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Podwil, Jerome

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Artist.

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(1938-    ) American artist, sometimes credited simply as Podwil, who typically signs his works Jerry Podwil. After graduating from the Pratt School of Art and Design in 1960, Podwil began painting covers for non-genre books, mostly Westerns, and in 1965 shifted to sf art with several assignments from Ace Books. His early covers generally juxtaposed realistic figures with misty or symbolic backgrounds to evoke a sense of alienness; one cover, for Ray Cummings's Tama of the Light Country (1965), strikingly depicts a winged swordswoman amidst planets, figures on the ground, and a shrouded structure, rendered in unusual shades of pink and purple, while his 1965 cover for John W Campbell Jr's The Black Star Passes (coll of linked stories 1953) shows a figure wearing a space helmet climbing a colourful array of gadgetry against a beige background representing outer space. Soon, Podwil was working for other publishers and sometimes venturing toward a more abstract style, as in his 1967 cover for A E van Vogt's Monsters (coll 1965) and cover for Robert Moore Williams's The Bell from Infinity (1968), both featuring assemblages of faces, spheres, and strange images. However, he also received an assignment – to paint covers for Ace's Fitzroy editions of several Jules Verne novels – which obviously demanded a more representational, even antiquarian style, though Podwil still contrived to provide some of these with a more modern flair. Vincent Di Fate has suggested that Podwil's unconventional art can be viewed as an apt accompaniment to science fiction's New Wave, though he also acknowledges that with few exceptions – his trippy images for the cover for Samuel R Delany's Babel-17 (1966) being one of them – Podwil's work rarely adorned any texts associated with that movement.

After working steadily during the 1960s, Podwil's covers grew less and less frequent in the 1970s, and he has been virtually inactive in the field since 1980. Precisely how he has been keeping busy since then is something of a mystery, though he did some additional book covers outside the field and may have continued working for Playboy and other magazines; it has also been suggested that he has done some uncredited illustrations for Comic books. His rather inchoate Myspace page, though, does suggest that he is still active as an artist today. [GW]

Jerome Podwil

born New York: 3 July 1938


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