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Wesso, H W

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Artist.

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Working name of German-born American artist Hans Waldemar Wessolowski (1894-1948), sometimes credited solely as Wesso. He completed his education at the Berlin Royal Academy before moving to America in 1914, and was soon doing covers and interior illustrations for a variety of Pulp magazines. He began his sf career by doing a few covers for Amazing Stories and Amazing Stories Quarterly after Hugo Gernsback's departure in 1929, but he was best known for painting all of the covers for the issues of Astounding Stories of Super-Science (later renamed Astounding Science-Fiction) that were published by the Clayton magazine chain. When Street & Smith took over Astounding, he temporarily left sf, but again became active in the field in 1937, painting seven more covers for Astounding as well as covers for Astonishing Stories, Captain Future, Marvel Science Stories, Startling Stories, and Thrilling Wonder Stories before apparently retiring in 1942.

Wesso's black-and-white Illustration was similar to that of his contemporary Frank R Paul, but his colour paintings were very different; whereas Paul's covers could be crowded and artificially busy, Wesso's were more open, and he seemed more concerned with the overall design of each piece, inspiring observations that his works could have a sort of abstract beauty. He has also been celebrated for creating effective action scenes and extravagantly bizarre Monsters. All of these qualities are on display in one of his early covers, for the September 1930 issue of Astounding, showing a man with a flame-thrower confronting a pair of tentacled sea monsters wearing helmets. Yet Wesso's figures could seem stiff and childish, so that covers like the one for the January 1931 issue of Astounding, showing a gangly robot attacking a man and a woman, may look almost cartoonish. When he returned to Astounding in 1937, he visibly endeavoured to adjust to new editor John W Campbell Jr's desire for more dignified imagery, as shown by his nicely structured painting of technicians surrounding a huge machine with a cylindrical base for the August 1938 issue, and he even produced an uncharacteristic astronomical cover for the June 1938 issue, where a Spaceship lodged between jagged rocks is overshadowed by an enormous planet Mars. But it is not surprising that Campbell was soon hiring other artists whose work was more naturally subdued. Overall, Wesso's artistry may be fondly remembered by many longtime fans, but even more so than other artists of his era, he may seem to contemporary observers an artist who comes from a very different place and time. [JG/PN/GW]

Hans Waldemar Wessolowski

born Graudenz, Prussia [now Germany]: 19 August 1894

died New York: 12 May 1948


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