Thursday, August 11, 2011

Andrew Brosnatch (1896-1965)

né André Brosnatch or Brosnac, Jr.
Aka Andrew Brosnac
Illustrator and Commercial Artist
Born October 24, 1896, Fayette County, Pennsylvania
Died December 26, 1965, Los Angeles, California

The first year in print for Weird Tales was a rough one. Poor sales along with changes in size, format, editors, and even publishers almost sank the magazine. After the giant-sized, triple-issue, first-anniversary number, dated May/June/July 1924, "The Unique Magazine" went on hiatus. Weird Tales returned to the newsstand with its November 1924 issue and a new editor, Farnsworth Wright. Among its improvements, the magazine offered more illustrations, almost all of which for the next year and a half were drawn by an artist named Andrew Brosnatch.

Despite the fact that Andrew Brosnatch created illustrations for one of the most treasured and sought-after of pulp magazines, little is known of his life. He was born André Brosnatch, Jr., son of an Austrian immigrant, on October 24, 1896, in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. At the time he filled out his World War I draft card in 1917, Brosnatch was living in Louisville, Kentucky, and working for the Tinsley-Mayer Engraving Company, a hardworking firm that created every kind of commercial art, including letterhead, covers, catalogs, and calendars. By 1922, he was living in Chicago and studying art, the perfect time and place as it turned out, for Weird Tales was to come along only a year later.

Brosnatch got his big break as an artist in mid-1924 with the reorganization of Weird Tales. Although every issue up to the point had included an illustration on the cover, interior art was relatively scarce. (In fact, the first two issues of the magazine lacked interior art entirely.) Farnsworth Wright changed that. Beginning with the November 1924 issue, at least half the stories in each issue of Weird Tales were illustrated. The magazine also stuck to a monthly production schedule, requiring twelve cover designs per year. And, the letters column, known as "The Eyrie," came into focus. Like a workhorse, Andrew Brosnatch illustrated every part of the magazine--covers, interiors, and "The Eyrie" alike--for the next year and more, sometimes singlehandedly.

Brosnatch was the first illustrator to put together a long run as cover artist on Weird Tales. He created fifteen covers in all, including every cover between November 1924 and November 1925. He was also busy every month with interior illustrations, often illustrating the entire issue by himself. (He was the only illustrator credited for the April, July, September, October, and November 1925 issues.) "The Eyrie" had appeared in Weird Tales before Farnsworth Wright took over the magazine, but only after November 1924 did it become a favorite feature. Long after Brosnatch had left Weird Tales, his decoration for "The Eyrie" remained, even to the last issue, September 1954.

By the May 1926 issue of "The Unique Magazine," Andrew Brosnatch had given out. New artists--Ed Witham, E.M. Stevenson, George Olinick, C. Barker Petrie, Jr.--came on to take his place. Brosnatch's last cover for Weird Tales appeared in March 1926, his last interior illustration (except for his heading for "The Eyrie") the following month. That is his last known credit as an artist as far as I have found.

The 1930 census found Brosnatch still living in Chicago and working as a commercial artist. His housemates and neighbors included artists Lavergne Louisburg, Neil Slocum, David A. Koves, Philip Viviano, George D. Anderson, and William G. Connelly. Neil Slocum was also a pulp artist, having recently illustrated stories for Real Detective Tales, a magazine originally published as a companion title to Weird Tales. He went on to illustrate a couple of children's books, Billy the Kid's Pledge by Robert Marshall (1940) and Vic Sands of the U.S. Flying Fortress Bomber Squadron by Roy Snell (1944). William Connelly was an instructor at an art school, the Croydon Institute of Chicago. Brosnatch's trail goes cold again until 1942 when he filled out his World War II draft card. By then he was living in New York City and employed in an unknown capacity by Charles A. Nixon.

Brosnatch was only forty-six years old in 1942, yet nothing more is known of his life until a record of his death on December 26, 1965, in Los Angeles, California. His last published work may have been a cover illustration for The Brain in the Jar and Others: Collected Stories and Poems by Richard F. Searight (1992). Although I haven't seen the illustration, I suspect it is simply a reprint of Brosnatch's art from that first issue, November 1924. Despite his obscurity and only mild praise by aficionados of Weird Tales, Andrew Brosnatch, with his monsters, fiends, demons, and oversized arthropods, deserves some credit for having helped saved the magazine during its early and perilous days in print.

Andrew Brosnatch's Illustrations for Weird Tales
Covers
Nov. 1924 ("Teoquitla the Golden" by Ramon de las Cuevas)
Dec. 1924 ("Death Waters" by Frank Belknap Long)
Jan. 1925 ("Invaders from the Outside" by J. Schlossel)
Feb. 1925 ("Whispering Tunnels" by Stephen Bagby)
Mar. 1925 ("The Last of the Teeheemen" by Arthur Thatcher)
Apr. 1925 ("When the Green Star Waned" by Nictzin Dyalhis)
May 1925 ("Under the N-Ray" by Will Smith and R.J. Robbins)
June 1925 ("Monsters of the Pit" by Paul S. Powers)
July 1925 ("The Werewolf of Ponkert" by H. Warner Munn)
Aug. 1925 ("Black Medicine" by Arthur J. Burks)
Sept. 1925 ("The Gargoyle" by Greye La Spina)
Oct. 1925 ("The Wicked Flea" by J.U. Giesy)
Nov. 1925 ("The Stolen Body" by H.G. Wells)
Jan. 1926 ("Stealer of Souls" by Charles Hilan Craig)
Mar. 1926 ("Lochinvar Lodge" by Clyde Burt Clason)
Interiors
Nov. 1924 through Apr. 1926, plus the decoration for "The Eyrie" (Nov. 1924-Sept. 1954) 

Further Reading
Many of the artists for Weird Tales have gotten short shrift, as artists so often do. There is little that I know of available on Brosnatch and many others like him, but at least we have their art, which may be as much as they ever wanted.

Here is a three-color cover from about halfway through Andrew Brosnatch's year-long run as cover artist for Weird Tales. It's supposed to illustrate a werewolf story, but it looks more like a Russian folktale.
Another three-color cover with a strong composition and not much narrative.
The ever-popular giant spider, which has done battle with Conan, The Incredible Shrinking Man, and a pair of Hobbits, among countless other protagonists.
Poor Andrew Brosnatch. Only months before he got to draw a giant spider. Now, in October 1925, he's forced to show a giant flea chasing a terrified dog. This may be the most ridiculous of all Weird Tales covers. Was the content of that month's magazine really so poor that J.U. Giesy's story made the cover?
Speaking of Hobbits, here is Andrew Brosnatch's early version, before there was such a thing.
Another three-color cover with a nicely drawn demon.
Andrew Brosnatch created not only cover art but also black-and-white interior illustrations. Here is his heading for "The Eyrie," the long-running letters column of Weird Tales.
And here, his illustration for H.P. Lovecraft's story, "The Music of Eric Zann" (May 1925).
Before moving to Chicago, Andrew Brosnatch worked for the Tinsley-Mayer Engraving Company of Louisville, Kentucky. Here's an advertisement from 1912 showing just how hard its artists worked.
Finally, what collection of pulp art would be complete without the robed fiend who threatens the helpless woman while the masked hero rushes on to save her? Brosnatch's cover for the September 1925 issue of Weird Tales is something of a cross between the terror pulps and the hero pulps.
Postscript: A scanned version of a digital printout of a digital scan of a microfilm photograph of a reproduction on newsprint of a photograph taken of Andrew Brosnatch. Is there any wonder why the image is so poor? But is there any other image of the artist anywhere in existence? From the Chicago Tribune and its feature, "The Inquiring Reporter" (Jan. 5, 1922), in answer to the electrifying question: "Does your barber talk to you while you are being shaved?"
Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

4 comments:

  1. Though Brosnatch strikes me as a mediocre artist, I'm glad to see this information about him. By the way, I see Paul Powers has the cover story on the June 1925 issue. A new collection of his stories was just published, RIDING THE PULP TRAIL.

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  2. Some of Andrew Brosnatch's interior story heading art has been included in C. M. Eddy, Jr.'s short story collection THE LOVED DEAD AND OTHER TALES published by Fenham Publishing in 2008. According to the introduction they were reproduced from the original artwork.

    The stories by C. M. Eddy, Jr. with the heading artwork by Andrew Brosnatch are:

    "With Weapons of Stone" from December 1924
    "Arhl-a of the Caves" from January 1925
    "The Better Choice" from March 1925
    "Deaf, Dumb and Blind" from April 1925

    THE LOVED DEAD AND OTHER TALES is a very well crafted book.

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  3. He is my great grandpa! Lol so cool i found this. Never thought my family background was full of artistic abilities.

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  4. It's very interesting to see these illustrations, since I first saw them as a child when my Grandmother, Ethel (Perkins-2nd husband) (Brosnac) I use to have nightmares about the spider haha..

    For some reason, as I was told, the name Brosnatch was changed to Brosnac. I'm Steve, one of his two his grandsons. I'm just starting to realize I have similar artistic abilities, while very juvenile in comparison.

    My uncle, Donald Brosnac ( I think he changed his name back to Brosnatch to avoid being associated with his late brother, my *father* Richard) is nowhere to be found. I wonder if he holds the artwork, or if he maybe supplied them to be uploaded to the internet. Either way, it pleases me to see a little bit of the past I never knew much about.

    Hey Donald, if you ever read this.. I never stopped writing you back because of you. At the time I thought my *dad* had put you up to it. If you have any family history on which you could share, it would be wonderful. I would love to hear from you and learn about your own artistic abilities and guitar book writings. You have quite the devoted following and respect in your work.

    Steve or as Grandma called me, Stefush ;)

    wite me at my firstandlastname@gmail.com

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