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 Rafael Maria DeSoto  (1904 - 1992)

About: Rafael Maria DeSoto
 

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Lived/Active: New York / Puerto Rico/Spain      Known for: pulp fiction, free-lance illustration, teaching

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Irene (Rafael DeSoto) Endris is primarily known as Rafael Maria DeSoto

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Rafael De Soto
from Auction House Records.
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Rafael Maria de Soto y Hernandez was born February 18, 1904 in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. His parents were Milagros and Domingo DeSoto, a noble Spanish banking family descended from the famous conquistador, Hernando de Soto. There were seven children in the family. Rafael was the third born.

In 1915 the family was devastated by a financial crisis and the father died of a heart attack. Eleven-year-old Rafael was sent to St. Joseph's Seminary in San Juan, where he was trained to be a priest. His natural artistic talent was noticed by Father Noel, who sent Rafael to private art lessons with a local artist, Diaz McKenna. After completing his education at St. Joseph's, Rafeal decided to become an artist rather than go to Rome to complete his religious training. "I liked girls too much!"

In 1923 at age nineteen he moved to New York City to live with an uncle, who was a tailor on the Lower East Side. With only a schoolbook command of English, he found work at an advertising company.

In 1930 he began to draw interior story illustrations for Street & Smith's western pulp magazines.

In 1932 he began to sell freelance cover paintings to pulp magazines, such as Detective Book, Five-Novels Monthly, Top-Notch, War Stories, Western Story, and Wild West Weekly.

He met Frances Mason, a model and a seamstress who worked at Bergdorf Goodman's. They dated for six years. In 1939 they married and moved to 4330 Forty-Sixth Street in Sunnyside, Queens.

He sold freelance pulp covers to Ace G-Man Stories, Ace Sports, All Detective, Black Book Detective, Champion Sports, Dime Detective, Dime Mystery, Phantom Detective, Popular Detective, The Spider, Ten Detective Aces, Terror Tales, Thrilling Detective, Western Aces, and Western Trails.

The pulp artist, Richard Lillis, was DeSoto's closest protege, a helpful model, and even a studio assistant. In 1941 DeSoto discovered Gloria Stoll, a seventeen-year-old discouraged high school graduate art student that lived in his apartment building, and inspired her to be a commercial illustrator. She went on to a significant career as a pulp artist and later an abstract painter.

Circumstantial evidence from Gloria Stoll strongly suggests that DeSoto produced several pulp covers for publishers other than Popular Publications under the pseudonym, Irene Endris, who was actually DeSoto's tax accountant.

In 1942 when he reported for the physical exam for his WWII enlistment he was discovered to have Type-2 diabetes and was classified as 4-F. He was among the few professional pulp artists to remain fully active during the war years.

In 1944 he and Frances moved to East Patchogue, NY, on Long Island. They had no children. In 1946 Frances DeSoto died from cancer.

He produced pulp covers up until the demise of the industry in the 1950s, for such magazines as Adventure, Argosy, Black Mask, Captain Zero, Crack Detective, Fantastic Novels, 15-Story Detective, Fifteen Western Tales, New Detective, Smashing Detective, and Walt Coburn's Western Magazine.

He also sold freelance illustrations to slick magazines, such as Argosy, Colliers, Coronet, Ladies Home Journal, The Journal American, Liberty, Redbook, and The Saturday Evening Post.

In the 1950s he also produced many paperback book covers for Ace, Bantam, Dell, Lion, Signet, and Pocket Books, including the iconic "H Is For Heroine" for Popular Library.

He met a local model on Long Island, Audrey Skaare, and they were married in 1951, and raised four children, Rafael, John, Maria, and Lisa.

He also painted many covers and interior story illustrations for men's adventure magazines, such as Action For Men, Adventure, Battle Cry, For Men Only, and True Adventure.

In 1964 Desoto retired from freelance illustration and began teaching art at State University of New York (SUNY), Farmingdale, where he worked for ten years. He enjoyed teaching so much that he continued to hold private evening art classes in his studio for the rest of his life, along with a constant demand for his commissioned portraits.

According to the artist, "I love painting. It's not only because I like to paint and I have spent my whole life doing it, but I recommend it for everyone. When you are painting you forget all of your troubles. Your brain can only concentrate on one thing at a time, and when you are concentrating on that painting, you forget everything else! That's good therapy! I am still looking forward to doing the most interesting painting I have ever made. I have some more to do. I'll be going after it until I die."

Rafael DeSoto died of pneumonia in a Long Island hospital at age 88 on December 24, 1992.

Written by David Saunders, 1909
http://www.pulpartists.com/DeSoto.html

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Spain, Rafael de Soto moved to Puerto Rico at the age of seven.  He came to New York to study archaeology but always wanted to be a priest; he became an artist instead.

De Soto started by illustrating interiors for Top-Notch magazine, using the public library to research his western covers. He worked for Street & Smith, Pines Publications, and Ace Magazines. But the main body of his work was produced during a sixteen-year relationship with Harry Steeger at Popular Publications. After John Howitt left, de Soto created cover art for The Spider, many of his own concepts, which were so interesting that the stories were written about the cover art itself. His covers numbered approximately eight hundred; he was a fast artist, spurred into action by need, the Depression, and his family responsibilities.

Like most artists of the period de Soto never requested the return of his art and unfortunately most of it was stored at Popular's warehouse, which later burned to the ground.

He used live models-himself in front of a mirror, his wife, paid models-and New York City scenes for backgrounds. Besides the pulps he also worked for the "slick" magazines like American Weekly and Colliers. His highly, realistic art told a story on the cover and sold the magazine at first sight. As much as he disliked the medium and wanted to become a fine artist, he was a commercially successful artist during hard times.

Many of the pulp painters were inspired by patriotism during World War II to do their best work. De Soto's illustrations during this period were his finest and remain with his family. His regrets were many; he hadn't become a priest or a fine artist, or had his works hung in a New York art gallery. Only at the end of his life was his lifelong ambition realized in creating religious art and teaching the Bible with paint.

Submitted by Kent Whipple, Art Professional. 
Source: Robert Lesser, Pulp Art, p. 167

Biography from Kennedy Twentieth Century Art:
Rafael DeSoto was a leading pulp cover illustrator in the 30's and 40's.  Today is known to be one of the leading detective and western cover artist in the pulp fiction field.  

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