elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Behind the Cover: James Avati

James Avati (December 14, 1912, Bloomfield, NJ, USA – February 27, 2005, Petaluma, CA, USA) was an American illustrator and paperback cover artist. His father was a professional photographer in New York City. His mother died shortly after Jim's birth. He was raised by his aunt (mother's sister) and eventually, his father married her. While Jim was still young, his father died and another aunt and uncle helped to raise him. His uncle provided Jim with the opportunity to attend Princeton University where he obtained a degree in architecture in the mid-1930s.

He was always interested in painting and loved to paint. After World War Two, Avati obtained a job designing display windows at Fifth Avenue department stores in New York. But he continued to paint on the side and in 1948, impressed Kurt Enoch at New American Library, a new paperback publishing house. He was a hit from the beginning and changed the style of cover painting by the early 1950s. Among the authors he worked with included the likes of Theodore Dreiser, William Faulkner, Erskine Caldwell, J. D. Salinger, James T. Farrell, Pearl Buck, John O'Hara, Mickey Spillane, Erle Stanley Gardner, Alberto Moravia, and James Michener.



He quickly became legendary and was highly sought after. He fathered nine children through two marriages, including a son who became a well-known sculptor, James R. Avati, of Salt Lake City, Utah.

He used professional models at first but soon used friends, family and people off the streets of Red Bank, New Jersey, his home for much of his life, as models. He sought reality in his representations on canvas and real people worked for him better than professionals.

Avati eventually moved to Petaluma, California, to pursue a love interest and died (February, 2005) at age 92. He had stopped painting towards the end as he was losing his eyesight due to macular degeneration.

He has been called the "Father of Paperback Book Covers" and the "Rembrandt of Paperback Book Covers". Ironically, his own life mirrored the novels he painted.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Avati

The Paperback Art of James Avati edited by Piet Schreuders & Kenneth Fulton
Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: Donald M Grant (December 30, 2005)
ISBN-10: 1880418711
ISBN-13: 978-1880418710
Amazon: The Paperback Art of James Avati
Tags: behind the cover
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