Elaine Duillo

elaine duillo
Elaine Duillo

The Queen of Romance Illustrations

Early Life and Family

Hailing from Queens, New York, Elaine Duillo was the undisputed Queen of romance covers. Born in 1928, Duillo was also the matriarch of a talented artistic family. She was married to noted pulp artist John Duillo.

Her daughter Melissa Duillo-Gallo also created romance covers that were influenced by Elaine’s style.

Like Harry Bennett and Robert McGinnis, she had her start in pulp fiction before moving on to Gothics and romance. She was a giant in the competitive field of pulp artwork, where women were few and far between.

the queer frenzy

Duillo painted hundreds of book covers. She was an inductee of the prestigious Illustrators Hall of fame.

Elaine Duillo the Artist

Elaine Duillo was an amazing artist who influenced generations of illustrators. She revolutionized romance cover art. Duillo also helped give rise to the pop culture phenom Fabio.

queer frennzy
A Moment In TimeBertrice SmallBallantine 1991

Although she created many gorgeous stepbacks–“tip-ins,” as those in the industry called them–Duillo was not a fan. She believed the eye-catching covers she designed were meant to be seen, not hidden away. Yes, to that! I say. Display those gorgeous illustrations displayed proudly!

Back in the day, an Elaine cover guaranteed you were reading a juicy bodice ripper. One only has to look at the step-back cover of Brenda Joyce’s The Conqueror. Here, the red-haired heroine kneels at Fabio’s feet, clasping his thighs, while a two-headed flail hangs from his belt as he grips his long sword. The scene is crowned to perfection with a stallion rearing in the background. This painting shows Duillo’s cheeky nature on full display.

Step-back interior of The Conqueror, Brenda Joyce, Dell, 1990

Duillo had a great rapport with the models who posed for the photographs she would then transform into acrylic-based paintings. She was also often close friends with the authors, such as the late Bertrice Small and Janelle Taylor.

Wild JasmineBertrice SmallBallantine 1992

Elaine Duillo Legacy

Duillo understood and appreciated the nature of the campy, pulpy books her artwork graced and it shows she had a blast working on them.

Her paintings graced the covers of so many romance icons: Johanna Lindsey, Bertrice SmallRebecca BrandewyneValerie Sherwood, Shirlee BusbeeJennifer WildeJanelle Taylor, and many more.

Sadly, she passed away on July 30, 2021, at the age of 93.

manof my dreams duillo
Interior of Man of My Dreams, Johanna Lindsey, Avon 1992

Elaine Duillo Covers

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