Victor Kalin is a remarkably obscure noir artist. Although he has garnered an impressive amount of acclaim in recent years, there is relatively little data about his life available. He was born in Belleville in 1919 and died in 1991. He attended the University of Kansas during the ’40s. Throughout his professional career, he was an illustrator, a painter, and a teacher. Walt Reed (Illustrator in America) said of Victor:
“[Kalin’s] first illustrations were done for The American Weekly but for many years the majority of his pictures were painted for paperback book covers.Unlike many artists who develop a strong, easily identifiable technique, he was so interested in experimentation that his work looked continually new.”
Victor was extremely skilled at composing a cover, each element dramatically sized and spaced to create continually fascinating results. His strength appears to be his fluidity– easily transitioning from realism to abstract stylings when a fresh approach serves the piece. Kalin doesn’t seem to have a definable style, as his strokes, textures, and contrasts vary continually; affording his work a freshness that sets him apart from his contemporaries. In the competitive world that was pulp cover illustration, Victor’s flexibility granted him innumerable victories and contracts. I love his work– it has always struck me as brilliantly wrought, a narrative style of illustration that begs the viewer to look deeper.