When I saw the collector’s artbook of Virgil Finlay looking for funding on Kickstarter, it got me thinking about Finlay. I consider Finlay (1914 – 1971) one of—if not the—greatest illustrators of his era, filling pulp issues with his immaculately-detailed black and white illustrations, consisting of fine crosshatching to create impressive depth and shading. Finlay illustrated anything from science fiction to ancient fantasy to macabre horror, and did so with style. As someone who’s all but incapable of hand-drawn art, the intricate etching and shading evocative of Finlay’s unique style just blows my mind.
Below is a meager assortment of interior works from various pulp magazines of the late ’30s, through the early ’60s, a selection of his 2,600-some illustrations. I’m not sure if the images below do the illustrations justice; I have several of those old Famous Fantastic Mysteries issues, and the full-page 7″x10″ illustrations reveal impressive levels of detail.
Finlay’s earliest illustrations were in 1930s issues of Weird Tales, illustrating gothic tales of the macabre; his last were for the surviving science fiction digests—Galaxy, If, Fantastic—in the ’60s. And this doesn’t even get into his impressive color cover art, eschewing the chiaroscuro crosshatch shading for bright colorful wonder. Before he passed away from cancer in 1971, he had won one Hugo Award (and seven more nominations) for his prolific art, released numerous artbooks and portfolios of his work, and revolutionized the role of interior illustrations in fantasy and science fiction magazines.