Tuesday, January 21, 2020

MORT KUNSTLER - The Godfather of Pulp Fiction Illustrators

The Godfather of Pulp Fiction Illustrators
Edited by Robert Deis & Wyatt Doyle
# new texture
131 pgs.

After thoroughly enjoying this latest title from Men’s Adventure Magazines (MAMS) historians Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle, we logged on to Wikipedia to get a more complete history on artist Mort Kunstler and his amazing career.
“Mort Kunstler (born August 28, 1927) is an American artist known for his illustrative paintings of historical events, especially of the American Civil War. He was a child prodigy, who, with encouragement from his parents, became a skilled artist by the time he was twelve.  

K√ľnstler began his career in the 1950s as a freelance artist, illustrating paperback book covers and men's adventure magazines. In 1965 he was commissioned by National Geographic to create what became his first historic painting. He also created posters for movies such as The Poseidon Adventure and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. And by the 1970s he was painting covers for Newsweek, Reader's Digest, and other magazines, with the bulk of his work during that period in advertising art.”
Of course the entry has a whole lot more about this incredibly talent artist and we hope you’ll check it out after reading this review. As ever, when possible, editors Deis and Doyle prefer to have their subjects narrate their own personal experiences and Kunstler’s reminiscence here is priceless. He discusses coming into the illustration game long after the original pulps had died out and magazine art was quickly being replaced by photographs. It was more or less the twilight of American illustrations except for one particular genre, the MAMS. It was here, among those wild and garishly painted covers that Kunstler launched his career.

The book is filled with dozens of absolutely beautiful reproductions of those covers. In those images are all the iconic trappings of the MAMS. Sweaty heroic men battling enemy armies, savage beasts and deadly femme fatales. The villains are larger than life, the woman dream-like fantasies and the scenes of nature simply spectacular. Kunstler’s authentic detailing is obvious in his aircrafts, boats, military uniforms etc. etc. It is this attention to the real world artifacts that allows the exaggerated elements of his work to grab the viewer so strongly. His colors of bold when necessary, subtle when evoking a specific mood and his composition always has the action up front and center.

This volume also contains a superb index of all the MAMS covers Kunstler created. The list is nothing short of amazing. One of the most endearing elements of the original classic pulps was the artwork and artists like Mort Kunstler carried on that tradition by providing MAMS with some of the finest art ever produced commercially. If you love pulp art, this book should be in your collection.

(Below two of his stunning movie posters.)




Evan Lewis said...

He was great in those sweat mags, but did he ever do work for a genuine pulp?

Robert Deis (aka "SubtropicBob") said...

Evan - Many artists who worked for the pre-1950s pulp magazines went on to do cover and interior artwork for men's adventure magazines. Mort Kunstler began his career doing artwork for men's adventure magazines, which are descendants of the pulps and full of what are now usually referred to as pulp fiction stories. One of the writers whose men's adventure mag stories Mort did artwork for was Mario Mario Puzo, author of THE GODFATHER. Those facts are part of the genesis of the book's title, which is borrowed from a showing of Mort men's adventure artwork at the Heckscher Museum of Art in New York. For more info, see the post on my blog at this link -> http://www.menspulpmags.com/2020/01/mort-kunstler-godfather-of-pulp-fiction.html.

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