Robert Maguire is an easy addition to noirwhale.com’s noir artist gallery— the guy created over 600 amazing covers for pulps since 1950.
He was born in 1921, and only died recently in 2005. He studied at Duke University until he joined the war effort in WWII, and when he returned he quickly joined the Art Students League. During that time, He was the pupil of the relatively famous Frank Reilly. His career was immensely successful, and he produced art for dozens of publishing firms.
He’s known for his mastery of the female form, particularly his emphasis on the femme fatale archetype (the beautiful yet deadly siren of the noir genre). A softness exists in his work which renders it alluring and atmospheric, a window into the colorful pages of the novel beyond. I find his art to be extremely seductive, an ode to the manipulative women who spur the plotlines and control our anti-heroes. Looking at his covers, it’s easy to see why he has become a prized piece of any collectors’ library.
Here are a couple of great anecdotes from Robert that I found in the American Art Archives:
“My first wife was a model, but for the most part, I didn’t go near models. They were too fast living. I used one model quite a bit and she invited my wife and I down to see her dancing around ’53, ’54, and she was dancing in a mafia club. The Copacabana, in fact.
“The models were very ‘active.’ They weren’t real. A lot of them were on drugs. I had one girl posing against a backdrop. She put her arms over her head and slowly slumped to the floor. I had to go over and shake her awake in order to finish the shoot. We had deadlines.”
Unfortunately, the first marriage didn’t last, though his second did, thanks to an introduction to a lovely woman by his friend, Leone. “I was divorced and John introduced me to an available lady whose husband died. That was over 20 years ago when I met Janice.” They’ve been happily married ever since.
“My friends and I were mostly in paperback books. The magazines were dying, mostly due to the advent of television. But we couldn’t wait to get the magazine copies and see what guys like Coby Whitmore were doing. All these great artists, Whitcomb, Al Parker, Bob Peak, Joe DeMers. We weren’t allowed to be that sophisticated. They could do this intricate design work. We tried to do use some sophisticated design and the paperback guys would say, ‘Why don’t you just show the girls with the big boobs.’ I used to work with a very crude individual — he shall be nameless — he was an art director — but one painting he wanted the gown lowered on the woman, ‘show more cleavage.’ So I’d lower it and he’d want it lowered some more. Well, another quarter of an inch and I’d be showing the nipples. That’s anatomy! But still, ‘Well, make it a little lower.’ Any lower and her breasts were down around her stomach. And then he wondered why the girl didn’t look quite right. But you couldn’t argue with some of these people (though of course, I did).”
(His most famous book cover is ‘Black Opium’-– I’ve only provided a link to it because it does feature mild nudity)