A dark, macabre and cleverly rendered gouache cover illustration by Ed Emshwiller (Emsh) for the January 1956 issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. An expertly rendered rare surviving example of this vanguard artist’s cover mastery and peculiar set of defining talents. A published example of the book is included in the sale and the work is beautifully matted and framed and ready to enjoy.
Ed Emshwiller (February 16, 1925-July 27, 1990) was a visual artist notable for illustrations of many science fiction magazine covers and for his pioneering computer-generated movies. He usually signed his work as Emsh but sometimes used the signatures Ed Emsh and Emsler.
Born in Lansing, Michigan, he graduated from the University of Michigan in 1947, then studied at École des Beaux Arts (1949-1950) in Paris with his wife, the award-winning writer Carol Emshwiller (nee Fries), whom he married on August 30, 1949, and finally at the Art Students League of New York (1950-1951).
Between 1951 and 1979, Emshwiller created covers and interior illustrations for dozens of science fiction paperbacks and magazines, notably for Galaxy and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. During this time he won 5 Hugo Awards for Best Artist: 1953 (tied with Hannes Bok) , 1960, 1961, 1962, and 1964. There seems to have been no “typical” Emsh cover. His painterly treatment for the August 1951 Galaxy recalls later work by Leo and Diane Dillon.
In 1964 a Ford Foundation grant allowed Emshwiller to pursue his interest in film. Active in the New American Cinema movement of the 1960s and early 1970s, he created multimedia performance pieces, also painted in china and did cine-dance and experimental films, while also filming low-budget features and documentaries. In 1979 he produced Sunstone, a ground-breaking three-minute 3-D computer-generated movie made at the New York Institute of Technology with Alvy Ray Smith.
After a period as artist-in-residence at the Television Laboratory WNET/13 (New York), he moved to California and served as dean of the School of Film/Video at the California Institute of Arts from 1979 to 1990. He also served as provost from 1981 through 1986. In 1987 he created Hungers for the 1987 Los Angeles Arts Festival, in partnership with composer Morton Subotnick.
Emshwiller died of cancer on July 27, 1990, in Valencia, California, where he was cremated. His papers are archived at the California Institute of Arts.
On June 16, 2007, Emshwiller was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in Seattle, WA. In 2007, Emshwiller: Infinity X Two: The Art & Life of Ed and Carol Emshwiller by Luis Ortiz (with artwork captions and a foreword by Alex Eisenstein) was published by Nonstop Press.