Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Art of Robert Foster, Part II

(Robert Foster’s cover for the 1971 edition of The Dakota Project (1968), Jack Beeching)

Unfortunately, science fiction covers from the 60s/70s are not always credited — Robert Foster’s covers are no exception.  Originally I assumed that Foster had only produced a handful (see my first post on his work, Part I), but after searching under Bob Foster and identifying covers by sight I’ve cobbled together another varied/intriguing/unusual collection of his work.

His work are often characterized by fascinating collaged, geared, industrial machinery paired with nudes and semi-nudes arrayed against bleak alien landscapes.  Strange poses and unusual costumes abound.  I find his use of unusual textures (weird cytoplasmic orange covering rock in the Mythmaster cover, below) compelling and original. Foster’s  The Dakota Project cover (above) is by far my favorite of the collection.  However, occasionally I find the composition muddled (for example Alternities, below).

It’s rather sad that Robert Foster’s covers seldom received commissions for top quality/classc works (albeit, his covers grace a few works by Pohl, Ellison, Merril, and the like).

If you are intrigued by his work definitely check out Part I.

What are your favorites?

As always, are the books worth reading?

(Robert Foster’s cover for the 1969 edition of Ring of Violence (1968), Douglas R. Mason)

(Robert Foster’s cover for the 1969 edition of Sexmax (1969), Henry Cooper)

(Robert Foster’s cover for the 1968 edition of Daughters of Earth (1968), Judith Merril)

(Robert Foster’s cover for the 1970 edition of Taurus Four (1970), Rena Vale)

(Robert Foster’s cover for the 1972 edition of Over the Edge (1970), Harlan Ellison)

(Robert Foster’s cover for the 1974 edition of Alternities (1974), ed. David Gerrold)

(Robert Foster’s cover for the 1973 edition of Mythmaster (1973), Leo P. Kelley)

For similar posts, consult the Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art INDEX

25 Replies to “Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Art of Robert Foster, Part II”

    1. Thanks for stopping by!!

      Were they? I think publishers understood the necessity of covers back then as they do now in selling books. It doesn’t mean that some of their work isn’t hack work but I’m not sure people thought they were… Just look at Ballantine’s publication catalogue — Powers cover after surrealist Powers cover… Works of art. Ballantine press chose to have Powers as their primary artist not the run of mill artist who cranks out funky aliens, naked women, and strapping spacemen.

      1. You make an excellent point. I guess I wasn’t properly schooled in the matter. I thought these guys were treated more as cogs in a machine more than cover artists… Anyway, all that aside, I appreciate you posting these pictures because they don’t get enough recognition — maybe I had it the wrong way, they get less recognition now than they did then… It’s good to see the interne keeping their work alive and out there.
        All the best, and you’ve got a great blog!

      2. Of course some weren’t treated very well — like the authors themselves. Perhaps my example of Powers is an exception (he is the most famous). But, at the very least publishers didn’t require the illustration to “correctly” portray anything in the book — so they had some leeway in that regard.

  1. You really can see a similarity in themes in his work. He was very, very good. Being a bit of a fan of machinery myself I like the way he works that into his illustrations. I’m not sure I’ve ever come across any of these book cover illustrations before, so kudos to you for helping me discover new to me stuff. Always a great pleasure.

  2. Joachim,

    Just came across your site and delighted to see Robert Foster’s cover illustration reproductions. He was my illustration teacher in 1958 and 59 at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. He was also a good friend, and I last visited him at his apartment in N.Y. in 1968, when he was establishing himself as a very popular sci-fi cover illustrator.

    You mentioned a muddled composition for the “Alternities” cover, but cover up the title and the composition is very solid. Illustrators rarely had control over titles and copy on the cover of a book. The titles were added by a designer rafter the illustration was finished. The illustrator would simply leave open space for the title and copy. Some designers were better than others at designing the title to coordinate with the illustration.

    You are probably aware that he also illustrated the first four covers for a
    reprint of John Norman’s “Gor” series. That was earlier in his career in N.Y., but may have opened doors for future sci-fi books.

    Thanks for giving my friend Bob Foster a feature post.

    Tom

    1. Thanks for sharing! He’s always been one of my favorites. But yes, I’ve looked through his entire cover illustration list — I think his cover for Pohl’s Turn Left at Thursday is my favorite (in part one on his work).

      I know that the artists had little control over the cover text (I guess I just found Alternities one of his weaker covers — color, etc) — just look at Powers’ wonderful canvas for Dick’s The Man in the High Castle ruined with a line of text cover the center…

      Thanks for your comments!

  3. Joachim, you may also be aware that Foster illustrated other impressive fiction novels besides sci-fi. “The Poseidon Adventure,” a number of Doris Lessing novels, Sumerset Maugham’s “The Narrow Corner.” and others. One of my favorite Bob Foster sci-fi covers is Fredrick Pohl’s “The Abominable Earthman.” However, every good or great illustrator did an occasional “clunker” during their career. Sometimes it was unavoidable due to demands and restrictions.

    Foster also did high end illustrations for top ad agencies, which was very difficult to crack into. Color reproduction and photography improved, and photography became less expensive than illustration, which seriously cut into the advertising illustration market and forced many illustrators to seek work in other venues, such as pocket book covers. Also there was a lot of leeway on creativity in book covers. Advertising illustration and magazine story illustration was often restrictive to the taste of the art director.

    Do you know if Foster illustrated J.P. Donleavy’s, “The Onion Eaters,
    Christopher Hodder-William’s “The Main Experiment” and Robert Silverberg’s “The Masks of Time?” They look like his style but don’t see a name.

  4. I have perhaps 200 science fiction paperbacks from 60s – 80s. would like to do something with them. Sell them or create something from them. online catalogue or whatever I don’t know. any suggestions.

    1. Read them again? Write reviews? I dunno. I never really condone cutting up books (I know people make various art pieces with their cool covers). But yes, if you’re not going to read them you might as well sell them to someone who will.

  5. MY FATHERS NAME WAS ROBERT OWENS FOSTER I WENT TO NY WHEN I WAS YOUNG HE DID COVERS FOR BOOKS HAD A DARK ROOM IN HIS APRT I WAS BORN IN SF IM WONDERING IF THIS MAY BE HIM

      1. FYI, This Bob Foster was married to a woman named Florence (Cohen), my aunt. Although they divorced after his stroke, they remained close and he didn’t marry again.

    1. I’m sure it is if your mothers name was Joanne and you have a sister named Chrisine, and a brother I use to call Bobby. I’m Bobs youngest sister, your Aunt Kathy.

  6. I have the painting for Sex Max. I’ve been trying to track down if it was ever used as a cover, and now I know. I picked it up at a book store in Waterbury CT. At first I thought it was a poster, but on closer inspection saw that it was the real deal. The detail is spectacular, and it’s signed in white pencil.

    Thanks for helping me track this down.

  7. Yes, Bob had 4 children Robert, Christina, Susan & Thomas with his first wife Joanne. He also has 8 grandchildren (whom he never met) & numerous great grandchildren. I find it very sad that his family was unknown.

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