This original artwork was one of three covers created for a number of 1940s pulp magazines published by a British company. The series was called the ‘Headline series’ because each story was built around a newspaper headline-- to be found sketchily depicted at the bottom left hand corner of each cover. The other two pieces of artwork were for Road to Nowhere and Road to Revenge—both stories by someone called Max Foster. There seem to have been at least 20 tales in this particular series.
In the ultimately futile three hundred year old debate that has raged regarding ‘high ‘ and ‘ low art’, such ‘ low’ art as these pulp fiction covers, is often derided for the poor quality of the draughtsmanship, whereas the simple truth is that for pure draughtsmanship, as opposed to piercing originality or ‘ vision’, this art is often more impressive than that of many ‘ high’ artists. Next time you visit Tate Britain wander around the many rooms devoted to Turner and study the groups of figures that inhabit the foregrounds of his huge oil landscapes. You might be surprised at how inept our greatest painter could be at depicting the human figure.
Then return to the work of ‘low’ book illustrators and marvel at how well most of them could draw. [RMH]