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Pennington, Bruce

Entry updated 9 January 2023. Tagged: Artist.

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(1944-    ) British artist. After artistic training at the Beckenham School of Art and Ravensbourne College of Art, Pennington did some commercial art before beginning his sf career in 1967 with a cover for Robert A Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land (1961; text restored 1990), showing a naked man and woman partially immersed in water; he also did the covers for a series of republished books by Ray Bradbury, including a striking image of a colourfully tattooed man for a 1967 edition of The Illustrated Man (coll 1951). In his early years as an artist, however, he was more frequently assigned to paint covers for Westerns and historical novels.

In the 1970s, working for publishers that included New English Library, Ballantine Books, Corgi and Sphere, Pennington began building his reputation with covers that emphasized impressively rendered spacecraft and tall structures more than human figures; representative examples would include his 1970 cover for Heinlein's The Man Who Sold the Moon (coll 1950), foregrounding a spaceship orbiting the Moon, and his 1974 cover for A E van Vogt's The World of Null-A (August-October 1945 Astounding; 1948; rev 1970), a hauntingly surreal rendering of an ethereal bridge. Still, he demonstrated some versatility with his 1972 cover for Brian W Aldiss's Earthworks (1964), a flying armoured figure emitting lightning bolts from his hands that also appeared on the cover of Pennington's book Ultraterranium (1992); his 1973 cover of Poul Anderson's Satan's World (May-August 1968 Analog; 1969), a nice wraparound image of a dinosaur staring up at a spaceship; and his 1973 cover for van Vogt's The Silkie (1969) a stunning portrait of a naked man floating inside a yellow cocoon. His distinctive, vigorous painting is generally textured, with visible brush-strokes and strong colour, though some in the 1970s characterized his work as crude, perhaps because it contrasted with the smooth, airbrushed superrealism that was coming into vogue at that time. His website reports that, since 1990, he has focused more on personal art, which was featured at his first exhibition in 2011, though he has also published three compilations generally emphasizing his earlier book covers. He also provided numerous illustrations for Nigel Suckling's The Book of the Vampire (2008). [JG/PN/GW]

see also: BSFA Award.

Bruce Pennington

born Somerset: 10 May 1944



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