The artwork of Virgil Finlay

Virgil Finlay, American artist, (23 July 1914 – 18 January 1971) is probably most well know for his scratchboard fantasy and science fiction illustrations for such publications as Famous Fantastic MysteriesAmazing Stories and Weird Tales. He worked on white clayboard, using a combination of straight scratchwork and pen and ink drawing to create fantastically intricate works.

When Finlay first sent his work to publishers he was told it was too detailed for pulp fiction illustration; however in 1935, Weird Tales took a chance on Finlay and he soon became a favourite with readers and writers alike. His work became so popular that when he served with the Army during World War II  the magazines that used his illustrations hired other artists to imitate his style.

In addition to his grass-roots popularity, Finlay received professional recognition for his work: he was nominated several times in the 50s for the Hugo Award (retroactively awarded the 1946 award in 1996). His work was wonderfully detailed and took much longer than simple pen drawings, but Finlay refused to sacrifice quality for speed. When the Sci-Fi/Fantasy magazines of the 30s, 40s and 50s stopped publishing in the 60s, his art was picked up by the new Astrology publishers and he became as popular in this new genre as he’d been in Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Following his death in 1971, several portfolios of his work were released and quickly became collector items.

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