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Vallejo, Boris

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Artist.

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(1941-    ) American artist, born in Peru, who usually signs his work "Boris"; he is the father of artist Dorian Vallejo, husband of artist Julie Bell, and stepfather of artists David Palumbo and Anthony Palumbo. After briefly pursuing a career in medicine, which may have influenced his later renderings of human anatomy, Vallejo was trained in graphic design before moving to the United States in 1964 to pursue a career as an artist. There he met and married his first wife, Doris, the mother of Dorian Vallejo, and did some work in advertising and other areas before beginning in 1971 to paint some covers for Warren Publishing magazines, his first work in the genre. He then worked for Marvel Comics, where his covers for The Savage Sword of Conan soon caused him to be tagged "the next Frazetta", and shifted to book covers in 1975, starting with a cover for the paperback edition of Edgar Rice Burroughs's I Am a Barbarian (1967) that could be said to epitomize the style of art he became famous for, as it depicted a muscular, nearly-naked warrior using a sword to defend a similarly undressed woman against an approaching tiger.

Given his obvious proclivities, Vallejo was usually asked to illustrate works of heroic Fantasy, not sf, mostly for Ballantine Books and Del Rey Books, although like his distinguished predecessor Frank Frazetta, he would also have a broad impact on the entire field of sf and fantasy art. Significant early projects include seven 1976 covers for Gor novels by John Norman and covers for all 24 of Burroughs's Tarzan books when Ballantine republished them in 1977. Vallejo continued to worked steadily as a cover artist throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and he also began publishing compilations of his artwork as well as books illustrating the writings of Doris Vallejo; though these works are technically not Vallejo's, as his then-wife was their true author, these are listed below as Vallejo's books since, in these cases, the illustrations are of much greater interest than the text. However, his career significantly changed after he divorced Doris, married Bell in 1994, and forged a productive partnership with his second wife, an artist with similar interests. Although they continued to paint separately, they also collaborated on a series of books and calendars that, along with other merchandise and advertising work, now seem to represent their primary source of income.

Vallejo is regularly compared to Frazetta, but some commentators regard Vallejo's work as smoother and less vigorous. When his art first became popular, his eroticized depictions of male power and female bondage were sometimes regarded as almost pornographic, with men likened to a homoerotic musclebuilder's dream and large-breasted, whip-wielding women viewed as dominatrices from a masochist's fantasy. Yet such images, in part due to Vallejo's influence, have now become so commonplace as to attract little attention. While many Vallejo covers are instantly identifiable as his work, as they artfully recycle his familiar tropes, he can also defy expectations, both disappointingly – some covers for 1980s Star Trek novels that offer routine portraits of the original series' stars, though a painting of Spock confronting a lizard-like creature for the cover of Jean Lorrah's The Vulcan Academy Murders (1984) was mildly more interesting – and impressively – a beautifully rendered domed city in space for the cover of Isaac Asimov's Prelude to Foundation (1988). Although a frequent nominee, Vallejo to date has surprisingly received only three awards: a 1979 Locus Award as best professional artist, a 1979 British Fantasy Award for a cover of his Boris magazine, and a 2011 Chesley Award for lifetime achievement. Yet he unquestionably remains one of the field's greatest living artists. [PN/JG/GW]

see also: Frank R Paul Award.

Boris Vallejo

born Lima, Peru: 8 January 1941

works (excluding calendars)


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