Harry Bennett was a renowned artist whose unique style graced the covers of books in various genres, including classic romance novels for publishers such as Pocket Books. His prolific career has left a lasting legacy.
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.
Bennett illustrated many popular paperbacks of the 20th century. He created memorable romance covers for Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, and Jude Deveraux.
Harry Bennett’s Life
Bennett was born May 15, 1919, in South Salem, NY. He lived for forty years in Ridgefield, CT, his wife’s hometown.
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 the 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, Robert Maguire, Elaine Duillo, and many other artists of his time, Bennett painted covers for pulp fiction works for years. He would become 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’s Romance Career
Harry Bennett had a long career creating covers for Simon and Schuster, particularly their Pocket Books division. He also illustrated covers for book producer Richard Gallen, the Tapestry Historical romance line, and Silhouette category romances.
Bennett also painted covers for Avon and other 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.
His daughter, son, and wife of 67 years survived him. His legacy continues on the covers of many beautiful books.
Harry Bennett Covers
- Ridgefield Press: Harry Bennett Obituary
- Nature Geezer
- Killer Covers of the Week
- My Pinterest Page for Harry Bennett