Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The 1950s Surrealist Cityscapes of Richard Powers

Richard Powers (1921-1996) is one of my favorite science fiction cover artists.  Heavily influenced by the likes of Yves Tanguey and Picasso, his delightful vein of surrealism graced the covers of multiple classics of the genre (for example, Simak’s City, Clarke’s Earthlight and The City and the Stars, Norton’s Sky Gate, Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan, Sturgeon’s More Than Human).  His covers are unmistakable and extremely easy to identify.  I’ve decided to showcase a few of his surrealist cityscapes.

(cover for 1956 edition of Reach for Tomorrow (1956), Arthur C. Clarke)

The cover for Reach for Tomorrow achieves a wonderfulclustering of forms although Powers’ with a strangely manmade quality.  The form littered foreground questions earthly laws of physics…

Some of Richard Power’s most fantastic cityscapes include the cover for Edmond Hamilton’s City at the World’s End (1951).  The sense of distance is realized to perfection.  The faint outline of people evokes a forlorn quality — the city a lonely beacon among the alien rocks.

(Cover for the 1957 edition of City at World’s End (1951), Edmond Hamilton)

Power’s cover for Damon Knight’s Hell’s Pavement is delightful.  The cacophony of outrageous futuristic (buildings?, technology?, machines?) cover the landscape — our heroes run headlong towards us.  The man casts a glance behind him — the woman, a step ahead runs in sheer terror and dares not to look back!  At what?  We’re unsure — the answer lies within the novel…  We infer the terror rises from the cityscape….

(Cover for the 1955 edition of Hell’s Pavement (1955), Damon Knight)

The hero among crumbling ruins and statues to heroes, time? when? where?….

(Joe Mugnaini’s cover for the 1954 edition of Hero’s Walk (1954), Robert Crane)

Edit: The Internet Speculative Fiction Database originally credited this as Powers.  But, it is the work of  Joe Mugnaini

A shadowy silhouette across the horizon…

(Cover the for 1957 edition of Tomorrow Plus X (1957), Wilson Tucker)

City besieged…

(Cover for the 1958 edition of Destination: Infinity (1958), Henry Kuttner)

A tiered monstrosity…

(Cover for the 1957 edition of The City and the Stars (1956), Arthur C. Clarke)

A growth upon a Martian plain….

(1956 edition of Martians, Go Home (1955), Fredric Brown)

Internal cities…. Constructions along the mind’s (stomach’s?) interways…

(Cover for the 1957 edition of The Time Dissolver (1957), by Jerry Sohl, Richard Powers)

Spires among the raging hordes…

(Cover for the 1958 edition of Worlds Apart (variant title: Born Leader) (1958), by J. T. McIntosh)

Not all of Powers’ covers are works of art — for example, atomic age strategically placed breast covers, cowboy with pistols, and stray cacti populating the cover of Richard Wildon The Girls from Planet 5 (1955) is well, ummm, see for yourself….

(Cover for the 1955 edition of The Girl from Planet 5 (1955), Robert Wilson)

6 thoughts on “Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The 1950s Surrealist Cityscapes of Richard Powers”

    1. Thanks! I’ll have to investigate. I tried to group them in this post by subject (cities) — I’ll pick another subject and root out some nice gems next time I do a post on Powers. I really enjoy his work….

      The Internet Speculative Fiction Database is a nice resource (if you haven’t used it already) — isfdb.com — you can search by artist.

  1. Hey now, let’s not be so hasty to dismiss The Girl From Planet 5… 😉

    Those are some great covers. The shapes of his buildings are incredibly cool and unlike anything else I’ve ever seen!

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