Thursday, November 14, 2019

To the Devil's Ballet: The Cover Art of Robert Heindel

These pale, haunting, geometric sketches for very late Sixties and very early Seventies occult paperbacks from Signet Books are a refreshing palate-cleanser for when the lurid and tacky covers one usually sees becomes overwhelming. Whispers work wonders here, thanks to the delicate, intimate style of illustrator Robert Heindel (1938-2005), an artist I only learned of after spying his signature "R. Heindel" on a recently purchased copy of the 1970 edition of The Mephisto Waltz.

The doll's head in a circle, carefully drawn hands at the piano, and eyes closed in repose reminded me of a favorite cover for a book I have been unable to find cheaply, the intriguingly titled A Feast of Eggshells. Somewhere in my searches I discovered another similar cover and noted that signature, then began to track down more by Heindel. Which is how I discovered that he's a world-famous painter of ballet and other dance, whose artwork has been collected by Princess Diana, Andrew Lloyd Weber, and George Lucas! Claaaaasssy for a guy whose earliest works appeared on these "easy-to-see large-type" Gothic/occult paperback originals. I love it!

I found five other horror covers from Heindel: Neither the Sea nor the Sand, Suffer a Witch, Along Came a Spider, The Ouija Board, and The Devil Boy. Personally, I think these are simply wonderful, as they feature all the signifiers of genre works of the era: creepy kids, eerie witches, haunted houses, Rosemary's Baby. If anyone knows of other covers he did like this, please let me know...
More interesting is that I've been seeing his work on more famous paperbacks for decades and didn't even realize it: his most well-known cover illustrations are for Signet's series of Ayn Rand reprints. Crazy, right? You can even buy the originals of these here.


  1. I've also been searching for a copy of A Feast of Eggshells for a long while. I remember it fondly . I read it when I was a kid and it made an impression on me. Impossible to find now days though...
    Along Came a Spider was another I read at the time and owned, but at some point has gone the way of the dodo.

    I actually recall one more from the Signet Gothic line that was of the evil child/Bad Seed ilk: Devil Boy by Willo Davis Roberts check it out on Fantastic Fiction site. The Heindel artwork is stunning!I saw it as sort of the male counterpart to A Feast of Eggshells.

  2. Atlas Shrugged, best horror film of the bunch. ;-)

  3. A very refreshing, understated yet striking style. Fantastic covers that showcase the psychological aspects of horror instead of the lurid in-your-face covers of most horror paperbacks. Great stuff.