Hannes Bok was one of a thousand illustrators who eked out a career making illustrations for magazines, particularly scf-fi magazines, in the middle part of the last century. Born Wayne Francis Woodard in Kansas City in 1914, he grew up in Duluth, Minnesota, and lived in Los Angeles and Seattle as a young man.
His selected pseudonym, which lent his work an air of European sophistication, was a jumbled reference to the greatest of all Baroque composers, Johann Sebastian Bach. (“Hannes” relates to “Johannes,” a variant of Bach’s first name.) Early in his career Bok befriended an unknown writer named Ray Bradbury who would later become an advocate for Bok among sci-fi publishers. After Bok established himself in the late 1940s, he moved to New York City.
Bok’s work cannily melds the stately art of the pre-Raphaelites and the more cartoonish, fantastical motifs of the sci-fi stories he was illustrating. A good many of Bok’s images resemble those of his exact contemporary Virgil Finlay, but Finlay’s utterly unique output was far more delicate and “three-dimensional,” for lack of a better descriptor. Where Finlay’s work might depict a damsel in thrall to a demon, Bok would be more likely to juxtapose a stolid explorer flanked by two bizarre creatures.
Bok was also a noted astrologer as well as a creative writer. He published two novels, The Sorcerer’s Ship and The Blue Flamingo, which was later retitled Beyond the Golden Stair. First editions of the book Hannes Bok: A Life in Illustration are much prized by fans of midcentury illustration, running as high as $150.
I like this last one because it’s such a perfect example of work generated in the magazine production phase:
via Monster Brains
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
The erotic, macabre art of Virgil Finlay, favorite illustrator of H.P. Lovecraft