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From The New Sun To Dune, Bruce Pennington

The Citadel of the Autarch by Bruce Pennington
The Claw of the Conciliator by Bruce Pennington
Wraparound cover illustration for Gene Wolfe’s science-fantasy classic “The Claw of the Conciliator”, drawn by Bruce Pennington (Íomhá: © 1981 Bruce Pennington)
The Citadel of the Autarch by Bruce Pennington
Wraparound cover illustration for Gene Wolfe’s science-fantasy classic “The Citadel of the Autarch”, drawn by Bruce Pennington (Íomhá: © 1983 Bruce Pennington)

Following the positive reaction to my brief post highlighting the career of the British illustrator Bruce Pennington (notably his artwork for the 1980 book cover of Gene Wolfe’s classic science-fantasy publication Shadow of the Torturer) I thought I’d feature a few more of his best regarded images. These include two more wraparound illustrations for the baroque stories relating to the character of Severian the Torturer (above) as well as his seminal works for the dust jackets of Frank Herbert’s “Dune Messiah” and “Children of Dune” (below). Unfortunately I can only find the former in its published form, complete with title and blurb, but it still displays the exquisite nature of Pennington’s art, the use of one dominant colour in variable shades of pastel highlighted by flashes of brighter colour. For many in European fandom Bruce Pennington along with a handful of other artists very much encapsulated the “look” of Sci-Fi and Fantasy book covers throughout the 1970s and early ‘80s. By the last decade of the 20th century the brasher and more workmanlike art styles of the major US publishers gradually came to dominate, particularly with the use of generic “stock images” that frequently bore little relation to the stories they purported to portray, and the era of the “painterly” technique was over.

Dune Messiah by Bruce Pennington
Wraparound cover for Frank Herbert’s science-fiction sequel “Dune Messiah”, illustration drawn by Bruce Pennington (Íomhá: © 1981 Bruce Pennington)
Children of Dune cover by Bruce Pennington
Wraparound cover illustration for Frank Herbert’s third novel in the Dune series, “Children of Dune”, drawn by Bruce Pennington (Íomhá: © 1982 Bruce Pennington)

Thankfully the growth of digital artwork and design has somewhat reversed the restrictions on artistic expression and vision placed by budgetary concerns in the world of publishing and a new body of artists have emerged albeit frequently working in a much more photorealistic style. I shall examine some of the better examples of that later. Meanwhile below is a crop image from another work by Bruce Pennington, the British frontispiece for the cover of the now rarely encountered “Dune Encyclopaedia” edited by Willis E. McNelly with the co-operation of Frank Herbert and published in 1984. Based upon the latter’s Dune series of novels it has long been out of print due to the notoriously litigious nature of the Herbert estate under his son Brian Herbert, who has penned a series of novels with hireling writer Kevin J. Anderson based upon his father’s works that bear little relation to the “in-universe” materials found in the encyclopaedia. While many regard the information created or compiled by McNelly as “canon” (including in part Frank Herbert who wrote an introduction for the publication) others follow Brian Herbert in discounting its importance. Personally I found the 2000s’ Dune sequels and “prequels” by Herbert junior unreadable and prefer the original works, though admittedly by the time of 1981’s “God Emperor of Dune” Herbert senior had certainly lost his artistic way.

The Dune Encyclopedia by Bruce Pennington
A crop image from the frontispiece illustration of the wraparound cover by Bruce Pennington for the “Dune Encyclopaedia”, the history of the Dune universe written by Willis E. McNelly with the approval of author Frank Herbert (Íomhá: © 1984 Bruce Pennington)

If you are interested in seeing more of Bruce Pennington’s work can I recommend:

Illustrators: Issue 9

For Gene Wolfe you should start with the Severian series:

The Book Of The New Sun: Volume 1: Shadow and Claw (Fantasy Masterworks): Shadow and Claw Vol 1

Frank Herbert’s Dune remains of course a classic:


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