Max Ginsburg is an artist who has reinvented himself over many decades, creating socially relevant art. Fortunately for romance fans, he is also an illustrator of beautiful and iconic covers.
An Artist with a Social Conscience
Max Ginsburg is an artist known for his social relevance and ability to capture the human form in a most sensitive manner.
As a romance cover illustrator, he stands among the cream of the crop, with impeccable artistry in his images. His career spans many decades, and Ginsburg has reinvented himself time and time again as an artist, an illustrator for book covers, a commercial painter, a teacher, and a voice for change.
Max Ginsburg was born in France in 1931 to American parents. After the family moved back to the United States, he was raised in New York from an early age.
Growing up during the Great Depression and World War II had a profound impact on young Ginsburg, shaping his perspective on the world and influencing his artistic development. Art would be a means of visually connecting with other human beings on an emotional level to convey profound social meaning.
As his father was a painter, Ginsburg was surrounded by paints and canvases all his life. He first picked up a painting brush at age 2.
But his path as an artist began in earnest during his early teens. Ginsburg would enter art school in the 1950s. In 1953, Ginsburg graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor in Fine Arts. He received his Masters Degree in 1963 from City University of New York.
Ethos and Painting Technique
Ginsburg has a fine eye for both quotidian scenes that explore the depths of emotion people can experience. His ability to paint diverse subjects from every walk of life and all Earthly heritages and bring out the innate vulnerability in each one underscores his sensitive empathy for the human condition.
It would be fair to categorize his art style as “contemporary realism.”
Of his fine art painting style, Max Ginsburg has said:
“My medium is oils and my painting process is Alla Prima, which is painting directly, without a preliminary drawing, on the canvas. I develop the painting directly from life wet on wet. I first paint larger forms of shapes, darks and lights and color. Then I develop the smaller forms. I am constantly observing the proportions and relationships of one form to another. As the painting develops areas I painted earlier have to be altered because the relationships are constantly changing. A painting is like life, you have to make changes and adjust.”MAX GINSBURG, SEATTLE REFINED
Book Cover Illustrator
He designed hundreds of covers, ranging from works like John Knowles’s A Separate Piece to Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry to Jennifer Wilde’s Love Me, Marietta.
Ginsburg famously painted many covers for Lisa Kleypas when she started to write for Avon. His work was so influential that from the mid-1990s to the 21st century, many Avon cover artists were influenced by Ginsburg’s soft, dreamy style that differed from the more hyperrealistic covers by Elaine Duillo or Victor Gadino.
Over his long career, Ginsburg created 800 or more covers for publishers such as Bantam, Harlequin, Avon, and Dell.
Max Ginsburg’s Process for Creating Romance Covers
Ginsburg describes the development process for romance book illustration on his webpage dedicated to his commercial artwork. Like most cover artists of the time, he would get the basic story and character information from the art director.
After that, he would prepare for the photo shoot, arranging the costumes and sets and seeking out models. During his career in cover art design, Ginsburg worked primarily with two photographers, the legendary Bob Osonitch and Michel Legrou.
During the early years of creating cover art for books, all photography was in black and white, produced on 2 1/4″ slides. Ginsburg had to project the images onto paper, an illustration board, or canvas and then trace the proportions in pencil. He would make an oil sketch in color. This would be the concept layout that he show the art director for approval.
Then, Ginsburg would use several enlarged prints from the chosen pose to start painting. But by the mid-1980s, the photos came in color, so only one basic print was needed.
Finally, he would create the actual artwork for the cover. First, he used sepia tones to block in the darker sections, painting thicker areas using only linseed oil as a thinner.
When almost finished rendering the finer details, he switched from larger bristle brushes to smaller sables. When painting live models, many of the ancient master painters—from Rembrandt to Sargent—as well as later painters like Norman Rockwell—used this exact method.
After the artwork dried, Ginsburg applied a retouch varnish to keep the darker tones vivid and vibrant.
Max Ginsburg Today
A quality that is so refreshing about Max Ginsburg is he does not shy away from his past career as a romance cover artist, as many prominent fine art painters have. Nor should he. Like any master, Ginsburg has always strived for the highest quality in his creations. And he has achieved nothing less.
In researching Ginsburg’s career, I was surprised that, despite the vast amount sites discussing or displaying his artwork, there was no Wikipedia page for him. It goes to show the site is not a comprehensive source for all significant information if such a glaring omission exists!
For the last 20 years, he has been producing magnificent paintings that are relevant to the modern age in which we live.
Max Ginsburg’s exquisite artwork is featured on his two websites, and certain pieces are available for sale for you discerning collectors.
Ginsburg is still extremely active as a painter. Currently, he teaches online art classes and works at his studio in Long Island City, NY.
Max Ginsburg lives in Montclair, New Jersey.
Max Ginsburg Covers
- Max Ginsburg Official Website
- Max Ginsburg Illustrations/Romance
- Art Renewal.org Talks Ginsburg
- My Max Ginsburg Pinterest
- Ginsburg Covers on Goodreads
- Cavalier Galleries Max Ginsburg Biography
- In the Studio by Allison Malafronte
- Seattle Refined: Artist of the Week