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Bacon, Paul

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Artist.

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(1923-2015) US graphic artist active from the 1940s until about a year before his death, and responsible for an estimated 6500 book-cover designs (plus some 200 for jazz LPs). Inevitably, with such a huge total of covers, quite a number were for sf authors, well over seventy of them, some of whom published several books with his covers; his first in the genre is probably that for Gunner Cade (1952) by Cyril Judd. He became known for the "Big Book Look", whereby a cover would feature the title and author's name very large, accompanied by a fairly minimalist design element and a small, often stylized graphic. His first cover in this style was that for Meyer Levin's thriller Compulsion (1956). A number of Kurt Vonnegut Jr's later novels benefited from Bacon's covers. As with those novels, his work in the sf field tended, except in the early days of his career, to be on books at the fringe of the genre whose publishers were planning to market them to the mainstream. But not all: there could hardly be a more genre novel than Colin Wilson's The Space Vampires (1976), whose first American edition from Random House bears a Bacon cover. Overall, while his influence on book-cover design in general has been enormous, Bacon had less impact on genre publishing; by the year of his death, however, with genre distinctions continuing to loosen, his relatively category-free style had begun to seem increasingly relevant. [JGr]

Paul Bacon

born Ossining, New York: 25 December 1923

died Beacon, New York: 8 June 2015


  • The Graphic Art of Paul Bacon (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania: Sordoni Art Gallery, Wilkes University, 1999) with Hank O'Neal and Stanley I Grand [chap: graph: pb/Paul Bacon]


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