Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Finlay, Virgil

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(1914-1971) US artist and one of the most popular illustrators for the pulp Magazines, especially Weird Tales and Famous Fantastic Mysteries. He was a master of stippling; his results, often reminiscent of the work of Gustav Doré, were highly atmospheric. VF succeeded in capturing a mood of the outré in his artwork unlike any other magazine illustrator at the time.

VF's illustrations first appeared in the December 1935 WT, and he graduated to covers with the February 1937 issue. His pictures were immediately popular with readers and authors alike, many of the latter – including H P Lovecraft – clamouring to have their work illustrated by him. A Merritt hired him as staff artist on The American Weekly in late 1937. During 1940-1969 VF's work appeared in almost all fantasy and sf magazines. Famous Fantastic Mysteries, realizing his sales potential, issued three portfolios of his work as premia to subscribers in 1941, 1942 and 1948. He also illustrated the dustjacket of the first book issued by Arkham House, The Outsider and Others (coll 1939) by Lovecraft.

VF illustrated few books. Most of his best fantasy illustrations appeared in WT, Famous Fantastic Mysteries, Fantastic, Fantastic Adventures, If and Startling Stories; in the 1960s he worked also for a number of astrological magazines. Since his death his style has been imitated by George Barr and Stephen Fabian (1930-    ).

VF's work has been reissued in a number of compilations. The first were Virgil Finlay (graph coll 1971) and Virgil Finlay: An Astrology Sketchbook (graph coll 1975) both ed Donald M Grant (1927-2009). From Gerry de la Ree (1924-1993) came a pair of books, Virgil Finlay: A Portfolio of His Unpublished Illustrations (graph coll 1971 chap) and Finlay's Lost Drawings (graph coll 1975 chap), and then a more thematic series – The Book of Virgil Finlay (graph coll 1975), The Second Book of Virgil Finlay (graph coll 1978), Third (graph coll 1979), Fourth (graph coll 1979), Fifth (graph coll 1979) and Sixth: The Astrology Years (graph coll 1979) – plus Virgil Finlay Remembered: The Seventh Book of Virgil Finlay: His Art and Poetry (graph coll 1981). These 7 vols were indexed by Ian Bell in Virgil Finlay Indexed (1986 chap). Other compilations include Finlay's Femmes (graph coll 1977 chap), Virgil Finlay's Women of the Ages (graph coll 1992), Virgil Finlay's Strange Science (graph coll 1993) and Virgil Finlay's Phantasms (graph coll 1993). [MA]

Virgil Warden Finlay


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.