Saturday, 18 January 2014

Pulp art - original paintings and cover photos from the Robert Lesser collection - slideshow

Close to 500 pictures in this slideshow:

Courtesy the New Britain Museum of American Art

Some really beautiful cover paintings there, covering all genres: Adventure, Hero, Fantasy, Weird, Science Fiction, Crime and Detective etc.

A background article about the collection.

You can get closer to some of this art in this book (highly recommended)

A video interview with Robert Lesser about pulps


  1. I have known Bob Lesser since the early 1970's and we both have collected many pulp cover paintings over the years. The Chicago Magazine article has several incorrect statements but I'd like to focus on just one error. The Director of the New Britain Museum says that without the Bob Lesser Collection there may have been no pulp art collection since Bob was the only one collecting paintings. This is complete and utter nonsense. In addition to myself, Doug Ellis and Bob Weinberg have been collecting pulp art for years and so have many of my collector friends. Many old time collectors like Darrell Richardson and Gerry de la Ree had large art collections before Lesser started collecting.

    Also some of the prices that are mentioned in the article are misleading. Everything is not high priced nowadays. It still is possible to pick up pulp cover paintings for a couple thousand or even a few hundred dollars. I ought to know because I've been doing it for over 40 years and I'm still finding bargains. I found some nice pulp art at Windy City and Pulpfest last year and I did not have to pay the high prices mentioned in the article.

    1. Have you ever come across any pulp art by Walter Cole (or W.C.) Brigham?

    2. Hi Beth,

      Your go to resource for pulp artist information should be the Pulp Artists site run by David Saunders, who is the son of one of the major pulp artists, Norman Saunders, and an authority on pulp art and artists.

      The site has an article on Walter Cole Brigham with samples of his work. Of course the list is not exhaustive.

      May I ask how you became interested in his art?


  2. Late to find this but thanks always Walker for your excellent comments. It's pretty egoistic of New Britain's director to say something ridiculous suggesting there are no other collectors out there which doesn't diminish the excellence of Bob Lesser's collection. I saw his collection at the first Pulpcon I ever attended in Bowling Green forever fueling my desire to find/collect original artwork for men's adventure magazines and I'm indebted (or perhaps in debt) to him for that. You're also a major influence/mentor in that regard as you know and can't thank you enough. Having said that, there another major error Bob said in the vid/interview suggesting the pulps just died and became paperbacks as if nothing significant followed. Having met many passionate enormously influential pulp collectors and fully knowing why they either don't like or resent what followed - men's adventure magazines - along with the term 'post war pulps' which I'm not particularly keen on either - doesn't mean that's not what followed for nearly three decades and also didn't influence another generation like me. If we're limiting the discussion to artwork, many of the best pulp generation artists (like Saunders, Gross, DeSoto, etc) continued their art career doing men's adventure mag artwork along with an entirely new generation of artists who created an entirely different style/generation of art many of whom are also famous or, I hope, becoming so. It's all good though and both can exist simultaneously and aren't in competition. I'll always love your influence and statements supporting 'the collector' Walker - most have no idea how rewarding yet challenging it is to establish a collection often when no one else seems to care (sometimes even the artists) just for the love of it and is part and parcel of why you had to respond to this - thanks always.

    1. Rich, thanks for your comments. One of my regrets is that we don't live closer together because we would have some great times discussing illustration art. Even though our collections concentrate on different areas, yours on the men's adventure magazines and mine on the pulp and paperback art.

      I was talking to someone recently about their visit to New Britain to see the Bob Lesser pulp art and he said they only had a few pieces on exhibit. The rest(a hundred paintings at least), were stored away out of sight. It's a shame that Lesser did not return the paintings to where they came from: other collectors. My feeling is that he bought them from collectors and they should be returned to other collectors when sold. Instead he donated them to a museum and then you lose control of the collection.

      No matter what a museum promises, often the collection is buried or not put on display in a permanent exhibit. You have to be a collector to know what I'm talking about and I hope that New Britain truly realizes what a find they have and takes care of it. Often libraries, universities, and museums are staffed by non-collectors who don't have the same passion that the true collectors have. They should have collectors on staff or available to advise them concerning collections.

    2. So rich pricks like you can buy out the entire collection to parade as your personal property and assets. It is quite noble that he donated the collection to an institution that would allow regular individuals interested in this art to freely see it in person. Quit being so god damned selfish.

    3. I thought hard about whether I should delete this comment or reply to it. I decided on the latter, but i will cut off any replies that aren't in a more civil tone.

      I'm going to stick to addressing whether a collector should leave their collection to a museum where more people have a chance to see it, or sell their collection to other collectors. There are pros and cons on each side, and every situation is different. Robert Lesser decided to go with a museum for his collection, and Frank Robinson auctioned his pulp collection, which may have been the highest quality one on the planet.


      Potentially more people have a chance to see the collection.

      Depending on how often they take the collection out of storage and make an exhibit, it may not be seen by more people. Many book and magazine collections that are in college libraries have suffered this fate.

      Many museums ask for money to support the collection even if you are willing to give it away. Not everyone can afford this.

      In future, they might auction off parts of the collection to raise funds, thus breaking up collections.


      Collectors are in it for the love of the thing. They are most likely to get daily joy from the art, instead of locking it up where no one can see it. Many collectors are quite friendly and allow you to enjoy their collections.

      Museums may not recognize the worth of something at the time. Collectors preseve things when museums and educational institutions don't care. This is the story of practically all the illustration art out there now.

      Depending on how reclusive the collector is and how anonymous they want to be, the art might be locked up forever.

      Depending on how organized the collector is, their heirs may never realize what a treasure they inherited and dispose of it in the trash.

  3. Large collection of original pulp fiction cover art by Louis Marchetti will be available at auction:

  4. Though Bob Lesser eventually decided to leave his collection to a museum, he did try and find a buyer among fellow art collectors. He wanted several million dollars but could not find a buyer. Other art collectors wanted only certain pieces, not the entire collection.

    How do I know about this? It all happened several years ago when a close friend of mine, Steve Kennedy, an art dealer, and Jerry Weist spent the summer trying to round up a buyer for the entire collection. They failed and Bob Lesser decided on the museum.

    Sadly, both Steve and Jerry are no longer with us.