Leydenfrost, A

Tagged: Art

Working name of American artist Alexander Leydenfrost (1888-1961), also credited simply as Leydenfrost, who was born in Hungary as Baron Sandor Leidenfrost; upon moving to America at the age of 34, he Americanized his first name to Alexander and changed the spelling of his last name. Trained as an artist in his native land, Leydenfrost emigrated to America in 1923 along with three friends, Peter Lorre, Bela Lugosi, and Paul Lucas, who went on to successful acting careers; with such connections, it is not surprising that he initially focused on artwork for productions on the New York stage, and he later contributed to the General Motors pavilion at the 1939 New York World's Fair. In 1939, seeking to supplement his income, he began doing art for magazines, eventually earning assignments in such prestigious Slick venues as Collier's Weekly, Life, Look, and Popular Science; he also produced some wartime paintings of military airplanes for Esquire magazine that were later compiled in book form. His contributions to sf magazines were not numerous – two covers and some interior art that appeared in Planet Stories, Startling Stories, Famous Fantastic Mysteries, Fantastic Novels, and Astounding – but it was fondly remembered by many fans nonetheless.

Leydenfrost's black-and-white interiors tended to feature grotesque, heavily shadowed, and hideous forms that sprawled across the pages, rendered with strong, dynamic lines and stark contrasts. One frequented reprinted image, drawn to illustrate Leigh Brackett's "Child of the Sun" (Spring 1942 Planet Stories), depicts a bizarre creature leaping forward toward the reader as it leads a charge of apelike creatures on horseback. His colour work, two covers for Planet Stories, struck most observers as strained and awkward, but his cover for the Spring 1942 issue, showing a woman held by the tentacles of a looming green monster staring down at her, could be said to epitomize the strange charm of sf Pulp magazine art. His son Robert Leydenfrost enjoyed a successful career as a writer and illustrator of children's books, but reports that he also worked for sf magazines cannot be confirmed. [JG/PN/GW]

Alexander Leydenfrost

born Debrecen, Hungary [then Austria-Hungary]: 18 March 1888

died 16 June 1961

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