EMSHWILLER, Ed


EMSHWILLER, Ed
   Working name of US illustrator and film-maker Edmund Alexander Emshwiller (1925-1990); he often signed his sf artwork "Emsh". He studied art at the University of Michigan, the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, and the Art Students League in New York. Astonishingly prolific, Emsh did cover and interior art, beginning with Gal in 1951, for more than two dozen magazines including AMZ, FSF (which he dominated through the 1950s) and Startling Stories, along with hundreds of book covers, both hardback and paperback; his work for ACE BOOKS alone would have made his reputation. He and Frank Kelly FREAS were the undisputed rulers of the sf-art realm during the 1950s and early 1960s, and among the few sf artists of the time able to make a decent living from their work. EE shared the first HUGO for Best Cover Artist with Hannes BOK in 1953; he won further Hugos in 1960, 1961, 1962 and 1964; the only other cover artists to win Hugos in that period were Freas and Roy G. KRENKEL.EE also painted abstract expressionist canvases for gallery exhibition and worked in experimental 16mm movie-making. Dance Chromatic (1959), his first film, and Thanatopsis (1962) are still remembered. He turned to full time moviemaking in 1964, thereafter doing only occasional sf artwork as a favour to friends. His 38min Relativity (1966) is regarded by many critics as one of the greatest short films ever made. This second career was notably distinguished, the Museum of Modern Art being one of many bodies to recognize its importance. In 1971 he began working with videotape, then a very new medium; and he was artist-in-residence at the Television Laboratory, WNET/13 in New York, winning yet more awards. He later (1981-6) became provost of the School of Film and Video at the California Institute of the Arts. EE was married to Carol EMSHWILLER.As an sf artist, EE worked fast and skilfully, seeming equally at home in every sf illustrative mode, whether dramatic, symbolic or humorous. His style was vigorous but polished-seeming, though his actual lines (especially in interior artwork) tended to be rough, assured and full of character. While there is no denying his talent, he may have worked too speedily: from the perspective of the 1990s, little of his sf artwork seems especially memorable, and nobody then or now seems to have bothered to produce a book of his work. But in the 1950s he represented a definite step up from the colourful crudeness of most ILLUSTRATION for the PULP MAGAZINES.
   JG/PN

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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