You cannot deconstruct unless you know how to construct. - Alexander McQueen

Margaret Brundage: From Fashion to Pulpmags permalink

One of the many reasons I enjoyed living in San Francisco was the variety of independent shops and the resources they provided me. A frequent haunt was Kayo Books, where I would burrow into their inventory to study the style of pulp cover art, which successfully pulls off doom & distress smothered in erotic overtones. This is the holiday season in which weak attempts are made at erotic doom & distress by a hard-partying zombie army of girls in scary makeup and vinyl nurse outfits. It may seem that the spirit of Halloween is as cheap and empty as that six foot inflatable skull that sits on the doorstep warning kids in a scratchy metallic moan to, Beware! Turn back! Thankfully there is real substance to be found inside pulpmags like Weird Tales, complete with frequent contributions from Lovecraft and envelope-pushing cover art by Margaret Brundage.

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Brundage’s cover for Weird Tales, October 1933

Brundage, a Chicago native, worked as a freelance fashion illustrator for newspapers before turning to pulpmags. (Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to come across any of her fashion illustrations, so if anyone has information about where to find them, please let me know.) Starting with covers for Oriental Tales, she moved on to Weird Tales, working primarily in pastels without models, the subjects of her cover art being created mostly from imagination. Aside from this she worked hard keeping house and supporting her son and invalid mother, being their sole financial provider after her marriage to Slim Brundage ended in 1939.

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Margaret Brundage (1900-1976), c. 1930

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Brundage’s cover for Weird Tales, November 1933

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Brundage’s cover for Weird Tales, August 1935

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Brundage’s cover for Weird Tales, June 1935

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Brundage’s cover for Weird Tales, June 1938

Brundage dominated the covers of Weird Tales between 1933-37. Under “M. Brundage” her art was so popular among readers that stories were modified to include bits that would make for a good cover. Complaints about her work started coming in after October of 1934, however, when editor Farnsworth Wright chose to disclose that the “M” stood for Margaret. Her status as premier cover artist for the magazine ended after 1938, when the Weird Tales offices moved from Chicago to New York and the magazine was bought by a syndicate. Her covers were no longer used largely because Mayor LaGuardia had imposed a decency standard, affecting pulpmags sold throughout the city.

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Brundage’s cover for Weird Tales, May 1934 (a very early Conan)

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Brundage’s cover for Weird Tales, November 1937

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Brundage’s cover for Weird Tales, July 1933

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Brundage’s cover for Weird Tales, October 1935

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Brundage’s cover for Weird Tales, April 1935

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Brundage’s last cover for Weird Tales, January 1945

Brundage’s daring covers for Weird Tales are a contribution to pop culture for which I am extremely grateful. I’m not shocked often, and when I am it often has less to do with horror movies or profanity and more to do with the repercussions of censorship, environmental disaster and governments that act in the name of protecting the public.

Happy Halloween!!

* Most of the Brundage covers here are from, a wonderful resource. Also, the information gathered for this article comes from and a rare interview with Ms. Brundage. The only guaranteed accurate stuff, then, is from the interview – which isn’t much. If anyone out there (relatives, maybe?) can contribute more information about this wonderful artist, please feel free to do so.

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12 Responses to “Margaret Brundage: From Fashion to Pulpmags” 

  1. Sarah Says:

    What a RARE FIND. These pictures kick ass. Keep finding the good stuff…

  2. Linda Williams Says:

    My mother was married to Kerlynn Brundage, Margaret’s son. We just spent the evening discussing Margaret and got on line to view her book covers. My mother found out from Margaret’s cousin that she became more famous for her art work after her death. As we began talking we went to the internet and looked up her sight. We read that she used her daughters as models but the interesting fact is, she had only one child andthat child was a boy.After talking for a while we went in to take a look at he portrait Margaet had painted and signed… we were in awe.

  3. gwynne Says:

    Thanks for that story about your mother in law Margaret Brundage. I have been a fan since 1958 when I began collecting Weird Tales and have them to this day in a beautiful bookcase here in my office as I write. I was taken with your story about having an original painting of hers…signed no less and wondered if you would share that image with me.
    I can be reached at
    Michael C. Gwynne ( will tell you who I am)

  4. Linda Williams Says:

    Thanks for the note, I hope you enjoyed the photo I sent you of the original painting. It is such a shame she only reached her level of fame after she was no longer around to appreciate it. Fortunately we can still enjoy her art.


  5. Lori Ramsey Says:

    I have come into possession of what I believe to be an original Margaret Brundage oil painting of a young ballerina. I would love to be in touch with anyone who might be able to give me information. I found this artist through an internet search from her signature, and found a painting of a Harlequin by her. Specifically, the way the feet are painted are strikingly similar. If Linda Williams logs back in, or if anyone else would like to help me, I’d be most appreciative! I’ll check back in a couple of days.

  6. Heather Says:

    I recently purchased an original oil by Maragret Brundage at a fundraising silent auction. It is absolutely beautiful yet understated. It is of a Liberian child holding a basket of fruit on his head. When I saw it, my jaw dropped…no one except me placed a single bid on it…I don’t don’t think anyone else knew just how special this painting was. Everyone wanted the large davenport paintings and the Brundage piece was, thankfully, ignored.

  7. chris Says:

    I have an authentic poster of the Oct 1933 Weird Tales. This print is 33 out of 4,000 which is framed and in perfect condition. Does anyone know the Value of something like this? please Email me @

    Thank You,


  8. Forrest Jackson Says:

    For the past six years, I’ve been making an amateur, desultory, and unofficial survey of Mrs. Brundage’s surviving paintings, so I’m extremely interested in this topic and pleased to see it being discussed. A portrait! I simply must see it. PLEASE send the pics to forrestjackson at hotmail dot com. The ballerina and the child holding a basket of fruit on his head are subjects she would have painted outside the realm of her famous pulp magazine covers. Even till late in her life, she has been documented as having sold paintings at local art fairs, so it is entirely likely that the aforementioned paintings are 100% legitimate. That said, I’ve also spotted one (and only one) spurious attribution that looks nothing like anything else of hers. By now, I daresay I can positively identify her distinctive style. I would LOVE to see .jpg pics of these works and I can share images of one of my own: a Carmen Miranda-inspired topless island woman with — you guessed it — a basket of fruit on her head. It’s signed “Brundage” with exactly the same “penmanship” as she signed her Weird Tales paintings. The background flora, the subject’s super-feminine figure, and the artist’s self-proclaimed difficulty in painting feet and hands tell me this indeed is the work of Margaret Brundage. And, really, the girl’s eyes tell it all. That, and it was purchased from an Illinois resident who inherited it from someone who knew the painter. The previous owner couldn’t confirm this, but I think it dates from the 1940s, though it could be later. I don’t mind sharing the pics whatsoever, but I’m mostly interested in seeing images of the portrait, the ballerina and the African boy. Please write to me at forrestjackson at hotmail dot com for more info…

  9. Linda Williams Says:

    The portrait is of my Mom, Margaret’s daughter-in-law Frances

  10. Anthony Says:

    For Linda Williams: I’m an admirer of Margaret Brundage’s work and would like to visit her grave someday. Since you are in the family and are open to discussion about her, could you please tell me where she died and where she is buried ? For such a well-known artist, there is surprisingly little information on the web about her.
    Best of all wishes to you.

  11. J. David Spurlock Says:

    NEW BOOK coming: Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage
    Starting in 1932, Margaret Brundage, wife of leftist revolutionary Slim Brundage, who she met at the wildly-bohemian Dil Pickle Club during the
    Chicago Renaissance, forever changed the look of Fantasy and Horror with her alluring, sensationalistic covers for the legendary pulp magazine, Weird Tales. Brundage, whose art contemporaries include Virgil Finlay and Hannes Bok, is unique as she was the first female cover artist of the pulp era. Decades before the gothic fetish craze, Brundage’s lush, provocative paintings, which frequently featured smoldering, semi-nude young women bearing whips, became a focus of great controversy. At the very peak of the notorious pulp’s classic run, the magazine’s appeal was due as much to Brundage’s covers as to the stories inside by famous authors H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Bloch and Conan creator, Robert E. Howard. Long before Frazetta, it was Brundage who was the very 1st Conan cover artist. The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage is the premier book devoted to this noted artist and features all of her Weird Tales and Conan covers.

    Authors and compilers Stephen D. Korshak and J. David Spurlock follow their seminal collaboration, The Paintings of J. Allen St. John — Grand Master of Fantasy, with The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage which, also features essays by noted artist Rowena, Weird Tales historian Robert Weinberg, Shasta publishing founder Melvin Korshak, and Men’s Adventure Magazines: In Postwar America co-author George Hagenauer.

  12. Katie Miles Says:

    Great news about the book - I can’t wait to check it out!

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