(Cover for the 1968 edition of Last Door to Aiya (1968), ed. Mirra Ginsburg)
My pseudo-series exploring the more esoteric reaches of SF art continues. Previous posts include The Brothers Quay and SF Covers, The 1960s Covers of Emanuel Schongut, and A Spotlight on the SF Covers of David McCall Johnston. You all read my site because of my more esoteric dalliances, right? Hah.
H. Lawrence Hoffman (b. 1911-1977) [wikipedia article] illustrated a vast range of covers for the major presses such as Popular Library—his mystery novel covers, including those by Dashiell Hammett, are particularly evocative [here is a substantial gallery displaying the range of his non-SF covers].
His use of coral and figures inspired by Central American Art (see his cover for The Gate of Worlds (1967), Robert Silverberg) demonstrate his more experimental moments. His coral covers are stunning— Last Door to Aiya (1968), ed. Mirra Ginsburg and A Century of Science Fiction (1962), ed. Damon Knight. And the 1973 edition of Alien Art by Gordon R. Dickson scratches a strange artistic itch…
What are your favorites?
For more SF cover art posts consult the INDEX
(Cover for the 1969 edition of The Dueling Machine (1969), Ben Bova)
(Cover for the 1954 edition of Beyond the Barriers of Space and Time (1954). ed. Judith Merril)
(Cover for the 1973 edition of Alien Art (1973), Gordon R. Dickson)
(Cover for the 1962 edition of A Century of Science Fiction (1962), ed. Damon Knight)
(Cover for the 1960 edition of The 5th Annual of the Year’s Best S-F (1960), ed. Judith Merril)
(Cover for the 1972 edition of Flight of Exiles (1972), Ben Bova)
(Cover for the 1967 edition of The Gate of Worlds (1967), Robert Silverberg)
(Cover for the 1949 edition of Earth Abides (1949), George R. Stewart)
(Cover for the 1957 edition of Rogue in Space (1957), Fredric Brown)
(Cover for the 1952 edition of The Haploids (1952), Jerry Sohl)
20 thoughts on “Adventures in Science Fiction Art: Cosmic Coral and Eye Trees: The SF Art of H. Lawrence Hoffman”
Never heard of him,nor seen any of these covers.Brilliant though.Considering how early he was illustrating some of these,he must have had a seminal influence.They show great diversity,ranging from the abstract to more temporal realism.
He illustrated a few more Merril collections in the 50s/60s which I don’t own and couldn’t find better images of online. But yes, it seems like he was doing some very interesting surrealist covers in the mid-50s — for example, that Merril collection Beyond the Barriers of Space and Time (1954) which I included.
Yes,he was doing such stuff it seems before anybody else was it seems.Very imprssive.
Richard Powers’ art was pretty surreal by the mid-50s as well. Best not to overstate Hoffman’s influence as he did not seem to illustrate that many SF works. But I think we can say, that as a major illustrator for mainstream literature presses he did exert some influence.
Yes of course,he was contemporaneous with him.They both had their own directions to follow.If that is the case with the cover you show,they probably influenced each other in turn.
For example, Powers’ famous (and very popular) 1953 cover of Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke
Perhaps a better position might be that Hoffman needs to be considered in conjunction with other better known surrealists who collectively pushed SF art in new directions in the mid-50s and 60s.
That first cover is very stunning – though I’m also interested in what the contents might be! Off to the ISFDB….. 🙂
Moments ago I realized that the 1962 edition of A Century of Science Fiction (1962), ed. Damon Knight is the first cover but flipped a different direction….
I have the Hoffman covers for Merril’s Beyond Human Ken and Beyond the Barriers of Space and Time but his cover for her Fifth Annual looks like another book I would enjoy.
Thanks for the post
Ah, the Beyond Human Ken cover was the one I was looking for — the hardback 1952 first edition, right? The 1954 paperback is credited to Charles Binger.
Thats right, it is the hardcover first they make a nice pair, and both titles begin, “Beyond” which a silly but fun bit of trivia. And she collected some interesting none traditional SF authors.
All the best.
I immediately thought of this 1968 Dover edition of Stapledon, with a cover by Mila Macek – possibly influenced by Hoffman.
Yeah, that’s a great cover as well!
Good stuff! I like the Alexander Calder inspired cover of Beyond the Barriers of Space and Time.
He was an American sculptor known as the originator of the mobile – saw a big retrospective of his work in London earlier this year.
Definitely know Calder! I saw a giant retrospective in Washington, D.C. when I quite young that proved really inspirational to a young me….
But yes! You are absolutely right that it looks like it was inspired by his work.
Calder, yes. I also see the influence of Miro.
What’s the name of that piece? It’s wonderful.