Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Philippe Curval’s 1950s Photo Collages, Part I

(February 1956)

In celebration of the French SF author and artist Philippe Curval’s birthday, I’ve curated a collection of his covers. Between 1956 and 1959 he produced eighteen (there could be others that I’ll have to identify based on style) fascinating photo collages for the main French SF magazine Fiction. They often blend pulp SF stylings with otherworldly insectoid imagery (Fiction 27, 31, 35). In other instances surrealist touches interrupt a more realistic artistic styles (Fiction 28, 33).

My absolute favorite December 1956 (Fiction 37) presages Cronenberg’s iconic television scene in Videodrome (1981) by a quarter century–beware the TV with lips!

For a general history SF in France see SF Encyclopedia (although a handful of French SF fans I know have dismissed the article’s characterization of the current SF scene as needlessly bleak).

What are your favorites? I will post the rest of his Fiction covers in a part II in the coming days/weeks. Stay tuned!

UPDATE: Part II is up.

Other Adventures in French Science Fiction Art entries

Otherworldly Textures and the Patina of Decay (The SF Art of Philippe Jean)

French comic book style 70s SF art by Serge Clerc

Lacroix’s Delicate Lines and Mutations (60s/70s covers for the French SF Magazine Fiction)

1970s Covers for La Grande Anthologie de la Science-Fiction (Robots, The End of the World, Aliens, etc)

The Uncanny Bodies of Wojtek Siudmak

(March 1956)

(April 1956)

(May 1956)

(June 1956)

(July 1956)

(August 1956)

(September 1956)

(October 1956)

(November 1956)

(December 1956)

For more Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art consult the INDEX

20 thoughts on “Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Philippe Curval’s 1950s Photo Collages, Part I”

  1. Nice collection! My favorites in this order (cannot just choose one!):
    1. Issue 31 – The spaceship scene makes me think of E.E. Doc Smith’s Skylark series…that fired up my teenage mind.
    2. Issue 30 – The dramatic juxtaposition of the figures in a noir setting…yes!
    3. Issue 36 – I attach a bleak, apocalyptic emotional response to this, bringing to mind Wells’s The Time Machine (when the traveler goes to near the Earth’s death) and Sturgeon’s Microcosmic God (the hand seemingly holding a world).

    Thank you for this!

    1. I’m glad you have positive memories associated with the Skylark series — when I tried to read it as a kid I hurled it in the trash (figuratively).

      Yeah, my comment about pulp SF stylings should have had a broader phrasing to include pulp noir stylings as well… It’s quite evocative.

      You’re welcome.

      Part II is up as well if you’re curious…..

      https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2017/12/31/adventures-in-science-fiction-cover-art-philippe-curvals-1950s-photo-collages-part-ii/

  2. Amazing work – my favorites:
    27 – maybe because it’s the first, but their is something about a spider girl.

    32 – seems to tell a mysterious story

    36 – love the simple layout

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Liked the spiderwoman, so bizarre. Amazing what a truly skilled person could do back before photoshop. I was intrigued by the issue with the Charles Hennenberg story in issue 28. Was it originally printed in that issue, or was it translated into English for its English printing, and then retranslated back into French for this issue?

  4. I’m intrigued by June ’56 with a giant insect and a human in a spaceship, with a huge hamburger visible through the porthole! 😉

    1. The pulp adventure begins…. we set off in our spaceship and as we approached the hamburger galaxy our hamburgers in the cafeteria grew exponentially in size and sprouted MECHANICAL LEGS!

  5. Joachim,
    The images from the ISFDB magazine grid? I liked #33 the best, although it’s the least surreal, but the elements are the most cohesive overall. After #33 I have to go on strictly visual preferences because I don’t know whether the collages represent any of the stories, so it’s a toss up between #28, #37 & #36, with the latter proving that sometimes a simple layout grabs your attention better while the former two are more thought provoking with their disparate elements.
    Very interesting post!

    1. I understand what you are referring to but…. referring more the numbers of the volumes on the magazines themselves in the post.

      As you know, generally uninterested if they represent the stories or not.

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. Part II incoming.

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