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 creating 1,200 book covers for almost every genre, approximately 40 movie posters, hundreds of magazine illustrations, portraits, and more.
McGinnis has been creating some of the most distinguished paperback book covers for over five decades. He started with pulpy detective fiction like Perry Mason and Mike Shayne mysteries. He also helped to establish the femme fatale look for Saturday Evening Post.
Robert McGinnis: Pulp, Mysteries and Movie Posters
The paperback was introduced in 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 paperbacks, they appealed to a more pulp/comic-book-oriented market.
McGinnis’s art was tailor-made for these books, especially the hardboiled mysteries.
He started with covers for characters Mike Shane, Perry Mason, and Carter Brown. Then he advanced to big-name spy thrillers like Ian Fleming’s James Bond series.
His movie posters were exciting and vivid, like those for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
In addition, McGinnis designed covers for many other films, such as 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 Bob McGinnis had a talent for depicting the feminine form most erotically (as well as males).
He started in Gothic romances for Avon. Soon after, he became the first official bodice ripper illustrator when Avon published Kathleen E. Woodiwiss‘ The Flame and the Flower and, later, The Wolf and the Dove.
These were often controversial or shocking. McGinnis famously created revolutionary “naked man” covers for Johanna Lindsey’s books. Before McGinnis made the cover for 1980’s Fires of Winter, most clinch poses focused on the heroine’s busty figure, although they were nowhere as evocative or sensual as McGinnis’ work.
Soon other talented, former pulp artists, such as Elaine Duillo, would illustrate covers for these sensual historicals–as bodice rippers were called initially.
Later McGinnis 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. Without the influence of Robert McGinnis, Romance covers wouldn’t be the same.
Robert McGinnis’ 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.
McGinnis has worked almost exclusively in Tempera paints.
Robert McGinnis Romance Covers
- The Art of Robert Mcginnis Review
- Robert McGinnis Official Site
- My Robert McGinnis Pinterest
- Robert McGinnis Covers on Goodreads
- Vanity Fair