Classic TV Guide covers

Classic TV Guide covers For the past three months I've been working with an expert team on a redesign project for TV Guide. The issue featuring the new look of the mag will drop the week of April 12. One of the best parts of the project was digging back into the magazine's rich visual history. Since it launched in 1953, TV Guide has had a long series of spectacular covers. In the 60s and 70s the magazine used a regular stable of illustrators, including Richard Amsel, Al Hirschfeld, Bob Peak, Ronald Searle, and Jack Davis, to create highly engaging and artful covers. They also used occasional guest artists like Andy Warhol, Romare Bearden, and Salvador Dali.

Sadly, there's no central archive of the entire run of TV Guide covers. But there is this wonderful Flickr page, run by fan and collector Jim Ellwanger, that collects over 350 of the greatest covers from the 1950s-2004. And there's also TV Guide: The Official Collectors Guide, a book that collects every cover from 1953 to 2005, when the magazine abandoned its digest size to become a full-size magazine.

(Above): November 29, 1975, Tony Curtis of McCoy, illustration by Bernard Fuchs.





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(Left to right): July 6, 1974, illustration by Richard Amsel; September 27, 1975, illustration by Al Hirschfeld; June 8, 1968, illustration of Hugh Downs by Salvador Dali.

TV Guide was launched in 1953, with a cover featuring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz's newborn son, Desi Arnaz Jr (Visit here for a full gallery of Lucy TV Guide covers, almost 50 issues). For the first decade the magazine featured mainly photographs on its covers, but by the mid-60s there were frequent illustrations. By 1970 TV Guide had a weekly circulation of 20 million copies, and almost every other issue featured an illustration on the cover of a TV notable.

Richard Amsel illustrated 37 TV Guide covers from 1972-85. He's also known for his many movie poster illustrations. Al Hirschfeld's first TV Guide cover was of $64,000 Question host Hal March, in 1956, and he did dozens more for the magazine into the late 70s.


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(Left to right): March 5, 1966, illustration by Andy Warhol; August 21, 1971; June 21, 1969, illustration by Ronard Searle.

Ronald Searle's first TV Guide cover was an illustration of Bob Hope, in 1965; his last was in 1990. In-between he illustrated dozens of covers and was also a mainstay for inside illustrations.

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(Left to right): May 23, 1964, illustration by Jon Whitcomb; February 13, 1982, illustration by Bob Peak; July 10, 1971, illustration by Jack Davis.

Bob Peak is another well-known movie poster illustrator who did numerous TV Guide covers in the 70s and 80s, often with a sports theme. Jack Davis illustrated dozens of TV Guide covers in the 70s and 80s, usually with multiple characters.




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(Left to right): November 4, 1978, illustration by Richard Amsel; September 14, 1974; August 10, 1974, illustration by Talone and La Brasca.

Longtime TV Guide art director Jerry Alten has a book on illustration in the magazine during his tenure, which started in 1967 and ran until the 90s. It's called The Art of TV Guide and has a lot of good examples of cover and interior illustration, plus some fun background.




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  • Nicole

    Have you seen this HBO guide search engine/archive? http://www.theguidearchive.com...

  • Jeremy LaCroix

    I had no idea Dali had ever done a magazine cover. That's just amazing to me, and what a weird cover!

    These illustrations are so textural, I am loving the lack of cover lines as well. The end result is a much more focused and bolder statement than so many modern covers that are forced to carry the clutter of disparate call outs.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • lanyin

    Thank you and please keep on sharing!

    It is always so wonderful and inspiring to see how our predecessors handled creativity :-)

    Can't wait to see the new TV Guide covers.

  • pknot

    Actually Hirschfeld did 41 covers.

  • pknot

    Hirschfeld did 40 covers for the American TV Guide (a record I believe) as well as three covers for the Canadian edition. In the 1950 - 60s he did weekly illustrations for reviews, beginning in 1954. His first cover was in 1956, his last (of Ally McBeal) was in 1999. he did a series of six color interior illustrations of the leads in Friends in 2000.

    Many of the originals of these works can be seen at the Paley Center for Media in NYC and in LA.

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