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Lehr, Paul

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Artist.

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(1930-1998) American artist. Lehr studied illustration at the prestigious Pratt Institute, where he worked under Stanley Meltzoff, an early influence on his art. His first sf cover – for the American edition of Jeffery Lloyd Castle's Satellite E One (1954) – is a realistic depiction of the construction of an unusually-shaped Space Station, and similar images of spacecraft, rendered mostly in shades of grey, are seen in other early covers for James Blish's Galactic Cluster (coll 1959), John Wyndham's The Outward Urge (coll 1959 as by Wyndham and Lucas Parkes), and the May 1959 issue of Satellite Science Fiction. However, his 1960 cover for Brian W Aldiss's Starship (1956 Science Fantasy #17 as "Non-Stop"; exp 1958 as Non-Stop; cut vt Starship 1959) and his cover for Robert Sheckley's Journey Beyond Tomorrow (October-November 1962 Fantasy and Science Fiction as "The Journey of Joenes"; 1962; vt Journey of Joenes 1978) show Lehr moving toward the less representational style that would later be his trademark.

His first noteworthy work in this vein, perhaps, was his cover for James Gunn's Future Imperfect (coll 1964), depicting a Medusa-like woman and a human-headed spider amidst odd designs within a rectangle that is partially shattered. His covers for a 1967 edition of H G Wells's The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth (1904) and Sheckley's Dimension of Miracles (1968) display what became one of his trademarks, strange egg-shaped objects, here broken to respectively reveal an enormous eye and an array of planets and stars. While his people often seem small and insignificant in contrast to the large structures dominating his covers, Lehr was capable of foregrounding the human figure, as shown by his 1973 cover for Frank Herbert's The Godmakers (fixup 1972 as The God Makers), showing a huge, skyward-looking statue being worshipped by a shrouded supplicant. Lehr could also make effective use of bright pastel colours, which tended to make his covers stand out amidst others dominated by darker hues.

As Jane Frank has observed, Lehr "dominated science fiction covers in the mid-1960s into the 1970s", and while his works were not as extravagantly surreal as those of an artist he is sometimes compared to, Richard M Powers, those two artists did contribute significantly to the distinctively imaginative style of sf art during that era, which for some represents the peak of the form's long history. As American publishers came to prefer more realistic art in the 1980s, Lehr focused instead on covers for the sf magazines Analog, Omni, Tomorrow: Speculative Fiction, and Weird Tales as well as covers for foreign publishers. Lehr also worked outside the genre for magazines like Business Week, Fortune, Life, Playboy, The Reader's Digest, and Time, and he remained active until his death in 1998. [JG/GW]

see also: Frank R Paul Award.

Paul Lehr

born White Plains, New York: 16 August 1930

died 28 July 1998


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