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Brown, Howard V

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Artist.

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(1878-1945) US illustrator who, even though his sf Illustration represented only a small proportion of his prodigious output, became one of the Big Four sf illustrators of the 1930s (with Leo Morey, Frank R Paul and H W Wesso). He received his formal art education at Chicago's Art Institute and became based in New York. Among the books that he illustrated during his early career were all six volumes of Katharine Elizabeth Dopp's educational Industrial and Social History series about our prehistoric ancestors, beginning with The Tree Dwellers (1904). He was cover artist for Scientific American circa 1913-1931, typically showing human figures dwarfed by gigantic technological projects. Starting with a simple, almost primitive style, Brown rapidly developed into one of the most dramatic cover illustrators of that era. His first cover for an SF Magazine proper was for the October 1933 issue of Astounding, the magazine having just been bought by Street & Smith, although his first artwork portraying futuristic Inventions appeared in 1916 in Hugo Gernsback's Electrical Experimenter in 1916, while from 1919 onwards he painted almost 50 covers for Science and Invention and during the late 1920s painted sf covers for Argosy All-Story Weekly (see The Argosy). During the F Orlin Tremaine years at Astounding, Brown was that magazine's premier cover artist; when John W Campbell Jr took over in 1938, Brown was dethroned. Although he continued to contribute art occasionally to Astounding, most of his sf work thereafter appeared on the covers of more down-market Pulps like Thrilling Wonder Stories. Brown specialized in BEMs, which he depicted with exciting vigour; according to Vincent Di Fate in Infinite Worlds (1997), Lester del Rey judged Brown's cover for the June 1936 Astounding Stories, illustrating H P Lovecraft's "The Shadow Out of Time", to be "one of the best paintings of aliens of all time". Although Brown's subject matter might often be lurid, his colour use was relatively muted alongside the efforts of his peers. Done in charcoal, his interior illustrations – as for example the set he drew for the Astounding Stories serialization of Jack Williamson's The Legion of Space (April-September 1934 Astounding; rev 1947) – were much more restrained than his cover work. Between 1933 and the early 1940s, when he left the field, Brown painted some 90 sf covers in all – an impressive rate of production. [JG/PN/JGr/JE]

Howard Vachel Brown

born Lexington, Kentucky: 5 July 1878

died New Jersey: 22 November 1945


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