Robert McGinnis, Transformative Romance Cover Art
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.
Born in 1926, McGinnis has spent over 70 years of his life creating 1200 book covers for almost every genre, approximately 40 movie posters, hundreds of magazine illustrations, portraits, and more. He has worked almost exclusively in Tempera paints.
The paperback was introduced into 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 their paperbacks they appealed to a more pulp/comic-book-oriented market. McGinnis’s art was tailor-made for these kinds of books, especially the hardboiled mysteries.
He started with covers for characters Mike Shane, Perry Mason, and Carter Brown, then grew into spy thrillers, like James Bond. HIs movie posters were exciting and vivid, such as the ones for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” various James Bond films, and Blacksploitation flicks.
Robert McGinnis, Romance Cover Artist Pioneer
Eventually, McGinnis entered the Romance genre as an illustrator.
It was a logical choice, as McGinnis had a talent for depicting the feminine form in a most erotic fashion (as well as males). He started in Gothic romances. Soon after that, Robert McGinnis became the first official bodice ripper illustrator when Avon published Kathleen E. Woodiwiss‘ The Flame and the Flower.
Then he famously went on to create revolutionary “naked man” covers for Johanna Lindsey’s books. These were often controversial or shocking. Before McGinnis created the cover for Fires of Winter, most clinch poses focused on the heroine’s busty figure. Later he would gain even more notoriety for the covers of A Gentle Feuding and more famously, Tender Is the Storm.
McGinnis also illustrated covers for Patricia Hagan, Laura Parker, Bertrice Small, and many other authors. He is a legend in the romance genre.
His artwork has been hailed for its progressive sensual reverence of the female form.
“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.