Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Yves Tanguy and Penguin SF Cover Art

(Yves Tanguy’s cover for the 1963 edition of Mission of Gravity (1954), Hal Clement)

On the birthday of French-American surrealist Yves Tanguy (1900-1955) (January 5th), I always take a minute to browse his art online. I faintly recalled seeing his art on various 1960s Penguin edition covers…. And lo and behold, J. G. Ballard’s  New Wave masterpiece The Drowned World (1962) and Hal Clement’s pioneering work of hard SF, Mission of Gravity (1954) were both graced with Tanguy’s canvases. Penguin regularly used the work of famous mainstream artists–for example, Max Ernst (I identified ten covers). China Miéville’s novella “The Last Days of New Paris” (2018) also uses a Tanguy/Lamba/Breton exquisite corpse collage (I’m focusing primarily on earlier covers in this post).  

I’ve found Tanguy’s art, often extensive plains populated by faintly organic undulating shapes, relentlessly inventive and appealing. In addition, he was married to my single favorite American surrealist, Kay Sage (responsible for funding/supporting many French surrealists who came to the US during WWII). Unfortunately, her work did not appear on SF covers from the 60s-70s.

(Yves Tanguy’s 1942 painting Indefinite Divisibility appeared on the 1st edition of Science Fiction: A Historical Anthology (1983), ed. Eric S. Rabkin)

(Yves Tanguy’s cover art for the 1965 edition of The Drowned World (1962), J. G. Ballard)

For more Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art consult the INDEX

11 thoughts on “Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Yves Tanguy and Penguin SF Cover Art”

  1. Hi Joachim

    I always enjoy your posts on science fiction cover art. My wife and I really enjoy the surrealists and look forward to them when we visit galleries. Penguin did some really interesting covers overall, there is a lovely site showing all the covers online but I rarely find them in the bookstores. When we went to London I expected to find lots and did not find any. So I just have to be content to pick them up here and there.

    All the best

    1. Hello Guy, me too! My wife and I were thrilled to visit the MOMA in New York City last summer — and of course, I’ve spent a lot of time in France over the years hanging out in the museums…..

      I HIGHLY recommend Whitney Chadwick’s Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement.

  2. Great Thanks

    My wife and I have been watching some programs on Leonora Carrington, got a book on her and saw some of her work in London, so we are quite interested in the topic.


    1. She was also a short story author (as were many of the female surrealists). This collection tempts me whenever I glance through my amazon wishlist…..

      And her complete fiction collection is listed at $8 amazon prime at the moment!

      1. Yes, she’s a favorite.

        One of my first jobs involved working for a man who owned a Varo painting (certainly not one of her most famous ones but I was intrigued).

        Have you read Chadwick’s Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement? Highly recommended. I wish there was a more recent monograph of women in the movement but it’s a good place to start.

    1. Yeah, that one is lovely…. I agree about “as appropriate” — Sage’s work, often unfairly compared to that of her husband, is far more interested in architectural and manmade forms.

      This one would be PERFECT for a Ballard novel, especially The Drowned World!

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