With a career spanning over 40 years, it is very likely that you know Michael Whelans’s artwork even if you don’t know his name. His paintings have graced the covers of the books of a literal who’s who of SciFi and fantasy authors. The list includes Isaac Asimov, Piers Anthony, Ray Bradbury, C.J. Cherryh, Robert Heinlein, Anne McCaffrey, Michael Moorcock and Melanie Rawn in addition to those of Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft. Del Rey, DAW and ACE are among the number of publishers who have commissioned him. Going beyond literature, Whelan also painted the cover artwork for The Jackson’s “Victory” album as well as Meatloaf’s “Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell” among others.
Over the course of his career, Whelan has won 15 Hugo Awards, three World Fantasy Awards, and 13 Chesleys awarded by the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists. He has also been named Best Professional Artist 30 times by the readers of Locus Magazine. The Society of Illustrators and the Science Fiction Writers of America have also bestowed awards upon him. In 2009, he became the first living artist to be inducted into The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, citing his “Imaginative Realism” style as breaking from the surrealism that prevailed on SciFi novel covers during the 1950s and 60s.
Michael Whelan is one of the most important contemporary science fiction and fantasy artists, and certainly the most popular. His work was a dominant force in the transition of genre book covers away from the surrealism introduced in the 1950s and 1960s back to realism. — From the Science Fiction Hall of Fame citation, June 2009
Now, his artwork is on display through May 25, 2017 at the Riverside Art Museum in the Mission Inn District of downtown Riverside, California. Beyond Science Fiction marks the first time that Whelan will be exhibiting his non-commercial work alongside his commercial paintings. While he’s had a number of retrospective exhibits at various conventions, Whelan said, “This is the first one in an art museum.”
A total of 50 pieces of artwork will be on display including his early iconic covers for Stormbringer, Thuvia, Maid of Mars, Foundation and Robots of Dawn. The artwork for King’s Dark Tower novels will also represent is more current work along with the cover artwork for the recently published A Memory of Light from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Making their world debut will be a number of his private illustrations including In a World of Her Own and The Red Step. Also appearing are several “palette gremlins”. This is a series of paintings which were inspired by blobs of paint on his palettes that suggested an image upon which he expanded. He completed one a week through 2016.
The Riverside Art Museum is located at 3425 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside, CA, 92501. Exhibit hours are normally Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., and Sunday, 12:00 noon – 4:00 p.m. Admission is $5 general; $3 students and ages 65 and older with ID; free for museum members, military and their families with ID and children under 12. Free general admission and different hours take place on the first Sunday and Thursday of each month. For more information visit the Riverside Art Museum’s page on the Whelan exhibit.