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(American, 1921-1996)

Richard Powers helped change the perception of science fiction in the 1950s from being juvenile-oriented pulp stories to legitimate fiction aimed towards an older, more sophisticated audience. For this contribution he is considered one of the most influential science fiction artists of all time, next to Virgil Finlay, and Frank Frazetta.


Powers had extensive formal art training; however, he was not trained in magazine illustration nor was he a fan of science fiction. Instead, his interest in classical European artists influenced his style. As a surrealist artist, his paintings were exhibited in a four-man show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1952.


After attempting to land a few jobs with New York publishers, Powers was assigned several book jacket covers for Ballantine Books and Doubleday that included the genres of western, mystery, and science fiction. He despised commercialism but found creative expression in the endless possibilities within science fiction illustration.


Powers became one of the most sought-after artists for science fiction book covers during this period because of his unique, surreal, and symbolic imagery. He often worked with a limited color palette and based his compositions solely on the book titles without reading the manuscripts. His thought-provoking imagery captured the essence of the book to illicit a feeling rather than rendering a literal interpretation of the story or a scene.

Tarzan and the Leopard Men (1964)

Richard Powers (American, 1921-1996)

Mixed media on Whatman board

Cover illustration for Tarzan and the Leopard Men by Edgar Rice Burroughs

 Tarzan No. 18; Published by Ballantine Books in January 1964

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