The Lips of a Strange Woman: The Pulp Art of Margaret Brundage

Margaret Brundage circa 1930 Kittens, February is Women in Horror Month, and I’d like to kick things off here at The Year of Halloween with a gallery of vintage horror art by artist Margaret Brundage, one of the few female cover artists of the pulp era. Struggling to support a family during the Great Depression, Margaret, a freelance fashion illustrator in the 1920’s, became the principle cover artist for Weird Tales between 1933 and 1938, translating the look and feel of contemporary women’s magazines to the lurid pulp magazine covers of the era.

Cover of Weird Tales (November 1935), feature story is Robert E. Howard's Shadows in Zamboula. Cover art M Brundage

Originally signing her work with only her first initial, the controversy of Ms. Brundage’s provocative covers skyrocketed when she was revealed to be a woman in 1934. Although some contemporary authors dismissed her art as “trash” – even spreading rumors that Margaret used her teen-aged daughter as a model (in reality, she only had one child – a son) – the popularity and scandal of Ms. Brundage’s provocative covers helped keep the financially troubled Weird Tales afloat during the Depression.

Capitalizing on the popularity of her semi-erotic art, Margaret earned $90 per cover in an era of double-digit unemployment when the average salary was $1,368 a year. Working exclusively in pastels, Ms. Brundage created a total of 66 covers for the magazine by her final original in 1945, illustrating stories by genre legends Robert E. Howard, Edmond Hamilton, Paul Earnst, Dorthy Quick, and Seabury Quinn, among others.

While Margaret ultimately died in relative obscurity and poverty, a long-overdue collection of her work, The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage: Queen of Pulp Pin-Up Art, will be released this April.  It will be available on Amazon, or you can purchase directly through the publisher for a lovely slipcased edition with a bonus folio – a fabulous way to celebrate this early, unsung woman in horror.

For more Women in Horror around the web, visit Women in Classic Horror from Classic Horror Campaign, La Petite Morgue’s Top Ten Scariest Women in Film, or enjoy some Women in Horror Cakepops via Laughing Squid.

A complete archive of Weird Tales covers with authors may be found at Collector’s Showcase, as well as a selection of high-resolution public domain covers at Wikimedia Commons; more details on the soon-to-be-released collection may be found on io9Pulp Covers was kind enough to point out Margaret’s early work on The Magic Carpet/Oriental Stories Magazine – see their complete collection at

Related Posts:

– A Man, Tall and Thin, and Ghastly Pale: Bram Stoker’s Dracula

– “Dead Man’s Hate” by Robert E. Howard

– Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness: Vintage Thanksgiving Art

Categories: Art & Inspiration, History (Haunted and Otherwise)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

23 replies

  1. I have always loved her work. Thank you so much for posting this. I’ll be sharing this! Thank you!

  2. I’m embarrassed–I’ve heard Margaret Brundage’s name so many times over the years and it never dawned on me to look her up to see what she did. She was a talented broad. Thanks for this, Eva!

    • Mme Weebles, it’s always lovely to see you pop up. 😉 I think she is cropping up a little more now that the book is coming out – I’m trying to dig around and see if any of that great classic pulp that goes with the covers is in the public domain.

  3. I enjoyed this. I have a morbid fascination with horror and mystery book covers 🙂

  4. Reblogged this on power of h Weblog and commented:
    I’ll bet when I was a pre-teener that I gawked at her covers thousands of times. Interesting artist and article.

  5. Lovely article, but you are mistaken, miss. Margaret Brundage is the best known female pulp cover artist, but she wasn’t the ONLY one. Throughout the mid- to late-1940s, Gloria Stoll painted several covers for Popular Publications. Stoll painted covers mostly for the romance pulps with a western theme like “Rangeland Romances” magazine, but she always painted covers for the classic detective magazine “Black Mask.” I interviewed her several years ago for the fourteenth issue of my old fanzine PULP ADVENTURES. Once she moved to the Pittsburg area with her husband, painting covers for pulp magazines became problematic — no email of jpg files in those days, you delivered the original artwork to the publisher’s offices — and she gave it up. She now pursues different types of artwork, and spends time with her grandchildren. Sounds like a happy ending, eh?

    • Thank you, darling – corrected! What a fabulous story, and I’m pleased to hear it comes with a pleasant ending. Several sources indicated that Margaret Brundage’s retirement years were less agreeable.


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