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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pulp illustration artist Peter Poulton – an update on his bio and his work (Part 2)…


In my previous post, I explained how a cover painting on the January 1965 issue of MAN TO MAN magazine led me on a hunt for information about the now nearly-forgotten pulp illustration artist Peter Poulton.

Initially, almost all I knew about Poulton was that he had done cover paintings for a few men’s adventure magazines in the 1950s, including as AMERICAN MANHOOD, MR. AMERICA and (I believe) MAN TO MAN.

I couldn’t find any websites about him or any online biographies.

The first bio I found was in Robert Weinberg’s pioneering reference book BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY ARTISTS (1988).

But it was sparse.

It didn’t include birth and death dates and only mentioned Poulton’s work for science fiction magazines, noting that nearly all of them were interior illustrations.

After searching around in Amazon.com, I bought Jane Frank’s awesome book SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY ARTISTS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY: A BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY (2009), which provides more in-depth bios of many Twentieth Century illustration artists.

Frank is one of the premier authorities on vintage science fiction, fantasy and horror artwork in the world.

Her Wow-Art gallery website is unique and mind-blowing.

Her BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY (one of a series of books she has published about art and artists) is pricey but worth it for serious fans of vintage illustration.

The bio of Poulton in Frank’s book gave me several key facts I’d been seeking, including that he was an American who was born in 1914 in Ohio, died at age 58 in 1972 and was buried at the Long Island National Cemetery (where he is listed as Peter Nelson Poulton.)

Frank’s bio says:

POULTON, PETER
  
(March 24, 1914-May 2, 1972) American artist. Born Nelson Poulton, in Barnesville, Ohio, and known variously as N. Peter, and Peter N. Poulton, the artist was one of many who entered the science fiction field during the boom years of the early 1950s and he was one of the best. Little is known about Poulton’s formal education or career. He apparently had only one year of college before enlisting in the Army in 1942. By that time he was living in California, although after the war he lived and worked in New York City. His father, Elmer Antone Poulton, was a painter who worked as an interior decorator in Barnesville for many years, and was recognized as a master craftsman; it is possible Peter Poulton learned his skills from him.
   Weinberg notes that Poulton used a sharp pen-and-ink style as opposed to the many artists who worked in grease pencil or wash during the period. For shading he used detailed cross-hatching and stipple work to produce the desired effect. In many ways, his work was very much in the style of Virgil Finlay. Although Poulton did not have the near photographic realism of Finlay, his art often expressed a lighter, more humorous touch. Poulton handled human figures well but also was not afraid to depict unusual aliens or strange machinery in his art. Although he was primarily an interior artist, he also painted several attractive covers for
Future Science Fiction, and one book cover, Earthbound --- a novel in the classic Winston science fiction series for young readers. Poulton was unmarried, and died in New York at fifty-eight; he was buried at the Long Island National Cemetery, on Long Island. 

Like Weinberg, Frank omits any reference to Poulton’s work for men’s adventure magazines.

According to Peter Haining’s book THE CLASSIC ERA OF AMERICAN PULP MAGAZINES (2000), Weinberg and Frank may be wrong about Poulton entering the science fiction field in the 1950s.

Haining suggests that Poulton began working for science fiction pulps as early as 1939. And, he shows a pen-and-ink illustration that the caption says was done by Poulton in 1939 for Anne McCaffrey’s first published story “Freedom of the Race.” However, when I double-checked that, it turned out to be wrong.

McCaffrey was only 13 years old in 1939 and, as documented by many books and websites, “Freedom of the Race” was first published in the October 1953 issue of SCIENCE FICTION PLUS (a.k.a. SCIENCE FICTION +).

It is possible that Poulton started working as an illustrator before 1950, But I couldn’t find any examples of a Poulton illo dated (credibly) prior to 1950.

Weinberg, Frank and Haining do all agree that Poulton was one of the best science fiction pulp artists of the 1950s, putting him in the same league with well-known illustrators like as Rudolph Belarski, Rafael DeSoto, Ed "Emsh" Emshwiller, Leo Morey and Norman Saunders. And, he illustrated stories by many great science fiction and fantasy writers, such as McCaffrey, Richard Matheson, Murray Leinster and John Wyndham. 

Sadly, Poulton’s science fiction and fantasy artwork has largely been forgotten, even by science fiction fans. And, his men’s adventure artwork appears to have been totally overlooked, even by illustration experts. Thus, it’s not easy to figure out exactly how many illustrations Poulton did during his relatively brief career and what magazines they appeared in.

The Weinberg and Frank books list more than 60 issues of various science fiction magazines that featured illustrations by Poulton. They also note that he did the cover painting for the 1952 John C. Winston Co. edition of the science fiction novel EARTHBOUND, by Milton Lesser.

I eventually found a longer list of Poulton’s science fiction artwork on the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. It records appearances of Poulton’s pen-and-ink interior illustrations in more than 80 issues of various science fiction magazines from 1950 to 1957.

Frank and the ISFDB also list two sci-fi magazine cover paintings by Poulton: for FUTURE COMBINED WITH SCIENCE FICTION STORIES, November 1951 and FUTURE SCIENCE FICTION STORIES, September 1952.

After more searching online, I found scans of both of those covers and over twenty of Poulton’s interior illustrations for ‘50s science fiction pulp mags.

I found almost nothing online or in print about Poulton’s work for men’s pulp adventure magazines beyond a few scattered cover scans.

So in this post and my previous one I’m adding to the body of knowledge about Poulton by showing the men’s adventure artwork I know he did (based on signatures, credits or other clues I have confidence in) plus several MAN TO MAN covers I believe were done by him (based on eyeing them).

In contrast to his science fiction art, which was dominated by interiors, all of the men’s pulp adventure magazine illustrations I know of by Poulton are cover paintings. I have not run across any men’s adventure interiors by him to date.

Here’s the list of men’s pulp mag covers by Peter Poulton that I’ve compiled so far. (Scans of those not shown at the beginning of this post are shown in my previous post about him.)

  • AMERICAN MANHOOD (cover paintings signed, credited or otherwise IDed as by Poulton): December 1952, January 1953, February 1953, March-April 1953, May 1953, June 1953, July 1953
  • MR. AMERICA (cover paintings signed, credited or otherwise IDed as by Poulton): August 1952, October 1952, November 1952, September 1952
  • MAN TO MAN (covers that appear to be by Poulton): September 1964, November 1964, January 1965

If you know of others, please let me know by shooting me an email or by posting a note in the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group, where a lot of knowledgeable fans and collectors of both science fiction and men’s adventure artwork hang out.

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Comments? Corrections? Post them in the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group.

Related reading…

Saturday, February 2, 2013

In search of the mysterious pulp illustration artist Peter Poulton...


Recently, while putting away some old magazines I bought on eBay, I focused on one that sent me on a quest that lasted for several weeks — and is still ongoing.

It was the January 1965 issue of MAN TO MAN.

MAN TO MAN was a pioneering men’s magazine that premiered in 1949. Its content was part girlie mag and part men’s adventure mag. Its covers primarily featured pinup model photos in the early and mid-1950s, then consistently used men’s adventure style cover paintings from 1958 to March 1965.

At that point, MAN TO MAN abandoned most adventure style stories and illustrations and became yet another PLAYBOY clone.

The next to last painted cover in the magazine’s run appeared on the January 1965 issue. It’s a real eyeball-grabber: a WWII scene dominated by the nude, muscular back of a beautiful “native girl.”

She’s gripping the arms of muscular guy who’s showing an almost equal expanse of exposed flesh, apparently right at the moment when they see a Japanese Zero swooping down at them, getting ready to shred their beautiful bodies with machine gun fire. There’s no signature on this awesome cover painting. There’s no artist credit given inside. And, though the style of the painting and the figures seemed naggingly familiar, I couldn’t quite place it.

So, I posted a scan of the cover in the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook group associated with this blog and asked if any of the many knowledgeable illustration art experts in the group could ID the artist.

After a bit of discussion via FB comments, pulp art aficionado Nick Daly said:

“Bit of a wild guess, but Peter Poulton? I’ve only seen a couple of his covers, but there’s something about the male torso and head that reminds me of those. AMERICAN MANHOOD, June 1953, for example. I think Bob has a post on that magazine in MensPulpMags.com.”

Light dawned on Marblehead when Nick said that, and I looked up that issue of AMERICAN MANHOOD in my collection. Then I pulled out some more men’s adventure covers that I knew were done by Poulton, based on signatures or credits in the magazines.

AMERICAN MANHOOD magazine was an odd, short-lived hybrid that was part men’s adventure mag and part bodybuilder mag. All seven of the issues I know of feature images of bare-chested men who were as muscular as the photos of famous bodybuilders shown in some of the articles inside. And, all seven covers paintings were done by Peter Poulton.

The beefcake, bodybuilding aspects of AMERICAN MANHOOD reflect the fact that it was published Weider Publications Inc., the publishing company run by famed bodybuilder Joe Weider and his brother Ben Weider, the “Brothers of Iron.”

AMERICAN MANHOOD was an offshoot of the longer-running Weider magazine MR. AMERICA.

In 1952 and 1953, MR. AMERICA diverged from it’s usual bodybuilder photo covers and used painted covers for nine issues — some of which were done by Poulton — like these...

When I compared Poulton’s cover paintings for AMERICAN MANHOOD and MR. AMERICA to the one on the cover of the January 1965 issue of MAN TO MAN, it sure looked to me like Poulton did that MAN TO MAN cover.

Several other members of the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook group agreed. But none of us knew much about Poulton.

That made me want to find out more about him. Even if we were wrong about Poulton doing the MAN TO MAN cover, I was intrigued. Who was this mysterious guy who painted such lush beefcake (and maybe cheesecake) cover paintings? I did a quick Google search and found that, as is true of many pulp illustration artists who worked for men’s adventure magazines, there were no bios of Poulton online.

I did find a short one in a reference book I had in my library: Robert Weinberg’s BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY ARTISTS(1988).

Weinberg’s bio of Poulton says:

POULTON, PETER (?) American artist. One of the many artists to enter the science fiction field during the boom years of the early 1950s, Poulton was one of the best. He used a sharp pen-and-ink style as opposed to the many artists who worked in grease pencil or wash during the period. For shading he used detailed cross-hatching and stipple work to produce the desired effect. In many ways, his work was very much in the style of Virgil Finlay. Although Poulton did not have the near photographic realism of Finlay, his art often expressed a lighter, more humorous touch. Poulton handled human figures well but also was not afraid to depict unusual aliens or strange machinery in his art. Although he was primarily an interior artist, he also painted several attractive covers for Future Science Fiction.

Weinberg’s book also provides a list of issues of science fiction pulp magazines that feature Poulton’s artwork.

It shows that, in the early 1950s, Poulton was a regular contributor of interior illustrations to FANTASTIC STORY QUARTERLY, FUTURE MAGAZINE, SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE, SCIENCE FICTION QUARTERLY, STARTLING STORIES and THRILLING WONDER STORIES.

Illos by Poulton also appeared in ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION (LATER CALLED ANALOG), SCIENCE FICTION +, SPACE STORIES, SPACE SCIENCE FICTION, TREASURY OF GREAT SCIENCE FICTION and WONDER STORIES ANNUAL.

Armed with this info, I went online to try to track down some examples of Poulton’s science fiction illustrations. Initially, I only found a few examples. But the ones I found were mind-blowingly cool.

They are trippy pen-and-ink illos that do indeed look like the science fiction magazine art done in the 1950s by Poulton’s much better-known contemporary, Virgil Finlay.

In fact, Finlay and Poulton worked for many of the same classic sci fi pulps. So did several other artists who, like Poulton, also did illustrations for men’s adventure magazines, such as Rudolph Belarski, Rafael DeSoto, Ed "Emsh" Emshwiller, Leo Morey and Norman Saunders.

Unlike all of those artists, there are no websites or web pages dedicated to Poulton. No sets of his artwork, either for science fiction pulps or men’s pulp adventure magazines.

But I had to know more – and see more. So, I went back on the hunt. It took a while but I did find more information about Poulton and more artwork by him.

It required me to buy a book I didn’t yet have on my shelves, Jane Frank’s awesome SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY ARTISTS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY: A BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY (2009). It also required some deep diving into digital copies of science fiction magazines I tracked down on the Internet.

I’ll report back on the results of that research in the next post on MensPulpMags.com.

In the meantime, in case you haven’t seen it yet, check out the website for WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH! — the new anthology of men’s adventure stories I edited with Wyatt Doyle, at New Texture Books, and writer/musican Josh Alan Friedman. Better yet, click this link to Amazon.com and buy the book.

[UPDATE: Here’s a link to the second post about Peter Poulton.]

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Comments? Corrections? Post them in the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group.

Related reading…