Tom Hall: A Paperback Cover Icon & a Fine Artist
Early Life & Education
There are and have been many artists with the name “Tom Hall” however, only of them was a master cover illustrator. H. Tom Hall’s artwork on romance book covers is legendary. His style is instantly recognizable, refined, yet sensual.
Hall was born in 1932 and grew up in Prospect Park, Pennsylvania. Hall and his wife of 54 years, H. Janet Scott, met at Ridley Park High School, from where they both graduated.
He went on to study at Temple University’s Tyler School of Fine Art and received his BFA from Philadelphia College of Art, now the University of the Arts. Over his the course of his lifetime, he would employ his artistic talents creating commercial work for magazines and book covers, as well as a stellar career in fine arts.
Children’s Books & Magazine Illustrator
While in the U.S. Army, Hall wrote and illustrated a children’s book, The Golden Tomba, published by Knopf. When he returned back to the USA, he became an illustrator of children’s books as well as magazines for many years.
Hall’s magazine work includes Readers Digest, Saturday Evening Post, and National Geographic magazine. While working for National Geographic, he was part of a research team in Honduras and later Peru to gather background for his pre-Columbian illustrations.
Tom Hall Book Cover Phenom
He later went on in his career to illustrate book covers. His first effort was for a reprint of John Steinbeck’s Cup of Gold in 1971. He also created covers for Westerns, such as for Louis L’amour.
In addition, his previous work at National Geographic had opened his world up to creating beautiful covers depiction people from all different cultures.
Hall’s work has graced some of the biggest bestsellers of all time, like Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire.
He also painted covers for some of Colleen McCullough’s works, including The First Man in Rome and The Thorn Birds.
Romance Covers by Tom Hall
Elevating Romance Covers to Fine Art
His romance career blasted off when he painted illustrated the cover of Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’s blockbuster, Shanna. It was one of the first full-cover clinches. The book sold millions in part because the design was so eye-catching. Publishers rushed to have Hall paint covers for their authors.
A Tom Hall cover was a symbol of elite status as he only worked with the top publishing houses. No Tom Hall would be gracing a schlocky Zebra, Pinnacle, or Playboy Press. He worked for the big names: Avon, Warner Books, Ballantine, Bantam, Fawcett (after they were purchased by CBS Publications & Ballantine), and Reader’s Digest.
Death & Legacy
Hall’s career was extraordinarily varied and successful.
He was among the most innovative cover artists of the 1970s. He was called the “leading paperback artist in the country” and “a giant in the industry” by New York art directors. Tom Hall’s book covers are truly works of art.
It was surprising to me that there was no Wikipedia page on this particular artist. Hopefully, some Wiki editor will remedy that soon.
H. Tom Hall passed away in 2010, leaving behind a wife of over 50 years, a loving family, and a legion of paperback book fans who loved his artwork.
- Tom Hall Covers on Goodreads
- Regan Reviews Blog: Tom Hall Covers
- My H. Thomas Hall Pinterest
- H. Thomas Hall Obituary at Philadelphia Inquirer
- H. Thomas Hall Obituary at Legacy.com