Thursday, July 25, 2019

'I Went to the Morgues'

The Illustrated Press has released a new book on Rafael De Soto, who painted colorful scenes of crime and murder for the popular magazines.  

As with other monographs in this series, this one begins with a biography. It tells of his origins in Puerto Rico and his journey to New York to break into the illustration market.

The images are made both from original art and rare tearsheets, and most of the book is devoted to large reproductions of the artwork.

De Soto said: "The experience that I had in the pulps was unbelievable because I had to paint the most gruesome things that anyone can think up to attract the attention of the public." 

"To paint those kinds of covers I needed to do a lot of reference work. I went to the morgues and they pulled out girls' bodies for me to study! I went to the autopsies! This was not in my nature at all, but that's what I painted and that is the kind of stuff people wanted to read about in those days. I am a man of peace, who would rather be painting chapels than making those things."

At one point a friend of his who was a priest visited him. Troubled by the images he was painting, the priest asked De Soto why he didn't paint beautiful things. "Nobody buys my paintings of beautiful things," he answered.

The Art of Rafael De Soto is written by pulp expert David Saunders and published by the Illustrated Press. It's 224 pages, 9x12 inches, hardcover with dust jacket and priced at $44.95
Previous books in the series on Coby WhitmoreTom Lovell, and Harry Anderson


A Colonel of Truth said...

De Soto right. People prefer gruesome, sadly. A simple example: Highway onlooker delays. Delays there’s not to admire all the beautiful roadside things.

Anthony R. said...

That's unfortunate. I don't like the work I see here a whole lot because of what it depicts, or maybe because the artist wasn't into it and that comes through too. A lesson for others to stick with what they love to paint even if it is a challenge.

Rich said...

Well, it's Popular Magazines;-)

I personally find the Illustrator's up to the task and made quite something out of them covers, almost bordering on the surreal.
What liberties he took with dramatic (exaggerated) lighting, for instance. He quite "was into it", IMO.

In former (mediaval) days, painters depicted hell: And very convicingly so!

Nothing new.

Anthony R. said...

Good points Rich. What I mean by 'wasn't into it' was referring to the quotes about how he would have rather painted other things. He definitely did this work well and with diligent studies, such as going to the morgue and all. And since he did this so well, then how well might he have done paintings of subjects he was more passionate about? Maybe he did do some pieces that were more for his own enjoyment. I don't know.

Paul Sullivan said...

Personally, I can’t understand why De Soto is getting any recognition at all.

Much of is work was regarded as minor league material when it was published, with most people thinking it was trash. Maybe it’s easier to publish his work because of copyright protection on the work of many illustrators who should be given more recognition.

It is ridiculous to think of a book of his work being in the same series as ones on the work of Coby Whitmore, Tom Lovell and Harry Anderson.

Rich said...

Coby Whitmore certainly is a fantastic illustrator: But I don't find with him such expressive renditions of fear, for instance: all that suspense design.

Perhaps a bit far fetched: but De Soto to me somewhat looks like a pulp version of Goya with his caprichos;-)

arturoquimico said...

I wonder if those giving negative comments realize that a lot of pulp covers were painted during the depression... work was hard to come by and as I understand it, those that did these covers did all right financially and didn't have to rely on WPA/FAP payments. You market what sells and he was good at this market.