Subscribe Now

The Robert Lehman Art Center at Brooks School is pleased to announce its latest exhibit, “Pulp Fiction Paintings: Selections from the Robert Lesser Collection.” The exhibit, which features 37 pieces that are part of a promised gift to the New Britain Museum of American Art, runs from April 7 through June 11.

The oil paintings were original created in the 1930s, ’40s and early ’50s as pulp fiction book covers. The best-known protagonists from the literary genre – which featured adventure, mystery, science fiction, war and westerns – are Tarzan and the Shadow.

Written during the Great Depression and World War II, the novels were specifically created as an easy and inexpensive escape for working class men. Overt heroism and stereotypes prevail: women are always victims; outsiders are always enemies; heroes are always muscular, handsome and squeaky clean.

“The covers of pulp fiction books, or ‘dime novels,’ are all so over the top – made even more graphic than the text to catch the reader’s eye on the newsstand,” said Marie Costello, director of the RLAC. “Great imagination went into the designs: a kind of short-cut narrative of what is inside and exaggerated for the greatest emotional impact.”

Lesser bought his first pulp fiction painting – which was made for the cover of the September 1933 pulp magazine, The Shadow – in 1972. He now owns close to 200 original paintings, matched by no other pulp fiction collector in the country. He’s also the author of Pulp Art: Original Cover Paintings for the Great American Pulp Magazines (Gramercy, 1997).

In conjunction with the gallery exhibit, film teacher Matt Grant will air a sampling of pulp fiction movies to students. Additionally, English Department Head Dean Charpentier will help students write their own pulp fiction stories, for which art students will design the book covers, with the aid of Arts Department Head Amy Graham. The pieces will be available to read in the school’s library.

Brooks’ connection with the New Britain Museum of American Art is personal in nature, as museum director Douglas Hyland graduated from the North Andover boarding school in 1967. Hyland will be on hand for the show’s opening reception on Thursday, April 7, as will collector Robert Lesser. Lesser will discuss his collection in the school’s Science Center Forum at 6:30 p.m., which will be followed by the gallery reception from 7 to 8 p.m.

The special events, along with the exhibit itself, are free and open to the public. Marie Costello, Robert Lesser and Douglas Hyland are available for interviews. Hi-res jpgs of the pieces are available, but a tour of the exhibit can also be arranged. For more on Lesser, go to:

List of Artists in Exhibition:

Allen Anderson | Rudolph Belarski | Frederick Blakeslee | Howard Brown | Richard Case| Rafael De Soto | A. Drake | Virgil Finlay | Eugene Frandzen | George Gross | Laurence Herndon | L. Raymond Jones | Milton Luros | H. L. Parkhurst | Frank R. Paul | Hubert Rogers | George Rozen | H. Winfield Scott | Malcolm Smith | James Allen St. John | Paul Stahr | Hugh Joseph Ward