Virgil Finlay


Virgil Finlay, born on July 23, 1914, in Rochester, New York, was a remarkable artist whose legacy continues to captivate audiences even a century after his birth. With a deep understanding that great art transcends time, Finlay's body of work is a testament to his enduring relevance. Renowned as one of the true "Masters of the Imagination," his talent and dedication to his craft were evident from an early age.


During his high school years, Finlay nurtured a profound passion for the arts and aspired to become a gallery artist. He immersed himself in the study of various art forms, guided by the tutelage of Gertrude Botteford, who introduced him to scratchboard illustration. Through meticulous refinement of his technique, Finlay mastered the art of drawing directly onto scratchboard, utilizing a remarkably fine 290 lithographic pen that only a select few artists could wield. He would search tirelessly for the perfect pen, ensuring the ink flowed flawlessly in his creations.


In the late 1920s, like many adolescents of his time, Finlay discovered the allure of pulps—affordable fiction magazines that captivated readers with their thrilling tales. He delved into the realms of science fiction and weird stories, devouring publications such as Amazing Stories and Weird Tales. Immersed in the works of acclaimed authors like H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith, Finlay became an ardent fan of the genre.

  In 1935, at the age of 21, Finlay decided to showcase his artistic prowess by submitting five illustrations to Weird Tales. Confident in his abilities to surpass the magazine's staff artists, he was proven right when his work was not only accepted but also hailed as superior. This breakthrough led to his first cover illustration for Weird Tales in February 1937, featuring Seabury Quinn's historical tale "Globe of Memories." The success of this cover propelled Finlay's career forward, garnering him further commissions from the magazine's editor, Farnsworth Wright.
The realm of Weird Tales was just the beginning of Finlay's ascent.
In November 1937, Finlay received a letter from Abraham Merritt, the editor of The American Weekly newspaper, expressing his admiration for Finlay's art, which he had discovered through his avid reading of Weird Tales. Merritt informed Finlay of a promising opportunity on The American Weekly, a prestigious Sunday newspaper supplement distributed alongside Hearst newspapers, boasting the largest circulation in the world. The prospect of working as a staff artist for the newspaper, earning a substantial income of $80 per week, enticed Finlay to move to Manhattan and create awe-inspiring illustrations for the publication. In New York, he also discovered a hub of pulp magazine publishing, with science fiction publications eagerly seeking his original artwork. Startling Stories, Thrilling Wonder, Captain Future, and Strange Stories were among the magazines that
benefited from Finlay's visionary contributions.
During his time in Rochester, Finlay had developed a deep connection with a woman named Beverly Stiles. Despite facing rejection in his attempts to propose to her numerous times, Finlay's determination prevailed. In 1938, he converted to Judaism to align with Beverly's faith, and they were happily married. With a flourishing career at The American Weekly and as a sought-after artist for science fiction magazines, Finlay's life seemed to be on an upward trajectory.
However, the outbreak of World War II disrupted Finlay's artistic endeavors. Enlisted in 1943, he spent most of his military service in the United States. In 1945, he was deployed to Okinawa, where he faced combat and narrowly escaped grave danger. Thankfully, Finlay's promotion and subsequent transfer brought him back home safely