Frank Rudolph Paul (German: [paʊl]; April 18, 1884 – June 29, 1963) was an American illustrator of pulp magazines in the science fiction field.

Frank R. Paul
Photo portrait c. 1939
Rudolph Franz Paul

(1884-04-18)April 18, 1884
DiedJune 29, 1963(1963-06-29) (aged 79)
Known forIllustrator
Spouse(s)Rudolpha Costa Rigelsen
Paul's cover for Amazing Stories, August 1927, illustrating The War of the Worlds

A discovery of editor Hugo Gernsback, Paul was influential in defining the look of both cover art and interior illustrations in the nascent science fiction pulps of the 1920s.[1]

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted him in 2009.[2]


Paul was born on April 18, 1884 in Radkersburg,[3] Austria-Hungary. His father was from Hungary and his mother from Czechoslovakia.[4] He emigrated to the United States in 1906. He married Rudolpha Costa Rigelsen, a Belgian immigrant, in 1913,[3] and they had four children, Robert S. Paul (born 1915), Francis L. Paul (born 1919), Joan C. Paul (born 1921), and Patricia Ann Paul (born 1929).[4][5] He studied art in Vienna, Paris, and New York City. He went to work for the Jersey Journal performing graphic design. Publisher Hugo Gernsback hired him in 1914 to illustrate The Electrical Experimenter, a science magazine.[6]

He died on June 29, 1963 at his home in Teaneck, New Jersey.[7]


Paul's work is characterized by dramatic compositions (often involving enormous machines, robots or spaceships), bright or even garish colors, and a limited ability to depict human faces, especially the female ones. His early architectural training is also evident in his work.

Paul illustrated the cover of Gernsback's own novel, Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660 (The Stratford Company, 1925), originally a 1911–1912 serial.[8] He painted 38 covers for Amazing Stories from April 1926 to June 1929 and seven for the Amazing Stories Annual and Quarterly; with several dozen additional issues featuring his art on the back cover (May 1939 to July 1946), and several issues from April 1961 to September 1968 featuring new or reproduced art. After Gernsback lost control of Amazing Stories in 1929, Paul followed him to the Wonder Stories magazines and associated quarterlies, which published 103 of his color covers from June 1929 to April 1936. Paul also painted covers for Planet Stories, Superworld Comics, Science Fiction magazine, and the first issue (October–November 1939) of Marvel Comics. The latter featured the debuts of Human Torch and Sub-Mariner, and good copies sell at auction for twenty to thirty thousand dollars. All told, his magazine covers exceed 220.

His most famous Amazing Stories cover is probably that for August 1927 (see image), illustrating The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, whose serial reprint began in that number.[8]

Paul created hundreds of interior illustrations from no later than 1920.[8]

Influence on the genreEdit

In many ways, Frank R. Paul's achievements and influence on the field through the ages cannot be overestimated. His work appeared on the cover of the first issue (April 1926) of Amazing Stories magazine, the first magazine dedicated to science fiction. He would paint all the covers for over three years. These visions of robots, spaceships, and aliens were presented to an America wherein most people did not even own a telephone. Indeed, they were the first science fiction images seen by Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Forrest J Ackerman and others who would go on to great prominence in the field.

Paul's emphasis on concept, action and milieu over human figures was to continue to be a defining genre signal of SF art even when executed by successors with greater technical skill and more depth of artistic vision. The visual language of the majority of SF art centers, even today, are more sophisticated versions of Paul's central tropes.

The Frank R Paul Award, named in his honor, was awarded by the Nashville Science Fiction Association from 1976 to 1996 to such distinguished artists as Frank Kelly Freas, Alex Schomburg and Victoria Poyser.[9]


Early story illustration in Gernsback's Science and Invention (January 1922)

Frank R. Paul can be credited with the first color painting of a space station (August 1929, Science Wonder Stories) published in the U.S.[10] His cover for the November 1929 Science Wonder Stories was an early, if not the earliest, depiction of a flying saucer.[11] This painting appeared almost two decades before the sightings of mysterious flying objects by Kenneth Arnold. So large was his stature that he was the only guest of honor at the first World Science Fiction Convention in 1939. He has been described as the first person to make a living drawing spaceships; this is a slight exaggeration, as much of his income was also derived from technical drawing.[12] He was also the cover artist of Marvel Comics #1 (Oct. 1939), the first ever Marvel Comic and became well known for his work.

He was very innovative in the depiction of spaceships. Several of his illustrations were disc shaped and it has been speculated that he may have, accidentally, created the UFO craze when the first sighting of lights in the sky were described as disc shaped; this would have been the result of the psychological phenomenon known as mental set.[13]


  1. ^ Jon Gustafson and Peter Nicholls, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, ed. John Clute and Peter Nicholls, 1993, St. Martin's Press, N.Y.
  2. ^ ""EMP". Archived from the original on August 14, 2009. Retrieved 2017-05-12.. Press release 2009(?). Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame ( Archived 2009-08-14. Retrieved 2013-03-19.
  3. ^ a b Catalog: Paul, Frank, at Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists; by David Saunders; published 2009; retrieved March 18, 2015
  4. ^ a b 1930 United States Census living in River Vale, New Jersey
  5. ^ 1920 United States Census living in Washington Township, Bergen County, New Jersey
  6. ^ "Frank R. Paul biography". Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.. Archived 2012-07-22. Retrieved 2013-03-20.
  7. ^ "Frank R. Paul Dead; Illustrator Was 79". The New York Times. June 30, 1963. Retrieved 2015-03-18. Frank R. Paul, an artist who was known as the dean of science-fiction illustrators, died at his home, 700 Cedar Lane. He was 79 years old.
  8. ^ a b c Frank R. Paul at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved 2013-04-09. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.
  9. ^ Frank R Paul Award at SF Encyclopedia
  10. ^ Ron Miller, Space Art, 1978, Starlog Publ., p. 136
  11. ^ November 1929 Science Wonder Stories
  12. ^ The Science Fiction Roll of Honor, ed. Frederik Pohl, 1975, Random House, New York, pp. 223-227
  13. ^ Armando Simon (2011), Pulp fiction UFOs. Skeptic, Volume 16#4.

External linksEdit

  • Title: From the Pen of Paul: The Fantastic Images of Frank R. Paul. Preface by Sir Arthur C. Clarke. With a special contribution from Jerry Weist. Title Record # 1028251 Authors: Stephen D. Korshak and Frank R. Paul Date: 2009-05-00 Type: NONFICTION Language: English ISBN/Catalog ID: 978-0-9800931-0-0