Triple X Rancho is perhaps the most unabashedly lurid spicy pulp scene created by Allen Anderson during his prolific career as a freelance illustrator. This image, which features a terrified yet sexually provocative pin up cowgirl being branded against her will, was created as the cover of the February 1943 edition of Spicy Western Stories, Volume #8 Issue #6. Even today, it is shocking to think of this image displayed on newsstands. This oil on canvas is a rare original surviving example of lurid spicy pulp cover art, and was unearthed by Grapefruit Moon Gallery along with two additional original cover paintings by Allen Anderson that had for many years been displayed at the Cimarron Dude Ranch in Peekskill, New York. The dude ranch was known from the 1950s through the 1970s as an anything goes destination that catered to the rustic and at times scandalous moods of New York City bohemians and artists, so this scene would have been oddly fitting for the confines of their boisterous tavern confines. Anderson, who moved to the region in 1954, became friendly with the staff of Cimarron and was a frequent guest there. This painting was gifted by the artist to the ranch, and after Cimarron closed the paintings were kept in the collection of one of the ranch’s managers until our recent purchase.
The Spicy Western was a short lived pop culture aberration that used the lawless setting of the Old West as a way to hide in plain sight the subversive and hyper-sexual content that drove the Spicy Pulp market. The terrifying and often times violent Western Americana lurid imagery played upon the darker impulses of readers, tapping into fantasy and sexual fetish. Triple X Rancho is Spicy Western at its most dark and depraved, and in fact the image of a woman being branded during sexual conquest (likely this very cover) was one of the instigating factors for Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia’s move to purge New York City of Spicy Pulp publications in the early months of 1943.
This rare surviving oil painting is in a very fine state of conservation and one of but a few examples of the artist’s published pulp covers to emerge.
Allen Anderson was born in Minneapolis Minnesota in 1908. After taking two years of correspondence art courses, he took a job working for Fawcett Publications. In 1939, he moved to New York City to join his life-long friend and fellow illustrator Norman Saunders, working in a tight knit circle who called themselves the Bad Boys Group. Shortly after his move, however, it became clear that Anderson, along with many pulp illustrators, would be called up to service in World War II. Rather than lose the momentum he had begun building as an in-demand artist during the war, Anderson spent the next six months painting as many covers as he could, so that he could sell them throughout the war. This is one of the 57 pieces he created for titles such as Spicy Stories, Speed Western Stories, Spicy Western Stories, Spicy Mystery, Spicy Stories, Spicy Detective and Super Detective during that period. A Navy man, Anderson spent the war teaching graphic design and lettering at a naval training camp in upstate New York–it is during this time he likely first visited the Cimarron Dude Ranch.
After the war, he returned to work as a pulp artist for nearly a decade, retiring in 1954 when he left New York City permanently to return upstate with his new bride, Joan. Anderson died in 1995.