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Sweet, Darrell

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Artist.

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(1934-2011) American artist, who came to prefer being credited as Darrell K Sweet. As a young adult, Sweet earned a BFA in painting from Syracuse University in 1956 and also served in the military. After working as a freelance artist, including assignments for Reader's Digest, Sweet began painting sf book covers for Ballantine Books in 1974, later shifting to its subsidiary Del Rey Books. From the start, Sweet displayed a talent for painting realistic human figures, sometimes in historical dress and sometimes in the company of fantastic creatures. This meant, of course, that he was ideally suited to illustrate works of Fantasy, although he could deal effectively with some sf works as well; his memorable 1975 cover for James Blish's A Case of Conscience (September 1953 If; exp 1958), for example, showed a pensive priest next to a smiling reptile holding a vial, and his cover for James P Hogan's Inherit the Stars (1977), perfectly capturing the novel's intriguing mystery with an image of astronauts on the Moon unearthing an ancient skeleton in a spacesuit, inspired a future sf scholar to purchase the book even though its author was then unknown. Some found Sweet's colourful style was reminiscent of the Pulp-magazine covers of the 1940s, especially his Monsters, though his work also had a gravitas that was quite unlike such precursors.

By the late 1970s, Del Rey/Ballantine was giving Sweet some prestigious assignments, including covers for several republications of Robert A Heinlein's juveniles; he provided an especially nifty cover for Space Cadet (1948) showing a row of astronauts standing on a Spaceship with a Spaceship in the background. But he would be increasingly preoccupied by assignments to illustrate works of fantasy, including four of the first five volumes of Jack L Chalker's Saga of the Wheel of Souls, the paperback editions of the first six volumes of Stephen R Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, and covers for the 1981 republications of J R R Tolkien's The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955). He also did covers for almost all of Piers Anthony's long Xanth series from 1979 until 2011, Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time books [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below], and L E Modesitt Jr's Recluce sequence. Given his many accomplishments, it seems strange that he never won an award, though he was nominated for awards on several occasions and his work was celebrated in the compilation Beyond Fantasy: The Art of Darrell K. Sweet (graph 1996). He remained active in the field until his death in 2011. [JG/PN/JC/GW]

see also: Frank R Paul Award.

Darrell K Sweet

born Highland Park, New Jersey: 15 August 1934

died 5 December 2011



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