Here’s a mid-60’s paperback edition of Mary Shelley’s novel from England’s Corgi Books, with a cover by one of the most celebrated illustrators of the twentieth century.
Belgian artist Jean-Léon Huens (1921-1982) first came to prominence for his children’s book illustrations. He would go on to provide exceptional covers for Tintin weekly comics magazine and the Marabout line of paperbacks. In 1946, with brother Étienne, Huens founded the Historia imprint and created over 400 card-sized paintings celebrating the history of Belgium. Huens established himself as a virtuoso artist not only for his intricately detailed paintings and the exhaustive research he invested into every piece, but as a tour de force, he executed each historical subject in the art style of its era, channeling the Masters like Vermeer, Van Eyck and so on.
In the Sixties, Huens expanded into worldwide markets, producing art for the international edition of Reader’s Digest and covers for The Saturday Evening Post and paperback publishers Dell, Penguin and Corgi. Huens’ association with National Geographic yielded very influential and now legendary illustrations, notably his portraits of famous scientists and explorers.
In 2002, Jean-Léon Huens was inducted, posthumously, into the prestigious Society of Illustrators’ Hall of Fame.
Huens’ uncluttered, low angle illustration for Frankenstein shows The Monster as a gangling giant. The sunlight, bright sky and windblown hair suggest the high mountains or the arctic wilderness where The Monster dwells. The facial expression is intriguing and invites interpretation. Huens’ references were obviously cinematic, with The Monster’s prominent brow and heavy lidded eyes. He wears the curious fur vest seen in Son of Frankenstein (1939) and that long arm dangling from a short sleeve is pure Karloff, complete with a high wrist scar.
Beautifully supported by a calligraphic title, it’s a wonderful, deceptively simple and very successful illustration.
With thanks, from the collection of Muir Hewitt.