Here’s looking at you, kid. An intriguing piece of work by Dutch painter Karel Thole.
Karel Thole was a massively prolific Dutch artist with a flair for combining both surreal science fiction themes with horror. For much of his career, Thole’s inspired artwork appeared on the cover of the number-one-selling Italian science fiction magazine (at the time) Urania. The magazine featured stories from premiere American sci-fi authors such as Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Alan Dean Foster, Philip K. Dick as well as English great, J.G. Ballard. Italian authors also contributed, though they were widely published under aliases.
Thole was born Carolus Adrianus Maria Thole in Holland in 1914. He attended an arts-focused school in Amsterdam and would find work in and around the Netherlands as an artist until he relocated with his family to Italy in the late 50s. Once in Italy Thole’s work was embraced by the Italian art community. Thanks to his notoriety in Italy, it wouldn’t take long for images of Thole’s illustrations and paintings to reach the eyes of publishers in the U.S., Germany, and France—further solidifying his legacy as one of Europe’s most popular science fiction/horror artists.
Thole’s work has been compared to other influential, instantly recognizable artists such as Salvador Dali, Hieronymus Bosch, and German Dada pioneer Max Ernst (in particular his color palette), and with very good reason. Thole’s work possesses distinct surrealist qualities—visualized in his transcendental alien landscapes or in his beautifully crafted covers for modern publications featuring the work of of H.P. Lovecraft. Surprisingly, there has yet to be a book focusing on Thole’s way-out artwork. Let’s hope that happens soon. For now, you’ll have to dig on the images in this post and then perhaps hunt down a few vintage novels which feature Thole’s artwork to add to your collection. Some of what follows is NSFW.
A piece by Thole for German horror novel series Vampir-Horror-Roman.
Cover art by Thole for an issue of Urania.
Artwork by Thole for Galaktika #34, 1979. The magazine was published in Budapest from 1972-1995.
Another cover by Thole for Urania (Issue #357, November 1964).
Artwork by Thole for the cover of the 1975 book ‘De Minnaar van Mars’ by John Wyndham.
Artwork for the cover of the 1986 book ‘Manual of the Unknown’ by Carlo Fruttero and Franco Lucentini.
Thole’s artwork for the 1972 ‘Baphomet’s Meteor’ by Pierre Barbet.
Artwork created by Thole for the cover of C. J. Cherryh’s 1986 book ‘40,000 in Gehenna.’
Thole’s work on the cover of German novel series Vampir-Horror-Roman (#33).
A look at Thole’s H.P. Lovecraft-inspired wrap-around artwork for ‘I mostri all’angolo della strada’ (‘The Monsters on the Street Corner’ 1966). The book contains a collection of various H.P. Lovecraft stories.
A painting by Thole that appeared on the cover of the German novel ‘Das Monster’ by John E. Muller. “John E. Muller” was a pseudenom for British author and jack-of-all-trades, Lionel Fanthorpe.
The cover for author Howard Phillips’ book ‘Lovecraft - Tutti I Racconti 1931-1936.’
Issue number five of the Italian pulp series ‘Wampus’ with cover art by Thole.
The cover for the 1974 book ‘The Disciples of Cthulhu.’
Artwork by Thole for his very first cover of Urania (#233, July 3, 1960).
Artwork by Thole used for both the Demon Killer Paperback series and the Finding Vampire Horror Paperback series.
Another ‘Wampus’ cover by Thole, 1969.
Work by Thole on various covers of German magazine Vampir-Horror-Roman.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Far-out sci-fi album art for ELO, Giorgio Moroder, Earth, Wind & Fire and more by Shusei Nagaoka
The fabulously surreal sci-fi book covers of Davis Meltzer
The master of Moorcock: The psychedelic sci-fi book covers and art of Bob Haberfield
Visual Futurist: Step inside the sci-fi world created by ‘Blade Runner’ visionary Syd Mead
The vivid sci-fi visions of American artist Barclay Shaw