Clark Ashton Smith book covers


I hadn’t looked at Eldritch Dark, the premier Clark Ashton Smith site, for a while so it’s good to see they now have a substantial collection of CAS covers from books, magazines and fanzines. The ones shown here are further examples of my Panther Books fetishism and were the first CAS titles I came across in the mid-Seventies. The artist is Bruce Pennington who produced much fine sf and fantasy art during this period and whose spiky, bone-strewn paintings are especially suited to cosmic horror vistas or the more apocalyptic end of the fantasy spectrum. He also painted a couple of Lovecraft-related covers for Panther, hence his inclusion in the forthcoming Lovecraft art book from Centipede Press.


• Bruce Pennington at ImageNETion: I | II | III | IV

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9 thoughts on “Clark Ashton Smith book covers”

  1. I bought a lot of SF as a teenager and I think I had a number of Pennington designed covers over the years, I certainly recognise his style. I think I had at least one of the Frank Herbert “Dune” series of books designed by him (?). Some cover artists around at the time (Chriss Foss jumps to mind for example) had really distinctive styles. I’m sure that probably still holds true for current cover artists, I’m just less familiar with the genre.

  2. Yes, Pennington did the Dune covers and also painted a large and incomprehensible book called Eschatus based on the prophecies of Nostradamus which I still have. Chris Foss was the most successful cover artist of that period and I tried imitating his bloated spaceship style when I was a teenager until I realised I wasn’t really interested in doing sf art.

    There’s still a few distinctive illustrators around but the people who stand out these days seem to be the designers. Fantasy illustration, like much fantasy writing, seems to have become more homogenous since the Seventies, all very polished but all looking the same.

  3. Ah, one of my favorite authors. Lovecraft referred to him as a then-contemporary Baudelaire. I’ve nothing but respect for Baudelaire but I’ve always liked Smith more. If I was fluent enough in French it would come as no shock if Baudelaire’s untranslated writings showed more traditional poetic mastery, but Smith’s strange prose, which was poetic enough itself, was perfectly suited for his subject matter.

    I can see how in some arenas their works are comparable though, for sure. On the subject of art, sometimes I think Smith’s writing came just a bit too late, as they seem deserving of illustrations by some the last artists that one could consider symbolist. I recently acquired, at a steal no less, a fairly well sized edition of Faust as illustrated by Harry Clarke which included all of his plates, including the colored ones. I can only imagine what more he could have done if he hadn’t have worked himself to death, but his art embodied his focus and dedication.

  4. Oh, I remember that “Eschatus” book! I had forgotten all about it until you mentioned it. My big loves from this period were Syd Mead and Roger Dean. Mead was more of a concept artist of course, and Dean did lots of record covers and posters. I saved up and bought the big coffee table books released at the time, “Sentinel” by Mead and “Views” by Dean. I still look at them every now and then!

  5. Wiley: yes Harry Clarke would have been great for CAS. However, it’s probable that if he was writing earlier his work would have been more traditionally decadent and less imaginative due to the evolution of the genres that CAS and HPL were working within. The pulp hunger for new stories every month acted as an accelerator on the development of that kind of writing, propelling everything into new areas a lot faster and encouraging writers in Weird Tales and elsewhere to feed off each other. Mike Moorcock has always said this is one of the values of magazines, for the stimulus they give writers.

    Andrew: I have Views as well, it was a key work for me for a while and I became a proficient Roger Dean imitator. I still have that battered copy and keep intending to get one of the hardbacks. It was the success of Views that led to expensive white elephants such as Eschatus which is okay but I would have preferred a collection of his cover art.

    Dragon’s Dream/Dragon’s World/Paper Tiger did some other decent titles, my other favourite being The Studio, about the work of Barry Smith, Mike Kaluta, Jeff Jones and Berni Wrightson.

  6. Hi, John

    I know you´re not replying my posts anymore, but I still watch your feuilleton every time I come to the Lan Houses. Unfortunately, no Clark Ashton Smith´s books in Brazil (at least, not that I´m aware of, anyway). But the covers are great.
    All the best

  7. Hi Marcio. I reply whenever I think a response is required (and when I have the time to respond). If people stop by and say “this stuff is great” there’s little I can add to that. I also prefer to use these comments boxes for discussion relevant to the post, not as a means of general communication. The latter is what my email address is for.

  8. Hey, John

    …and right you are, pal! Tks for replying this one, I’ll stick to serious stuff from now on, whenever I know something about the subject.
    Great hearing from you again, man. Hope everything’s fine.
    ‘Till another one…

    Márcio Salerno

  9. Bruce Pennington has been among my favorite SF/Fantasy artists since the late 1980s. I love his colorful and often surreal looking environments. He certainly has developed his own unique style. His book “Ultraterranium: The Paintings of Bruce Pennington” can still be bought used through amazon. A wonderful book.

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