Master of American Pulp Noir
From gallery paintings to film posters to avidly collected book covers, Robert McGinnis has created some of the most visible, influential, and alluring art of the past five decades. Much of that allure can be attributed to the nearly omnipresent “McGinnis Women” – female forms rendered with such mesmerizing sensuality and grace that, as one author put it, they could make a book a bestseller among people who couldn’t read.
“One might think there was no other place to go to search for the ideal, no new ground to break in capturing in two dimensions the beauty of the eternal feminine,” writes collector Al Fick in the book Tapestry: The Paintings of Robert McGinnis. McGinnis, he says, “went beyond the well-worked territory explored by others, and in doing so defined the American beauty for the twentieth century with a skill, sensitivity, and respect for women that is unmatched.”
Born in Wyoming, Ohio, in 1926, McGinnis started his career as a teenage apprentice for Walt Disney studios. He studied art at Ohio State University and the Central Academy of Commercial Art in Cincinnati, and later moved to New York and joined the Freeman Chaito Studio. There he worked with artists Frank McCarthy, Bob Peak, and Joe Bowler. McGinnis painted his first paperback book cover in 1958, launching a career that would include over 1,200 book covers (he virtually defined the noir style of classic crime fiction and created some of the romance novel genre’s greatest cover images), iconic posters for films including Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Barbarella, and numerous James Bond movies. McGinnis’ illustrations have appeared in major magazines including, National Geographic, Time, The Saturday Evening Post, Cosmopolitan, and The Reader’s Digest. In 1993 he was inducted into the prestigious Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame, taking his place beside such greats as Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish, and N.C. Wyeth.