Deader Than Disco / Art

  • Science Fiction book cover illustrations. Artists such as Chris Foss, Peter Elson, Michael Whelan, Frank Kelly Freas, Bob Eggleton, and their imitators illustrated tons of memorable illustrations for SF book covers and magazines during the 60, 70s and 80s. Their art was frequently collected into volumes such as the Terran Trade Authority and Great Space Battles. A large majority of these covers featured elaborate spaceships, big dumb objects, space battles, futuristic scenes and alien landscapes. Today's science fiction book covers are more mundane and minimalize the art in favor of displaying the author's name (especially if he's a big name) in bigger fonts as well as extra space for blurbs. Art, when present, typically feature human subjects, human character content being a selling point to today's more diverse (increasingly female) demographic. This is one of the reasons Elson (who has stated that his human figure drawing skills weren't up to par) became less prolific after spaceship covers went out of fashion. Books based on licensed properties (Star Trek, Doctor Who, or Star Wars) have moved away from hand drawn illustrations, replacing it with artwork that is clearly rendered using swiped (and Photoshopped) images from the franchise in question, probably to give the books a uniform appearance. Works that have been turned into recent blockbuster movies often reject illustrated covers entirely in favor of using photoshots of characters from the film (such as in print runs of The Lord of the Rings after 2001).
    • The Science Fiction cover art which had enjoyed some popularity in the Eastern Bloc during the heyday of Communism exploded like a supernova just after 1990 - throughout the 1990s, all translations and reprints of Western Sci Fi featured glorious covers imitating the above-quoted artists, with complex spaceships, images of deep space, galaxies, and space-suited buxom heroines (with the bad habit of copying Western covers from completely unrelated works for both translations and original books). Once the decade ended, the cover art style had become more tasteful, restricted and subtle.
  • Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries illustrations and advertisements were often hand-painted by artists, but beginning with the 70's, hand-illustrated advertisements and posters began to die out. While there are still illustrated advertisements in many magazines, they are often outright cartoons that don't even try to be photorealistic (as strange as it may now sound, those colorful, Norman Rockwell-style painted ads of the 1960s and earlier were done by illustrators trained at prestigious art schools, and were hailed at the time for their startling realism, in sharp contrast to the Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism of "serious" art world).
  • Painting as a whole:
    • Art was once patronized by religious organizations like the Catholic Church, and this led to many paintings on religious subjects. Later they were patronized by kings and aristocrats, this led to many paintings on "historical" subjects or offical portraits of royal families. The collapse of the political power of the Church and the erosion of royal authority, led to an end in this genre and the concept of state patronage of art itself. The artistic marketplace which began in the Amsterdam of Rembrandt, eventually became the model of art. Artists would paint subjects and ideas that they could sell and auction away, this meant the rise of art as commodity.
    • In 20th Century, figurative painting (i.e. paintings which represented people, places, objects and events) gave way for expressionist, surrealist, abstract and geometric styles. The portrait painting and the move towards realism and perspective were once the avant-garde, but, with the exception of the likes of Lucian Freud, figurative painting is not as respected by contemporary critics of painting. The main reason for this is the arrival of portrait photography and cinema, which took the place of the classic portrait. The end result is that painting itself is challenged by photography/installation art/plastic art and it no longer seems possible for a painter like Pablo Picasso to take the world by storm with a work like "Guernica".