Mahlon Blaine

Mahlon Blaine, “Chess Match”, Gouache on Paper Board, Date Unknown, 13.25 x 19.25 Inches, Private Collection

Born in 1894, Mahlon Blaine was a major figure in book illustration before the Depression, shich devastated his livelihood. Although he continued to illustrate, much of his work was done for non-mainstream publishers. Near the end of his life, Blaine returned to illustrate some Edgar Rice Burroughs reissues.

Among the books of the fantasy genre, Mahlon Blaine illustrated were two books by Hans Heinz Ewers: the 1927 “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and “Alraune”, a fantasy trilogy published in 1929. He also illustrated the 1928 edition of William Beckford’s “Vathek”, a Gothic novel of Arabian fantasy first published in 1786.

When painting, Blaine habitually used oils; his interior illustrations for books were usually done in pen and ink. Blaine’s book illustrations of the 1920s and 1930s were visibly much influenced by Aubrey Beardsley, with those for the book “Vathek” being decadently erotic.

For decades, Blaine labored in the factory-like setting of the underground New York erotic literature scene. Working closely with Jack Brussel, the energetic antiquarian book dealer who published and sold erotica first at his Ortelius Book Shop and then at other Fourth Avenue locations, Blaine illustrated symbolist classics like Paul Verlaine’s “Hashish and Incense”, the Marquis de Sade’s “Justine”, fast-money low-market fetish pornographic booklets, and everything in between.

Blaine would work steadily in this genre until the end of his career in the 1960s, accepting commissions for freelance work from clients as diverse as ‘Arizona Highways Magazine’,  and Edgar Rice Burroughs’s “The Land That Time Forgot”. Blacklisted from the ranks of working illustrators for his work as a pornographer, Blaine began using the pseudonym G. Christopher Hudson for some of his more mainstream endeavors.

Mahlon Blaine died in poverty and obscurity in 1969.

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