Margaret Brundage broke two taboos at the same time with her iconic covers for Weird Tales magazine in the 1930s. She was a woman working in the male-dominated world of fantasy art, and her covers were racy and titillating, even for the pulp era.
Warning: possibly NSFW magazine art below!
Now, at last, Brundage is going to get her props. A brand new book of her work is coming out in April, The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage, from Vanguard Productions. The writer and publisher, J. David Spurlock spoke to the Atlantic about Brundage:
Most people think of her illustration as spicy, mysterious fare, and that it is," Spurlock says. "Decades before the gothic fetish craze, Brundage's lush, provocative paintings, which frequently featured smoldering, semi-nude young women bearing whips, became a focus of acute attention and controversy."
And that controversy was before "people found out that the M. in the signature M. Brundage was for Margaret-a woman," Spurlock says. "It was unfathomable that a woman would paint such material. Yet while seeming to fulfill the editor's request for titillation, she, in keeping with fine-art traditions, and her own politics, persevered to insert both her personality and her point of view into her sensuous women-in-peril pieces."
As Spurlock also notes, Brundage was active in progressive politics, including civil rights, and often depicted women as being strong and aggressive rather than just victims. She and her husband Slim Brundage joined the bohemian Dil Pickle Club during the Chicago Renaissance, where they hung out with Studs Terkel, Djuna Barnes and other famous radicals. She was also active in supporting Chicago's Bronzeville African American art community.
Check out some of our favorite Brundage pieces below — warning, some of these are possibly NSFW, despite having appeared on newsstands when Herbert Hoover was president: