Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Otherworldly Textures and the Patina of Decay (the SF art of Philippe Jean)

(Cover for Fiction, 133 (1964), ed. Alain Dorémieux)

The four credited covers of Philippe Jean for the French SF magazine Fiction (between 1963-1964) show remarkable clarity of vision. Each explores the patina of decay made manifest in a haunting landscape that stretches across the page, still inhabited by small figures who weave among the ruined buildings and statuary. The detail from Fiction, #133 below shows a decaying recumbent form amongst brittle shadows of the masts of stranded ships — small human figures move around it.

In another instance, here Fiction, 121, a solitary statue, with its equine form still intact, juts forth amongst other shapes that have lost their defining characteristics. The full cover image at the end of the post also shows humans moving around the edges of the image observing the remaining testament of a previous civilization.

Although I know little about the artist (let me know if you discover more about him), he worked well within the confines of Fiction‘s one color scheme requirements (brown + black + gray, or, blue + black + gray). As with so many of Fiction‘s artists, he demonstrates delightful line-work. In the detail from Fiction, 122, human forms move between natural stone formations and a pyramid (tomb?)….

And my final detail narrows in on the human occupants of a shadowy landscape, where the landscapes they observe have lost definitive shape (Fiction, 129) The full cover includes Dali-esque supports that prop up the languid supine mass.

For more Adventures in Science Fiction Art posts consult the INDEX.

Thematically similar posts include The Science Fiction Covers of Max Ernst and Claude Lacroix’s Delicate Lines and Mutations (60s/70s Covers for the French SF Magazine Fiction).

The full covers

(Cover for Fiction, 121 (1963), ed. Alain Dorémieux)

(Cover for Fiction, 122 (1964), ed. Alain Dorémieux)

(Cover for Fiction, 129 (1964), ed. Alain Dorémieux)

17 thoughts on “Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Otherworldly Textures and the Patina of Decay (the SF art of Philippe Jean)”

    1. I found him as well — unfortunately I couldn’t directly link him to the covers. If you find anything else please let me know (French sources are fine as I can read it pretty easily)!

        1. Thank you for asking! Huge fan of Curval’s 50s art for Fiction and look forward to reading his SF (or at least what’s in translation).

          Perhaps I’ll have a Curval art post soon.

  1. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like these,at least not on SF covers or in illustration.They look classical but modernistic.A sinister aura of entropy and decay pervades the atmosphere of the pictures.Very cerebral.

    1. I have additional Fiction magazine posts planned from the same era — they definitely were going for a particular look and, although none are exactly like Philippe Jean’s art, many have some stylistic similarities.

      If I was going to pick a better known artist who is sort of similar in some ways (especially the decaying bodies) I’d suggest Dali — who created innumerable pen drawings.

      For example: Dali’s The Reality of a Dream, pen and sepia ink, 1960.

      The Fiction listing is here if you’re curious:

      1. Yes,they reminded me of Dali.He also painted in a sort of neo classical style.

        Modern SF authors such as J.G.Ballard were influenced by Surrealist art,as you know.Philippe Jean’s work evokes the strange,frightening landscapes and inner states depicted in the writings of such as he I think.

        1. You’re right, there’s a cold austerity to his visions. I wish I knew more about the artist — and whether he’s the same person as the French sculptor linked by a commenter above.

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