Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Johann Peter Reuter’s Surreal Forms Arrayed Across the Plains

German painter and graphic designer Johann Peter Reuter (1949-) created fourteen credited covers for German SF presses between 1977-1984.  I have identified a potential fifteenth cover included below–the 1977 edition of Isaac Asimov’s Second Foundation (1953)–that I believe fits his style and date range. From the information gleaned from his homepage, Reuter’s SF output occurred in the first few years as a freelance artist after studying art in Dortmund. He started as a figurative painter before evolving to non-figurative forms (brief artist blurb).

If you’re interested in his non-SF art, check out his fascinating series of paintings from 2004 on the visualization of the mass.

While figurative, his science fiction covers peer into surreal interior spaces and landscapes. A bleakness pervades. Haunting forms emerge from the landscape or contort across the plains. Books, scattered leaves, and shrouds formed as if occupied by shriveled human shapes litter foregrounds…

While lacking the searing might of Wojtek Siudmak’s countless surrealist covers for 70s and 80s French SF paperbacks and magazines, it’s hard not to be pulled into the surreal worldscapes of Reuter’s visions.

I’m partial to Retuer’s cover for the 1977 German edition of Isaac Asimov’s Second Foundation (1953)–if it is his work. Of the firmly credited covers, the 1981  edition of Philip José Farmer’s The Magic Labyrinth (1980) and To Your Scattered Bodies Go (1971) are my personal favorites.

What are your favorites?

 

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12 thoughts on “Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Johann Peter Reuter’s Surreal Forms Arrayed Across the Plains

    • I like that one as well — especially the gnarly texture….

      I noticed that the Germans published a TON of Philip Jose Farmer in translation. Often just a year after the original publication date. I find it fascinating what was picked up by foreign language presses.

      • Philip José Farmer was popular in Germany in the 1970s. He even has his own entry in the science fiction section of the 1971 Lexicon of Pop Culture.

        Johann Peter Reuter did some interesting covers and his current work, much of which seems to be for churches and public buildings, is interesting as well.

        However, I raise my eyebrows at the German title for Second Foundation, which spoils the twist – the true location of the Second Foundation – in the freaking title. Not the only time this has happened either, Walter Ernsting spoiled the end of Rosel George Brown’s “Of All Possible Worlds…” in the title of the German translation as well.

        • Hello Cora, thanks for visiting! But yes, I noticed the same thing just looking at publication lists for the popularity of Farmer. I find that intriguing. Any idea why? His books often were translated and published the following year in Germany! I noticed the same thing in a recent art post on Italian covers with Tanith Lee’s novels. They were all translated and published immediately — often hitting shelves in Italy the same year: https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2021/01/16/adventures-in-science-fiction-cover-art-italian-tanith-lee-covers-by-allison-aka-mariella-anderlini/

          According to isfdb.org, that Asimov volume might also be abridged — to add to the frustration.

          Yeah, I made sure to link Reuter’s recent work and include some of his church art in the post. Artists evolve. And he’s a great example of that. And, I suspect this might be the case frequently in Europe, he only created SF art when he had to (the first few years of freelancing) and quickly moved on.

  1. Well, I dunno, I like Farmer’s work, but why he was popular in Germany…? Like the cover to “Science Fiction Story Reader 9”, it could easily illustrate John Christopher’s “The Death Of Grass”. My favorite is the cover to “To Your Scattered Bodies Go” though.

    • I mean it more as a selection issue — I too enjoy some of his work. BUT lots and lots of major authors were not translated and printed as quickly in non-English language markets. Apparently something about his SF particularly appealed.

      • But yes, the To Your Scattered Bodies Go was the reason I put together this post. I saw it first when I was skimming some covers on isfdb.org and decided to track down more of his work!

    • Yeah, as I mentioned to Mark Baumgart above, that’s the one that inspired my post! It’s quite horrifying… the vaguely human form against the field. I’m guessing one of the “reincarnated” that just appeared in Farmer’s world on the banks of the river?

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