source: Vanity Fair)

Later in his life, he left the field of book illustration to focus on his fine artwork and paintings.

cat with no name mcginnis
Cat With No Name

McGinnis has worked almost exclusively in Tempera paints.

Robert McGinnis Romance Covers

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