I recently got two art books. Both were about artists, born in the Thirties, who became major illustrators for a period of Fantasy publishing.
Gervasio Gallardo was born in Barcelona, Spain. He had a successful career as a commercial artist with a flair for surreal imagery before being asked to work for Ballantine Books in 1969 as a cover illustrator for their new Adult Fantasy series. Although he began most covers by being provided with a detailed sketch from Robert Blanchard (then art director at Ballantine), it was his own style--described by Betty Ballantine as a "combination of exquisite detail, imagination and technique" where "the minutae of his flowers, grasses, butterflies, lilies, jewels, trees, insects, shells, fish, and all the incredibly rich and gorgeous images he uses" became "a signature which fantasy fans recognized immediately." Although I came to reading fantasy novels some time after he finished producing for Ballantine, I soon found in my searching through used bookstores that any book sporting his style was well worth consideration.
Darrell K. Sweet, on the other hand, was going strong well through the Eighties and Ninties when I most active sweeping the stores for new reading. Sweet produced covers for works by Stephen R. Donaldson, Katherine Kurtz, Piers Anthony, Terry Pratchett, and J. R. R. Tolkien, as well as many others. Sweet's style also compelled my attention; it's combination of realistic approach and fantastic subject are in direct contrast to Gallardo's surrealism, but fits the style of the fantasy being written at the time as opposed to the more lyrical approach of the older classic works that Gallardo illustrated. The art book dedicated to his work, Beyond Fantasy, includes work done on totally realistic themes, and shows a fine eye for detail and composition.
These books join a small clutch of volumes on my shelves about artists, along with the likes of Howard Pyle, Maxfield Parrish, Arthur Rackham, Norman Rockwell, and the Brothers Hildebrandt.
I normally prefer the straight-on illustrator styles of artists like Sweet, Wyeth, Pyle, etc., but these Gervasio works are pretty compelling. It's kind of like, "What would Dali's work be like if he worked in medeival times?" Oh wait a minute; he might be Bosch!
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