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Rare & Wonderful 1950s Space Art

“QUANTUM SHOT” #778
Link – article by Avi Abrams

This Art Truly Makes “The Ether Vibrate”

It’s been some time since our last Retrofuture Space Art update, and today we are going to treat you to the rarest of the rare, the most spectacular 1950s space art that we could unearth from pretty unlikely sources around the world. Blast off!… and feel how “the ether vibrates”, quoting the exciting letter and editorial column from the legendary sf pulp magazine “Thrilling Wonder Stories”:

The yellowing brittle pulp pages of the 1940s science fiction magazines are not going to survive in pristine collectible condition much longer, no matter what the prices on eBay might imply. It is our hope that the contents of these magazines will be preserved online (as the copyright on many of them has expired), but before that happens, here is a little taste of the rarest and most interesting 1950s space art and cover illustrations:

British Pulps and Paperbacks Oozed a “Sense of Wonder” All Over the Bookshelves

They are also some of the hardest to find today. “Vargo Statten” (published by Scion Publications) and “Tit-Bits Science Fiction Library” were at the forefront of scifi paperback industry in the 1950s Britain, most written by a handful of writers (John Russel Fearn, E. C. Tubb, Kenneth Bulmer, Robert L. Fanthorpe) using multiple pseudonyms. The quality of such fiction was highly debatable, but the cover art was great – sometimes as garish as the “purple prose” contained within:



“The Master Weed?” No, the other weed… an alien plant that certainly looks very big and thriving, being harvested from the crater:

The “Exile from Jupiter” features a nice flying disc spacecraft concept, somewhat reminiscent of the Star Trek’s USS Enterprise:

Here is an interesting spaceship carrier, with a landing field for smaller aircraft on top:

Spectacular spaceships explode from the covers of these obscure editions:

“Planetoid Disposals, Inc.” by Volsted Gridban! If you are thinking that Volsted Gridban must be a pen name, you are correct. This is one of dozens of pen names of John Russel Fearn, sometimes a “house name” (also accomodating stories by E. C. Tubb) – see our huge list of science fiction pen names here.

You gotta admit that “Ray Cosmic” is a pretty awesome pseudonym for a 1950s (used by John S. Glasby):

Practical Mechanics was a popular-science British magazine published by George Newnes, Ltd., which often featured futuristic illustrations. The cover on the right shows a space station similar to the one in 2001: A Space Odyssey:


Rare American Editions Featuring Spectacular space Art

Beautiful planetary exploration (or invasion?) scene, painted by Alexander Leydenfrost:


(art by Alexander Leydenfrost)

(cover for Astounding Science Fiction, August 1941)

Some of the 1950s paperback science fiction anthologies featured very memorable art, like this intense planetary exploration scene from “Operation Future” (ed. by Groff Conklin, 1961):

Dramatic space rescue illustration by Robert Lesser from “Future Fiction” pulp magazine:


(image via)

Thrilling cover by Lou Cameron for the 1951 issue “Classics Illustrated: The Time Machine”:

This cover for Amazing Stories, July 1947, simply bursts with excitement and sense-of-wonder:

Legendary Chesley Bonestell was regularly illustrating fantastic and popular science publications; here is a lesser known example:


(image via)

Here is a collage of Popular Mechanics cover and a 1950 “Destination: Moon” 1950 interior illustration (with some shots from the movie):



(images via 1, 2)

Exploring the Icarus Asteroid:


(image via)

Approaching Mars:


There are plenty of surprises (and possibly misery) awaiting astronauts on outer space missions – see our Surprised Astronauts article for some fun examples:



(left: Science Club’s “L’homme dans l’espace” publication; right: the “Green Slime” movie, or “Invaders From Beyond the Stars”)

Italian Science Fiction Pulp Art

… was also very colorful, and featured beautiful astronaut ladies:




(on the right above is the underground city from the 1936 “Things To Come” movie)

This great rocket is a fragment of the Utopia magazine cover (see the whole cover here):

Spectacular and Rare Russian Science Fiction Illustrations


(various illustrations from the early 1960s issues of “Smena” magazine)

“Smena” magazine 1961 illustrations for “The Astronauts” novel by Stanislaw Lem (1951):


The “Moon Station Dome”, illustration by Andrey Sokolov:

Some great covers by “Tekhnika Molodezhi” youth science magazine:



“Meeting Across the Centuries”: great romantic Smena illustration:

And we finish this short collection of vintage Russian space illustration with this great “Happy New Year” cover:


(Smena magazine, Russia)

Cut to our times: here is a great example of modern space adventure art

… done in the best tradition of space pulp illustration: “Starcraft Medic” by Korean artist Kim Yong Su -


(image credit: Kim Yong Su)

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