Margaret Brundage is a revolutionary among artists. Becoming the first female to create cover art for pulp fiction magazines in the first quarter of the 20th century. She dominated Weird Tales magazine covers for more than a decade. However, it wasn’t always a walk in the park for “The First Lady of Pulp Pinup Art”.
Here are a few fascinating facts about this pulp art pioneer and her work:
Cover Art Controversy
1 She was the primary cover designer for “Weird Tales” during the 1930s and 1940s. She was a pioneer of the pulp era, becoming its first female cover artist. Her covers drew attention and sparked controversy. They often depicted scantily clad female characters — many times in treacherous situations — associated with one of the magazine’s ‘tales.’
2 Sizeable original cover art by Brundage illustrating the story “The Carnal God,” for the June 1937 issue of “Weird Tales,” sold for $47,150 (including buyer’s premium) at auction March 17, 2016. The pastel artwork appeared on illustration board, was framed, and measured 26 1/8 x 30 1/8 inches, before selling during the auction presented by Hake’s Americana & Collectibles.
3 Her various informal monikers, which include “The First Lady of Pulp Pinup Art” and “The Queen of the Pulps,” speak to her claim to fame. However, her post-secondary education and early work was in fashion design and illustration.
Turning Conan Into a Cover Model
4 “Weird Tales” continues to appeal to fans of pulp fiction, as well as collectors. Among the ‘Tales’ receiving considerable interest are those featuring stories of Conan, written by Robert E. Howard. During the course of four years (1932-1936), 17 stories featuring Conan appeared in “Weird Tales,” with nine of those tales appearing on the cover. Brundage, who signed most of her work M. Brundage, drew all nine Conan covers. This was well before Frank Frazetta began drawing covers of Conan for paperbacks.
5 During a 2012 auction presented by Heritage Auctions, original pastel on board cover art for “Abd Dhulma, Lord of Fire,” which appeared on the cover of “Weird Tales” in December 1933, commanded $32,500.
6 In an interesting twist, Brundage crossed paths with Walt Disney, while the two were in high school and students at the Academy of Fine Art in Chicago, according to an article on www.fastcocreat.com, referencing the book “The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage: Queen of Pulp Pin-Up Art” by J. David Spurlock and Stephen D. Korshak.
Understated Progressive Spirit
7 Although she was frequently criticized for her depiction of women as helpless damsels in her cover art, she was well known for her innovative actions as a member of various progressive organizations including the College of the Complexes and the Dil Pickle Club (stet) in Chicago during the 1950s and ’60s. Her then-husband Myron “Slim” Brundage founded the College of Complexes. It’s reported she participated in antiwar protests, the woman’s suffrage and civil rights movements, crusaded for free speech and sought to help people living in lower income communities to utilize their artistic talents.
8 Brundage created her art using pastels on illustration board, a departure from the way many of her peers approached creating cover art. (They often preferred paint on board and watercolor.)
9 The original cover art of Weird Tales’ “The Six Sleepers,” from October 1935, a pastel on paper by Brundage, sold for $19,375 during a 2013 auction presented by Heritage Auctions.
10 Between 1933 and 1945 Margaret Brundage sold 66 original pulp cover illustrations to Weird Tales.
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