(Art) The Hyperspace Colors of Paul Lehr

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Paul Lehr (1930-1998) studied illustration at the prestigious Pratt Institute. His first sf cover – for the American edition of Jeffery Lloyd Castle’s Satellite E One (1954) – is a realistic depiction of the construction of an unusually-shaped Space Station, and similar images of spacecraft, rendered mostly in shades of grey, are seen in other early covers. His cover for Robert Sheckley’s Journey Beyond Tomorrow (1962) show Lehr moving toward the less representational style that would later be his trademark.

His first noteworthy work in this vein, perhaps, was his cover for James Gunn’s Future Imperfect (1964), depicting a Medusa-like woman and a human-headed spider amidst odd designs within a rectangle that is partially shattered. His covers for a 1967 edition of H G Wells’s The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth (1904) and Sheckley’s Dimension of Miracles (1968) display what became one of his trademarks, strange egg-shaped objects, here broken to respectively reveal an enormous eye and an array of planets and stars. While his people often seem small and insignificant in contrast to the large structures dominating his covers, Lehr could also make effective use of bright pastel colours, which tended to make his covers stand out amidst others dominated by darker hues.

As American publishers came to prefer more realistic art in the 1980s, Lehr focused instead on covers for the sf magazines Analog, Omni, Tomorrow: Speculative Fiction, and Weird Tales as well as covers for foreign publishers. Lehr also worked outside the genre for magazines like Business Week, Fortune, Life, Playboy, The Reader’s Digest, and Time, and he remained active until his death in 1998. [SF Encyclopedia]