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Roberts, Tony

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Artist.

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Working name of British artist Anthony Roberts (1950-    ), occasionally bylined thus but more often credited as Tony Roberts. After receiving artistic training at Wolverhampton College of Art from 1967 to 1969, and at Ravensbourne College of Art from 1969 to 1972, he almost immediately began painting sf book covers. While his first two covers – for a 1973 edition of Ralph Blum's The Simultaneous Man (1970) and a 1973 edition of Philip K Dick's Ubik (1969) – featured unusually rendered human heads, he more frequently depicted futuristic Spaceships and architecture. His most interesting efforts, though, combined the organic and mechanical: a huge cat's paw crushing a spaceship for the cover of The Best of Fritz Leiber (coll 1974), and a tentacled creature hovering near an orbiting spaceship for a 1975 edition of Isaac Asimov's Nebula Award Stories Eight (coll 1973). He also provided Robert Holdstock's Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1978) with a nice wraparound cover offering a tableau of iconic images from sf literature and film.

Roberts has usually garnered little respect, since many dismiss his smooth, hard-edged, and highly detailed paintings merely as typical commercial Illustration, while others have regarded him as an imitator of Chris Foss. Yet he did receive one nomination for a British Science Fiction Association Award in 1980, and some of his later covers do command attention, like a striking image of spacecraft rendezvousing near a blazing yellow sphere for a 1989 edition of Frederik Pohl's The Annals of the Heechee (1987). And a rare assignment from an American publisher, Tor Books, to illustrate Jane Yolen's three Xanadu anthologies (1993-1995) interestingly took him out of his comfort zone, as each depicted collections of unusual objects within rectangular shelves. By the mid-1990s, however, Roberts had abandoned book covers to focus exclusively on fine art, though he still displays some of his best cover paintings on his website. [JG/PN/GW]

Anthony Roberts

born Worcester, Worcestershire: 18 October 1950


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