Gerard Quinn (1927-2015)

Cover by Gerard Quinn.

Cover by Gerard Quinn.

A leading artist in British sf magazines of the late 1950s and early 1960s, Gerard Quinn died November 30 at the age of 88.

Quinn was a self-taught artist who lived most of his life in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He submitted his work on spec to New Worlds editor John Carnell who was impressed, launching Quinn’s prolific career.

His interior illustrations began appearing in New Worlds in 1951. “Quinn was endlessly adaptable and some of his best interior work had the style and quality of Virgil Finlay’s illustrations,” writes Michael Ashley in Transformations: The Story of the Science-fiction Magazines from 1950 to 1970.

Between 1952 and 1963 Quinn did the cover art for over 75 books and magazines (per ISFDB), the majority for Carnell’s New Worlds and Science Fantasy. In the assessment of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, “His early covers can seem amateurish, but he gradually improved his craft and discovered his forté, realistic astronomical paintings in the manner of Chesley Bonestell.”

However, the sf field of that day was not a good place for an artist to make a living, and it became unprofitable for Quinn to take his time doing his best work – something he came straight out and said when profiled for New Worlds #51: “The most pointed reason for my own economy of line in recent months has been lack of time – and still is. Commissions for science fiction are few and my services are often better employed elsewhere although I would prefer to spend all my time working in our own specialized medium….” (Quoted in Building New Worlds, 1946-1959: The Carnell Era, Volume One by John Boston and Damien Broderick.)

Quinn’s obituary in the Irish News astutely observes, “These [sf] artists set out to envisage the future but when we admire their work today it is evocative of a distinct period in the middle of the twentieth century and we are instantly transported back to that stylish age.”

Quinn did his part to shape the style of that time, first in sf publications, then in the late 1960s working in the powerful medium of advertising, primarily as an artist for Belfast firms such as AV Brown.

He continued to work in advertising through the 1970s before going into retirement.

His wife, Jean, passed away in 2013. He is survived by his five children.

1 thought on “Gerard Quinn (1927-2015)

  1. I’ve never before seen Quinn’s cover for the Pan paperback Prelude to Space. As I am fond of illustration, it is much the best cover I have seen for that novel.

    Though the painting dates from 1954, the appearance of the ocean, clouds, and red-lit dawn horizon seems pretty accurate to post-Space-Age eyes.

    The invaluable ISFDB informs me that Quinn did another cover for the same book, in the same year, for the Sidgwick & Jackson hardcover, showing the same spacecraft awaiting launch across the Australian desert. An interesting pair of paintings.

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