Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Allan Kass (1917-2005)

The first time we looked at Allan Kass' work I didn't even know his last name. All I could make out in the corner of the ad he illustrated for the British Vauxhall was "Allan". Then a TI reader identified the artist for us in my second post on Allan Kass. Now, thanks to Rhonda Whiting, who visited the blog after that second post, we have the rest of the story...

The ad above from June 1952 is the earliest example of Allan Kass' work I've managed to find. Kass probably did a lot of advertising assignments like this during the earlier part of his career. But Rhonda Whiting was familiar with an entirely different category of illustration work by Kass:

"I've been a fan of Allan Kass' work for a long time," says Rhonda, "but in a round-about way... I love reading and collecting books and always loved his Regency romance covers. Back in the last '80's, I sent him a fan letter and he was kind enough to reply."

Rhonda began corresponding with Allan Kass, who provided her with a list of titles he had done covers for. "...so I began searching," says Rhonda, "and now have 783 covers of the approximately 1000 that he did."

"[Allan Kass] was born in 1917 in NYC and showed an early interest in art. He earned a BFA at Syracuse University in painting and worked in a Manhattan studio until WW2 broke out. He enlisted into pilot training and flew 44 combat missions during the war."

"After the war, he considered flying full time and letting art be a hobby, but he got a job in Detroit working for the automotive market and was busy with his new wife and family."

"He went into book cover illustration after dissatisfaction with drawing automotive pictures and backgrounds. He felt that illustration was dying and the new "king" was photography. Illustration only flourished in paperbacks, so he drew up a few samples in the late 1960's and took them to NYC and the rest is history."

"Mr. Kass was not computer savvy, but he was very interested in my collection and in having his work 'preserved' on the internet. He was sad that so much art from the great magazine and pulp fiction illustrators is lost."

To that end, Rhonda has created an Allan Kass cover gallery blog. There you can see over 200 covers by Allan Kass from Rhonda's collection which she has diligently scanned and uploaded for all to enjoy.

"I have books with his illustrations copyrighted from 1969-1998," writes Rhonda. "He retired then and enjoyed being with his family and his model airplane collection, which he built from scratch."

Allan Kass passed away in 2005.


  1. What an amazing talent. I love that
    cover for The Vanishing Scarecrow.
    It's absolutely scary.

  2. nice art. I love your ability to scrounge up this kind of background info on great if lesser known illustrators. great stuff.

  3. Ron; I agree! It reminds me a little of the great covers from the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series I loved so much as a boy.


    Thanks! But really, half the time I hardly feel like I can take the credit.

    As the blog has established a presence on the net, I've had more and more people contact me with fascinating background info I never could have scrounged up on my own - as Rhonda did with today's post on Allan Kass. The internet is a truly marvelous thing for giving us all the ability to connect this way, isn't it?

  4. As the daughter of Allan Kass, I can tell you that he was an amazing man in so many ways - and an enormously talented artist. I am grateful to my son, Tyler, (Mr. Kass' youngest grandson) for bringing this blog to my attention.
    Susan Kass Johnson

    1. Anonymous6:12 PM

      Hi Susan, I stumbled across this blog the other day. Your dad was my dad's (Joseph Schwartzberg) cousin. While going through papers the other day if found a copy of a letter your dad wrote to my aunt Pearl Schwartzberg and I decided to see if I could find some of your dad's art. Philip Schwartzberg, meridianmapping@visi.com

  5. Dear Susan;

    thanks for leaving your comment! I'd love to learn about your dad's career in greater detail... if you think you'd enjoy telling us more about him, please email me at


    and perhaps we could prepare a series of posts together for the blog.

    Sincerely - Leif Peng

    1. I have an original painting by Allan Kass. It was used for a a book cover titled " the shroude way". My father was the art director for signet, bantam and Dell

  6. Anonymous2:34 AM

    My daughter introduced me to Signet Regency romances in the 90's. I collect everyone I can find: Tonight, I finally could read Mr Kass' signature and now this! I never connected the mysteries..but of course! Such a gift;Thank you both. Mr. Kass made everyone, white or black, historical or modern, handsome, beautiful. He obviously viewed the world through a prism we all should adapt. Thank you so much..I have to go look for the 1000 covers!

  7. Anonymous12:46 AM

    I was fortunate to have been able to work for Alan and Betty for 10 years around 1986-1996 or so. Alan, Betty and Lisa are very nice people, always smiling and welcoming. I am blessed to know them and have acquired a book or two myself. I am fond on Moonlight Masquerade. Thank you.

  8. Allan was one of three owners of Art Group and ArtStaff and was my mentor in my first job in the advertising business in 1964. Next month I celebrate 50 years in advertising. I owe much of my success to the great foundation of working with Allan and the other top talent at that studio. A couple years after I worked there that first summer, I interviewed Allan for a report I was doing at Wayne State U. At that time he was becoming disenchanted with the business and I knew he wasn't going to continue working there much longer. "'Do me a sample!'" he said speaking of clients. "You work in the business for years and have a great portfolio, but they still say, 'Do me a sample!'" In light of that I find it ironic that he did a few more samples to prove his worth to publishers. I'm glad he did. --Big Al Gruswitz http://www.boundless-creativity.com

  9. His work on view at Gagosian Gallery NYC on Madison:


  10. Anonymous12:52 PM

    Yesterday afternoon I found a lenthy letter that Allan Kass wrote to my aunt Pearl. Allan was a cousin of my dad. The letter dealt with geneology, talking about various family members and their connections, what they looked like and temprament. Allan also talked at length about his life in the letter, his early childhood with a story of his uncle Sam giving him a Colt .45 after a trip to California, which is aunt Sarah promptly threw out the window, and which was picked up by a passer by. He desribes my family, "the Schwartzbergs were nothing if not passionate like the final scenes in (a) Grand Opera but also like summer thunderstorms that having vented their energy soon rumble on." He wrote on his time in the service in the Second World War, and bombing the "Death Railway," made famous to most of us through the movie the Bridge over the River Kwai. (As a side note, I'm a cartographer and have made a map of that railroad for an issue of World War II History magazine.) To end this note, I decided to see if I could find some of Allan's art and stumbled on to this blog. I knew from his letter and conversation with my dad that Allan (who I've never met) started out in advertising and then after moving to Montana in the world of book covers, but I had never seen any of his work with the exception of one piece, which was the cover of a romance novel that had a globe on the cover along with the figures (if my memory serves me correctly). I would love to see some more of his commercial work and if anyone could direct me to it that would be wonderful. Philip Schwartzberg, meridianmapping@visi.com