Orban, Paul

Tagged: Art

American artist (1896-1974), born in Hungary, who often signed his work as Orban. After studying at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts from 1913 to 1917, he initially did illustrations for the Chicago Tribune and worked in advertising before moving to Mount Vernon, New York in 1930 to focus on providing a few covers and numerous interior illustrations for a wide range of Pulp magazines, with occasional assignments for more upscale venues like The New York Times and Reader's Digest.

The sf magazines he contributed to include Amazing Stories, Future Fiction, If, Infinity Science Fiction, Space Science Fiction, and Thrilling Wonder Stories, but he is mostly associated in readers' minds with John W Campbell Jr's Astounding, where he did many of the interior illustrations from 1934 to 1954. His black-and-white work was often symbolic of a story rather than directly representational, regularly placing faces or figures over geometrical abstractions and using bold cross-hatching; it was always competent and sometimes more. He also provided the magazine with four memorable covers: an interesting scene of a man reading books by the shore framed by a starscape and spaceship for the December 1948 issue (illustrating Poul Anderson's "Genius"); a crashed underwater spaceship being approached by a hammerhead shark for the May 1949 issue (illustrating Hal Clement's Needle [May-June 1949 Astounding; exp 1950; vt From Outer Space 1957]); a human figure and head, accompanied by objects suggesting corruption, hovering in space for the September 1949 issue (illustrating Anderson's "The Double-Dyed Villains"); and a naked man turning away from an array of launching spaceships for the March 1951 issue (illustrating James H Schmitz's "Space Fear").

In the 1950s, as the numbers of pulp magazines started to shrink, Orban painted a few book covers for Winston juveniles, including a nice rendering of spacesuited astronauts next to a spaceship on a barren planet for Lester del Rey's Marooned on Mars (1952), but he mostly supported himself for the rest of his life by doing artwork for educational filmstrips and books; he died in 1974. Paying tribute to the emotional quality of his work, Brian W Aldiss in Science Fiction Art (1975) commented that "Under the trappings of technology, he expressed more perennial things – unending quests, great aspirations, long farewells, and a welcoming pair of arms on the far side of light." [JG/PN/GW]

Paul Orban

born Budapest, Hungary: 23 June 1896

died April 1974

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