[EDIT: THIS IS FUTURE ME. I AM HERE TO REPORT THAT THE MYSTERY IS SOLVED. READ OR LISTEN HERE TO FIND OUT MORE.]
Why is it that in this current year of 2023, no one seems to know who the cover artist is for this iconic Dell Laurel-Leaf A Wrinkle in Time cover art?? In a time when we have so much information available to us at our literal fingertips, how could it possibly be that the above marvelously and terrifyingly iconic imagery is perpetually credited to “unknown artist”? Even the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, always an excellent and trusted resource, does not have an answer. [UPDATE: HEY LOOK AT THAT, THE ISFD PAGE IS UPDATED WITH THE INFO.] [If I get one more commenter snarking, “a quick visit to ISFDB would have sorted it out,” I am going to scream. It was only updated last week, people!]
Ok, so if you are anything like me, you will immediately be moved to do some reverse image searching through various internet search engines and see what you can find out, and I won’t stop you, but I promise you, I have already done massive amounts of internet amateur sleuthing. You’re not going to find the answer in the myriad “A Wrinkle in Time covers, ranked” listicles – they will list artists like Ellen Raskin, or Leo and Diane Dillion or Rowena Morrill in connection to the various editions of this book–if they share any of the names of the cover artists at all–but they are all ultimately useless because no one credits the artist for this particular cover.
You may find a blog post wherein the writer thoughtfully speculates that it could be this artist or that, deliberating and debating the nuances of various artists’ styles and settling upon the theory that the artist could be Charles Lilly. That blog post ends with the blogger noting they will contact the artist and report their findings. Strangely, that blog post is only found in the internet archive, despite the fact that the blog itself is still available online and is updated as recently as this year. There is no way to leave a comment for the blogger, and there is no contact information, so I @ed them on Twitter to find out if they did indeed reach out and if they received an answer.
So in lieu of that, if it is, in fact, Charles Lilly, you figure you can bypass the middleman in this instance and reach out to the artist yourself with an email address you find on the African American Painters website, but that would be too easy, and the email bounces back. So you find the artist on Facebook, which you are not going to link to, because that feels a little like encroaching on someone’s boundaries of privacy, but it’s easy enough to find if you look for it. And there is no contact info there, so you send a DM politely inquiring. To date, you have not received a response.
You hear from someone that they saw on a Reddit thread that it could possibly be Michael Whelan. You’re so desperate for answers you don’t even check first to see if this Reddit thread exists, you go straight to Micheal Whelan’s website and send a note through the contact form. You receive a response immediately replying that Whelan “hasn’t illustrated anything for Madeleine L’Engle” and agreeing that yes, this is quite the mystery, and have you seen the blog post speculating whether or not it is Charles Lilly? [EDIT: IT MIGHT NOT BE LILLY–SEE BELOW]
You receive a message on Instagram five minutes ago suggesting that it is perhaps The Brothers Hildebrandt. You send a message through their contact form and also message the remaining brother on Facebook. [EDIT: I have since heard back from Spiderweb Gallery, it is not The Brothers Hildebrandt.]
Finally, you send a message through the contact form and the various email addresses listed at madelinelengle.com as a last resort, even though, in retrospect, maybe that should have been your first move.
Lastly, you write all of this up in a blog post for the other people who are feverishly curious about this mystery. If you’ve got ANY ideas or leads for me that have not already been covered above, please leave a comment or email me and let me know. And I will definitely update this blog post as I learn more, even if it’s just to say definitively, no, it’s not Charles Lilly or The Brothers Hildebrandt or something like that.
Ooof! This has been driving me nuts for the past two years, and not only because I wanted to include this beautifully nightmarish work in The Art of Fantasy. Obviously, without knowing the artist, I couldn’t even attempt to ask anyone for permission to use it! I’ve gotten over that aspect of it, though, and now I just want to KNOW.
Update: Per someone’s suggestion, I have also shared this on the unresolved mysteries subreddit, but I don’t have great luck with Reddit. I feel like every time I post something, I am always unintentionally breaking some rule or not doing something right and being told to scram. We shall see. [EDIT AGAIN] Ok this is the only subreddit that has ever been nice to me and I love them. They also suggested several other subreddits! Someone on one of the subreddits suggested tweeting at Madeleine L’Engle’s twitter account, which is curated by her granddaughter, but the response was…not super helpful.
Update: other artists that have been suggested by helpful Redditors:
- Ray Feibush
- Carlos Ochagavia
- Jean-Leon Huens
- John Jude Pallencar (probably not)
- Boris Vallejo (I really don’t think it’s him, and someone on Facebook seems to be confirming it is not him, but I am not sure what that is based on, so more on that as I learn it. [EDIT] The individual asked Julie Bell, Boris’ spouse, who confirmed that it was not Boris’ work].)
- Paul Lehr,
- Paul E. Wenzel
- Charles Shields
- Davis Paul Meltzer
- Frank Kelly Freas
- Peter Haars
- Richard Clifton-Dey
- Clyde Caldwell
- Jerome Podwil
- Alfred Kelsner
Update: A Redditor gave me this suggestion:
“Have you tried contacting Wheaton College in Illinois? Apparently, they have an archival collection of the author’s papers, including some business correspondence, which may offer further clues. https://archives.wheaton.edu/repositories/5/archival_objects/7081”
Further update: I heard back from Wheaton in record time (36 minutes!!). Sadly, their response was: “Unfortunately, we are unable to locate the artist for that edition of A Wrinkle in Time.” Booo!
Update: It was suggested that I reach out to Adam Rowe of 70’s Sci-Fi Art. I have done so. I eventually had some back and forth with Adam both in the comments of this blog post and he’s been tagging me in various things on twitter as they come up–see below, and thanks Adam!
Update: It was suggested that I contact Jerad from Centipede Press. I have done so. Jerad responded and suggested Charles Lilly.
VERY INTERESTING UPDATE AS OF MAY 16, 2023: A commenter on this blog post shared the following: “Shared this fun article with a fellow illustrator thinking he’d enjoy it and speculating. Turns out he was out of town on a getaway and happened to be visiting concept artist Eliott Lilly, Charlie’s Lily’s son. Eliott didn’t think it was his fathers, but passed it on to his father who confirmed it was not him, but thought it might have been his assistant (at the time) Toni Taylor. Looked into that, timeline did not mesh unfortunately, and Toni confirmed it was not her.”
Another update: I’ve gotten the awesome folks at Endless Thread interested in this mystery (thank you to the Redditor who suggested these guys) and they are doing all kinds of digging!
Update as of May 25: Tor has posted this mystery to their website–thanks for linking back to me, Tor!
Updated May 30: Via artist Michael Whelan on Twitter (thanks Owlmirror!):
Update on recent developments behind the scenes:
Bruce Hall (the art director at Dell at the time) believes the mystery artist was represented by agent Darwin Bahm. Efforts are being made to contact Darwin. https://t.co/2MXXoyoRRJ
— Michael Whelan (@whelanmichael) May 27, 2023
Meanwhile, pulplibrarian on twitter turned up this cover on a book of German science fiction stories…
I’ll guess Paul Lehr. Partly as it’s his style and partly because the L’Engle cover was reused on Stories Der Zukunft Band 91 (1981). Lehr’s art was used on Band 90 and both covers were from art purchased via the Herbert Göllnitz agency.@70sscifi may know more. @whelanmichael https://t.co/wfieGIO4UU pic.twitter.com/ZmPRocgLWE
— Pulp Librarian (@PulpLibrarian) May 26, 2023
70’s Sci-Fi art actually commented on this post and has been tagging me on Twitter as things turn up. Richard Bober was suggested as a solid contender, but according to this thread, it seems to have been confirmed by his agent not to be him.
Here’s a solid contender for the artist behind that uncredited ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ cover https://t.co/Al1bpS6TIC
— 70s Sci-Fi Art (@70sscifi) May 30, 2023
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