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 Hannes "Hans" Vajn Bok  (1914 - 1964)

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Lived/Active: Washington/New York/Minnesota/Kansas/Missouri      Known for: pulp illustrator, fantasy imagery

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Wayne Woodward is primarily known as Hannes "Hans" Vajn Bok

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Ad Code: 3
Hannes "Hans" Vajn Bok
from Auction House Records.
Hocus Pocus Universe, Science Stories digest cover October 1953
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Hannes Bok, pseudonym for Wayne Woodard (July 2, 1914-April 11, 1964), was an American artist and illustrator, as well as an amateur astrologer and writer of fantasy fiction and poetry.  He painted nearly 150 covers for various science fiction, fantasy, and detective fiction magazines, as well as contributed hundreds of black and white interior illustrations.  Bok's work graced the pages of calendars and early fanzines, as well as dust jackets from specialty book publishers like Arkham House, Llewellyn, Shasta, and Fantasy Press.  His paintings achieved a luminous quality through the use of an arduous glazing process, which was learned from his mentor, Maxfield Parrish.  Bok was the first artist to win a Hugo Award.

Today, Bok is best known for his cover art which appeared on various pulp and science fiction magazines, such as Weird Tales, Famous Fantastic Mysteries, Other Worlds, Super Science Stories, Imagination, Fantasy Fiction, Planet Stories, If, Castle of Frankenstein and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

Wayne Woodard (the name is sometimes mistakenly rendered as "Woodward") was born in Kansas City, Missouri.  His parents divorced when he was five; and his father and stepmother, strict disciplinarians, discouraged his artistic efforts.  Once he graduated high school, in Duluth, Minnesota, Bok cut off contact with his father and moved to Seattle to live with his mother.  There he became active in SF fandom, including the publication and illustration of fanzines.  It was in connection with these activities that he originated his pseudonym, first "Hans", then "Hannes", Bok.  The pseudonym derives from Johann Sebastian Bach (whose name can be rendered both as "Johann S. Bach" and "Johannes Bach").

In 1937, Bok moved to Los Angeles, where he met Ray Bradbury.  In 1938, he relocated to Seattle - where he worked for the W.P.A. and became acquainted with artists like Mark Tobey and Morris Graves.  In 1939, Bok moved to New York City in order to be closer to the editors and magazines which published his work.  Bok had corresponded with and had met Maxfield Parrish (ca. 1939?), and the influence of Parrish's art on Bok's is evident in his choice of subject matter, use of color, and application of glazes.  Bok was also gay, according to friends Forrest J Ackerman and Emil Petaja; the erotic fantasy elements of his artwork, especially his male nude subjects, display homoerotic overtones unusual for the time.

Like his contemporary Virgil Finlay, Hannes Bok broke into commercial art and achieved initial career success as a Weird Tales artist - though he did so through one of the stranger events in the history of science fiction and fantasy.  In the summer of 1939, Ray Bradbury carried samples of Bok's art eastward to introduce his friend's work to magazine editors at the 1st World Science Fiction Convention.  This was a bold move, since Bradbury was a neophyte with no connections to commercial art or the magazine industry; but it reflects the close ties within the fan and professional community.  Bradbury was, at the time, a 19-year-old newspaper seller, and he borrowed funds for the trip from fellow science fiction fan Forrest J Ackerman. Bradbury succeeded; Farnsworth Wright, editor of Weird Tales, accepted Bok's art, which debuted in the December 1939 issue of Weird Tales.  More than 50 issues of the magazine featured Bok's pen-and-ink work until March 1954.  Bok also executed six color covers for Weird Tales between March 1940 and March 1942.  Weird Tales also published five of Bok's stories and two of his poems between 1942 and 1951. 

Once he broke through into professional publications, Bok moved to New York City and lived there the rest of his life.

Throughout his life, Bok was deeply interested in astrology, as well as in the music of the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, with whom Bok had a correspondence.  (Bok's copy of Karl Ekman's Jean Sibelius: His Life and Personality [Knopf, 1938], for example, is annotated with Bok's comments and astrological charts.)  As the years passed, Bok became prone to disagreements with editors over money and artistic issues; he grew reclusive and mystical, and preoccupied with the occult.  He eked out a living, often in near poverty - until his death in 1964.  He died, apparently of a heart attack (he "starved to death" according to Forrest J Ackerman), at the age of 49.


Biography from Butler Institute of American Art:
Hannes Bok was a man of many accomplishments - he was an artist, magazine illustrator, author, and astrologer.  His work appeared on the cover of many early pulp fiction magazines, such as Weird Tales, Super Science Stories and Famous Fantastic Mysteries.  All together, he painted almost 150 covers for various science fiction, fantasy and detective magazines, as well as contributing hundreds of black and white interior illustrations.

Bok's works also appeared on early fanzines, calendars and dustjackets from specialty book publishers such as Arkham House, Shasta, Llewellyn and Fantasy Press.

With his paintings, he achieved a luminous quality through the use of an arduous glazing process, learned from his mentor, Maxfield Parrish.  He was the first artist to win a Hugo Award, which was special recognition for science fiction illustration.

Bok wrote short stories and numerous poems (a sonnet was dedicated to Petaja).  In letters, he credited Petaja as being an influence on his writing - especially with his stories.  Bok was also a great admirer of A. Merritt, and he completed and illustrated two of Merritt's books after the legendary author's death.

In later years, Bok wrote articles about astrology for Mystic Magazine.  Two of Bok's novels, The Sorcerers Ship and Beyond the Golden Stair, were published after his death.

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