Type: Public
Created: Jan 24, 2015
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Location: Pittsburgh Pennsylvania
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Gloria Stoll Karn, Pulp Art lllustrations from the 1940s


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            It was a culture shock for a city girl to be transplanted from pulse of the Big Apple to a house surrounded by woods in in Pittsburgh, PA.  But Gloria Stoll’s marriage to Fred Karn did just that, whisking her away from New York City and a blossoming art career in 1948.  Near1y 70 years later, Gloria remains among just a handful of female artists still recognized for her contributions to the pulp fiction industry,  creating illustrations and covers for popular romance and dime store magazines throughout the 1940s.  This exhibition takes a look Gloria's short but prolific career that brought those stories to life from 1941-49.

            Soon after graduating from the High School of Music and Art in 1941, Gloria began doing interior illustrations for Poplar Publications at the age of 17.  It was a chance meeting with Rafael de Soto who subsequently convinced the art director, Alex Portegal, to give young Gloria a shot at story illustration. It was for Love Book.  Commenting, "I've seen worse", Portegal allowed Gloria to begin doing covers along with interior illustrations the following year.  Most of her covers were for Rangeland Romances, edited by Harry Widmer, but she also worked with editors Peggy Graves and Al Norton on covers for Black Mask, Dime Mystery, Detective Tales, New Detective, All-Story Love, New Love, Love Book, Love Short Stories, Love Novels, Romance, and Thrilling Love, as well as interior illustrations for Argosy edited by Bernie White. 

            As a free-lance artist Gloria was able to finance her education at New York’s Art Students League.  Classes in anatomy, print making, and watercolor strengthened her commercial work while introducing lithography, etching, and watercolor.  Gloria continued to draw from that experience throughout her life,  practicing art at her own leisure and eventually teaching art classes and exhibiting an evolving body of work. 

           Among her most cherished honors is a one-artist show at the Carnegie Museum of Art and a listing in Who’s Who in American Art.   Her work can be found in the permanent collections of Yale University, the Carnegie Museum of Art, Westinghouse Corporation, Speed Art Museum, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Pittsburgh Public Schools, and many private collections.

          For more information, visit .  A public reception will be held on Friday, January 16, 2015 from 6-8 pm.

Artist’s Statement

     In a field dominated by men, it was unusual for a woman to be painting covers for pulp magazines in the 1940s. As a free-lance artist, I often traveled New York subways carrying wet canvases to Popular Publications. Starting in my teens, ideas for romantic scenes came easily as the influence of Hollywood’s “boy meets girl” movies was significant. It was also during the time of WWII when uniformed men provided a valiant and romantic presence.

     Noteworthy is the fact that pulp artists were required to come up with ideas for the magazine covers which reflected the general flavor of the stories within. Moving on to painting covers for mystery and detective magazines involved a radical conceptual switch. It was a surprise when I came up with gruesome ideas and concluded that, within the human psyche, there is a shadow side of which we are often unaware. I am grateful that my work struck a balance which uncovered the dark side within along with the light side depicting the joys of romance.

- Gloria Stoll Karn

Photo's By George Mendel Photography

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