Monday, August 27, 2012

Paul Lehr

How has your summer been? 

I've been working on some new alien menagerie pieces, but I thought I'd share some artwork from one of my illustration heroes, Paul Lehr. 

I haven't had the luxury of collecting many pieces of original art, yet his is one of the few that I own. It's the cover for the paperback anthology BEST SF STORIES FROM NEW WORLDS 4.  

This is the way science fiction looks to me, moody, and suggestive. It's also a mixture of narrative and surreal. His use of color is masterful, creating a rich, strange atmosphere. I learned the power of analogous color palettes looking at his work.  The covers I've selected to show are all scanned from books I read when I first discovered the genre.

Perhaps he was a better artist than illustrator, but looking back at these covers, I'm reminded of how much easier it is for me to hang on to a striking cover image, long after the details of the story has left me. 

Paul Lehr was a student of Stanley Meltzoff at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He began painting covers in 1957 working in oils on top of casein, but in the early 60's switched to Designer's colors, and later acrylics. His work evolved as well, away from the influence of Meltzoff, developing his own unique and powerful voice. He was most prolific in the late 60's and early 70's having a commanding share of book covers within the genre.

Paul Lehr passed away in 1998, and it's one of my regrets, that I never met him.

Here's a Tumblr link for more of Paul Lehr's work:

Lehr is one of the six artists featured in the VISIONS OF NEVER by Patrick and Jeannie Wilshire. You can find it here at


  1. Hi Bruce,

    Thanks for the tribute to Paul Lehr. You're lucky to own an original of his.

    I agree with you. He was a fine artist first and illustrator second. His book cover paintings were luscious to see in person and I was fortunate to handle a good number of them while working in his agent's (Frank & Jeff Lavaty)office towards the end of his career.

    His color sketches were equally beautiful and amazing. They typcally were small, about 8 x 5 inches, and quite abstract in the looseness of the paint application. Colors were always intense and unconventioanl in his highly original style. Little gems!

    I never met him but we talked regularly on the phone as illustration jobs came and went. He had a somehwhat deep, soothing voice that matched his mellow, humble demeanor.

    Thanks again,

    1. Steven~
      Thanks for your comment. I'm rather jealous you had a relationship with Paul, even if over the phone. He was a master wasn't he!

  2. At the risk of self promotion . . . . Paul is one of the six artists featured in the VISIONS OF NEVER book, from Vanguard - he's got a 20 page section with a detailed bio (including reflection and insight from Vincent DiFate) as well as roughly 25 images, all pulled from Paul's own transparencies. It's by far the largest gathering of his work in book form (which some smart publisher needs to change by giving him a monograph!!).

    1. Pat~
      No risk of self promotion, I'm glad you pointed out this oversight on my part. I've added a link to the book in the post. A monograph of his work would be just amazing.