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: John Coulthart suggested that it might be Don Punchatz or Maelo Cintron.

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!):

Meanwhile, pulplibrarian on twitter turned up this cover on a book of German science fiction stories…


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.

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Asher Rose Fox says

What a fun quest! Have you tried the Society of Illustrators? They might have relevant records or be able to point you to one of those brilliant people with encyclopedic knowledge of fantasy art.

Have you already tried finding out who would have records of art contracts for Dell at that time? Or who was handling covers or production at the time and might remember how this one came to be?

S. Elizabeth says

I have not tried The Society of Illustrators, so I will definitely look into it--thank you! And as it happens, I just got another comment on this blog post with some contact names from Dell / Laurel Leaf, so I am looking into those, too!

JaniceG says

Some clues from a friend who was an editor at Dell during that period:

"Well, I know that the art director who commissioned the art was a guy named Bruce Hall. As for the artist, I'm really not sure. Another person who might know who painted this cover (if Bruce Hall isn't findable, or if he's no longer active (or alive--I really don't know) is Ron Buell, who was the editor-in-chief of Laurel Leaf Library in 1976 (and I'm sure also in '75--the art must have been commissioned either in '75 or '76.

S. Elizabeth says

Oh wow--THANK YOU! I am going to take this information and run with it...if I find anything out I will come back here and let you know. And please thank your friend for me, too!

Rebecca Flaum says

Wow! I am no good at research beyond a good google so I wait with bated breath to hear what you dig up! I had that very edition as a child.

S. Elizabeth says

I hope to eventually have some sort of resolution, even if it's just someone in a position to say definitively "oh that was just some one-off commission and we never heard from that guy again." I just want to unearth someone who KNOWS something, even if it is not quite the answer. My issue is, I refuse to believe that there's not a single person on earth from that time who isn't still around and who doesn't KNOW SOMETHING!!

Manuel Lopez says

I read this book a couple of times when I was younger, and I liked it, sort of. Read it again at age 50 and it read like drivel. I guess it depends on your age.

S. Elizabeth says

I myself will hit 50 in a few years (I am 47 tomorrow) and I am curious to see how these held up. I ordered the entire quintet from ABE books, so we will find out!

Nanne says

How did I ever miss this missing fact? Your research is admirable! I'm asking about it on SF&F on scifi.stackexchange.com (and crediting your diligence) despite how many uncredited artists publishers used at the time. For the record, I've reread Wrinkle and its canon regularly over four decades, and it holds up every time.

S. Elizabeth says

Oh, thank you so much for sharing...please let me know if you find anything out!

Anon says

That looks like early Boris to me.

John Robinson says

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 hers. The quest continues! Good luck!

S. Elizabeth says

WOW! Ok, that is some really interesting info! I am going to share it as an update here on the blog if you don't mind. Not having had the conversations firsthand myself, I'm always a little leery of sharing info or intel of this sort (please don't take that the wrong way, it's nothing personal!!), but I will just present it exactly as you have laid it out here, with the codicil that it is secondhand data, shared with me. Thank you so much!

Kevin says

It looks like the illustrator is listed on the back cover. As far as I can read the name is Cliff Nielsen. Here’s a link to an Amazon copy of the book with a picture of the back cover — https://www.amazon.com/dp/0440998050/ref=olp-opf-redir_nodl?aod=1&tag=wwwcampusboocom587-20&condition=new&dplnkId=4f734fce-afce-4e5f-9c20-206200d0075b&dplnkId=e651ba44-36f5-488f-b8c7-19dc0e4d18a1

S. Elizabeth says

Cliff Nielsen did covers for the entire quintet, you can see them all here https://www.ebay.com/itm/385159916396 ; his style doesn't seem to be anything at all like the cover I am referencing, and the book that you linked to on Amazon isn't the same one as the cover I've shared in the post above. Am I missing something? I am not sure why the Amazon listing has a date of 1976, I don't think that is correct. I believe the cover you have linked to is for a much later edition, probably sometime in the 90s, it's got that sort of glitchy digital composite look. And Nielsen graduated from the Art Center College of Design in 1994; let's say he was in his early 20s. Which would mean he was born in the early 70s. Which would make him somewhere around the age of 2 or 4 or 6 in 1976 when the cover was created? That can't be, right?

If you look at this page https://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?10381 ISFDB lists him creating that glitchy digital cover in 1976, which again, I do not believe to be correct. However it credits him for the next two books in the series, The Wind at the Door and a Swiftly Tilting Planet, as well as Many Waters further down the list as 1998. The remaining book is listed as "date unknown" but I would hazard a guess and say that he was commissioned to do all five of these covers in 1998.

Maybe it's just me, but there is absolutely no similarities between the style of these covers from the 90s and the retro 70s sci-fi luridly saturated cover art in question, featured at the top of this post.

JaniceG says

Another couple of artists you can cross off the list: my editor friend suggested the artist might be one used by Dell occasionally, Enric Torres-Prat. I found him on FB and he said it wasn't his work, nor the work of fellow artist Manuel Sanjulain.

S. Elizabeth says

Excellent, thank you!

Reed says

The style really does look like Jean-Leon Huen's, but I can't find a full gallery of his work to see if this painting is included, or even what his signature may have looked like! I do know he did covers for Laurel Leaf (he did one for the Prydain Chronicles), but that palette (greens and blues with the POP of red) and the textures are very similar to his other work.

S. Elizabeth says

Huen has definitely been mentioned a few time from folks with a similar mindset and reasoning! I wonder...?

Adam R says

Hi! I'm Adam Rowe, the 70s sci-fi art guy that you reached out to. Sorry for not getting back! I actually only just found out that you asked while reading this post because Michael Whelan tweeted it, haha.

Unfortunately, I can't help. Not only do I not know, but you've already uncovered a lot more than I knew, so you're the one educating me on the issue. This is where I would put a shrug emoji, if I did that sort of thing.

My hunch would be that it's a lesser known artist, since the biggest names like Michael Whelan or Paul Lehr tend to have estates with enough of an internet presence to have taken credit long ago and prevented the question from turning into a mystery this big in the first place. I wouldn't be surprised if it was an artist without a background in science fiction illustration, given that the fantastic nature of the cover comes through in surreal composition rather than any common sci-fi signifier like spaceships or particularly alien landscapes. Good luck with the effort!

S. Elizabeth says

Thanks for the reply, Adam! You know, I am almost hoping it's some very unknown, obscure artist that's flown under the radar. I want to find out it's some name I have never heard before but they've been creating art this whole time, and now we have this new (to me) œuvre of art to explore! I'd much rather hear that than some big name that everyone already knows. In the meantime, and unrelated to this, I preordered your forthcoming book last week and I am super excited for it. Congrats! It looks fabulous.

Owlmirror says

I wonder if the same artist did another cover for the Time Quintet.

This illustration of the cherubim:

. . . certainly looks to be in the same style, as noted by Reed above, with that same "palette (greens and blues with the POP of red)".

The date given for the cover is 1980. As with the cover you are searching for, no artist is known.

S. Elizabeth says

YES! That's what I think, too, and I am pretty sure a lot of folks are on the same page!

Owlmirror says

Another thought -- I wonder if Jean-Leon Huens' name appears in the corpus of correspondence held by Wheaton? Do the Dillons' name appear, in reference to their art for the books? Does Rowena Morrill's? Does any artist name appear?

The ISFDB links to a French WikiP page for Huens.


Which does mention that the Society of Illustrators (mentioned in the first comment above) honored him for his work. So that's another reason they might have information about him possibly having done the art for the first (and maybe the second) book of the Time Quartet.

S. Elizabeth says

I'm trying to find the email response that I got from Wheaton, I know they said that they couldn't find any mention of the artist for this particular book, but I didn't think to ask about any artists mentioned overall. Good call. And yes, we're looking into The Society of Illustrators!

Elizabeth says

At least at one point, Jean-Leon Huens was represented by Lavaty for his illustration work- they might have records from that era or be able to speak to the style? http://www.lavatyart.com/index.htm

S. Elizabeth says

Jean-Leon Huens is definitely on the list of things we are looking into, and the Lavaty link is interesting...might be an avenue to pursue!

Elizabeth says

for the Huens-Lavaty link: https://fineart.ha.com/itm/paintings/jean-leon-huens-belgian-1921-1982-the-emperor-probable-paperback-covermixed-media-on-paper13125-x-875/a/5347-71332.s

Carly A-F says

I guessed Richard Clifton-Dey! He did a lot of very colourful sf/fantasy art in the 70s and 80s http://metalonmetalblog.blogspot.com/2014/08/richard-clifton-dey.html

S. Elizabeth says

That's not a name that's been tossed around yet--thank you! I will add this guy onto the list.

Dave S. says

The Jean-Leon Huens speculation makes sense. He passed away around the time of A Wind in the Door’s publication, which would be a good reason why the two covers have a similar vibe whereas the next two that Dell published went a different route.

Random House (Dell’s parent company) has a corporate archive containing “editorial, publicity and administrative records; marketing materials; oral histories of current and former executives and editors.” Columbia University houses their materials up to 1999, seems as good a place to check as any.

Maire Smith says

The colours and use of black look like the same artist as my copy of The Forgotten Beasts of Eld from Avon in 1974. I don’t know if that’s of any use to you as I don’t know who did that. But I can’t see any mentions of it above.

Maire Smith says

The Mckillip cover seems to be by Rodney Matthews

S. Elizabeth says

So just to make sure I have got it... is this the cover you are referring to? https://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?263481

Molly Bitters says

I came here from the Tor article, and haven't yet looked at all the artists mentioned. It may be my mind making connections based on the batches of books I was reading near my copy of Wrinkle with this cover, but have you looked at Vincent di Fate? Though he might be too well known to have not had a cover accredited to him... Another place you could reach out to and see if they have any ideas is Analog Magazine. Stanley Schmidt was the editor for decades and they had tons of cover artists. He has since retired, but Analog's website lists the current editor, Trevor Quachri, at AnalogSF[at]DellMagazines.com. Science Fiction Writers of America lists Stanley Schmidt's contact as his agent: Eleanor Wood
Spectrum Literary Agency
320 Central Park West, Suite 1-D
New York, NY 10025
Tel. (212) 362-4323

Thank you for introducing me to Endless Thread!

S. Elizabeth says

It's funny, no one had even mentioned Vincent di Fate until today, in a comment that came almost at the same time as yours! And funny enough, I was researching a lot of his work in the past few years because I wanted to include him in my forthcoming book (spoiler alert--he's in there!) and it never even occurred to me to think of him for this cover art. I am adding him to the list! I really appreciate the Analog Mag avenue--I will look into that as well, thank you!

Holly Bird says

You know, it does remind me more than a little of Ron Walotsky’s work. Has he been mentioned yet?

S. Elizabeth says

He has not! I will add him to the list of folks to look into, thank you!

Jeremy R Megraw says

Can't resist a good bibliographic mystery! I wondered if you'd considered contacting contemporary Hugo award nominees for best artist for 1976, if they're still around, and see if they may know something:
Rick Sternbach
George Barr
Stephen Fabian
Vincent Di Fate

S. Elizabeth says

That's a great idea, and I will definitely look into that--thank you!

Kit Hohn says

Now I'm curious too! I've never seen this cover before but this is one of those books that profoundly shaped my life and I reread the quartet every year or so (I'm 44) along with Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles

S. Elizabeth says

I love that you have an annual tradition of reading these books!

Kindigo says

I think there is an artist’s signature on the work, but I can’t find a clear enough picture to be sure it’s a signature, let alone what it says. I compare it to Lehr’s signature here: https://tinyurl.com/34zunsku

It looks like 4 letters starting with D. If it IS even a signature, it doesn’t look like Huens.

S. Elizabeth says

Oh, now that's interesting! I saw that little squiggle and thought it was just...a flapping bird? I don't know! That never even occurred to me that it might be a signature!

Kindigo says

At least two people on Michael Whelan’s twitter post about this posted pictures of the copyright page of their copy. I don’t have a twitter account to ask there, but they might be able to get better photos of the cover.

Owlmirror says

I don't have a tumblr account, so I can't see what Kindigo means.

Tineye lets you select "biggest image", and this is the highest-resolution cover image I found:


The only thing that looks like a signature is a faint squiggle above the centaur's back - slightly lighter green on the more bluish cloud. Maybe I'm seeing things (pareidolia).

Speaking of seeing things, I was looking at the centaur's forehead, and it looks to me like there are the faint smeared, painted-over remnant of block-font digits there. The first two look like "21" ,and maybe "67" (much more smeared) following?

And on the rear leg, near the hock -- more smeared blurred digits. 3311, maybe?

Maybe I'm imagining it.

Kindigo says

Try this image link: https://postimg.cc/gallery/K8Q8Wsm

Photo 1 is the clearest I could manage of a black line on the gold cliffs next to the head orb.

Photo 2 is an image of Paul Lehr’s signature from another piece known to be his, because the height and shape of the letters is very similar.

Owlmirror says

Thanks for the alternate link. But the high-res picture shows that line much more clearly, and it looks like... just a line. Not even a hint of risers or descenders. There are darker and lighter parts that perhaps got turned into the up-and-down squiggles in the lower resolution picture by the lossy compression algorithm.

It occurred to me that some of the squiggles on the hi-res image might be artifacts of the book having been used as a surface by someone writing on a paper placed on the cover.

Jon Hunt says

It seems like a long shot, but has anyone mentioned Richard Hescox?

S. Elizabeth says

I think that's the first I am hearing the name mentioned with reference to this--I will check it out!

K. B. says

Her agent might know.

S. Elizabeth says

That's an interesting idea...and even if she doesn't know, she might definitely have the connections to find out!

Sultana Raza says

You could try posting this question on the File770 website. Someone might be able to give you a few good clues there… good luck with solving this visually appealing mystery…

John S. says

Has anyone mentioned Jerome Podwil. I see similarities in his cover for The Horn of Time. https://70sscifiart.tumblr.com/post/181558513134/jerome-podwil

S. Elizabeth says

They have not! I only know his gothic romance cover art...I will add him to the list!

Sean Stone says

The color palette and such reminds me some of Clyde Caldwell's work. He would have been in his mid to late 20s at the time this was done.

Owlmirror says

This hasn't been folded in yet from Michael Whelan's twitter yet, so:


We know the art director and editor-in-chief, but they couldn’t recall the artist and there are no invoices from the time.


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.

S. Elizabeth says

Oh WOW! Is it possible this mystery is going to get solved???

Nanne says

Well, still trying. Alfred Kelsner was suggested as a comment at SFF Stack Exchange (so was your page, which I pointed out was linked as the impetus for the question; someone needs Who's glasses) but NO ONE has dared to try to post an answer. Not one. Odd. I looked at Kelsner's work and it just doesn't look like the same medium, but at least it's a name you can check, too.

From a community that lives for story ID and the like in SF&F, feeling the burn!

S. Elizabeth says

Alfred Kelsner--got it! Adding to the list!

Leon Bober says

My brother Richard painted that cover

S. Elizabeth says

I am so glad this mystery is solved! And I am sorry for not publishing your comment sooner!

Matthew Bober says

Richard Bober painted this. This painting was in his collection and I have a scanned slide from 20 years ago when we were archiving work. This has always been one of my favorites of my uncles paintings, he passed away in December 2022

S. Elizabeth says

Your uncle's painting is magnificent! Thank you for commenting here and helping shed light on this mystery and I am sorry to have held this comment hostage for the past two months!

James Keith says

A quick trip to Internet Sci Fi Database would have solved this is under a minute. https://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?7526

S. Elizabeth says

Yes, that was one of the very first place I looked, as well as many other folks familiar with this resource. It has since updated the entries to include this new information. The entry for this edition was previously noted as "artist unknown" and referenced the blogger who had speculated that it was Charles Lilly, because for a long time, that was the best lead anyone had.

This is a link to archive.org earlier this year; please note there is no mention of Bober https://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?7526
This is the specific entry, please see it is as I described, and also no mention of Bober https://web.archive.org/web/20230517202208/https://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?581503

Please note that in the very link you shared with me, if you click on the 1976 edition credited to Bober, the entry notes "Cover art credit from www.wbur.org/endlessthread"...and that podcast only went live on September 1, 2023. So I can assure you that at the time of this blog post, May of 2023, ISFDB did not have artist credit for this edition of A Wrinkle In Time.

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