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Baumhofer, Walter (1904-1987) | Department of Special Collections, Washington University Libraries

Name: Baumhofer, Walter (1904-1987)

Historical Note:

Walter Baumhofer was born on November 1, 1904 in Brooklyn, New York.1 Baumhofer, a high school graduate of Commercial High School, attended Pratt from 1923-1925. He married fellow Pratt attendee Alureda Leach on June 28, 1930. His wife was also known as the artist Rita Leach, also referred to informally as Pete, and both Pratt graduates were able to find work as artists despite the hard times of the Great Depression.

Even though Baumhofer was able find jobs as a freelance artist, the Great Depression took its toll on the industry. Baumhofer decided to risk $30 to hire a model for a Street & Smith pulp cover, which resulted in the publisher hiring him to illustrate covers for Doc Savage and Pete Rice. According to Baumhofer, it is this break that “ended the Depression” for him and would forge the path for a career in commercial art throughout the 1930s. Baumhofer is known as a prolific pulp artist and would produce over 700 pulp illustrations throughout his career.2 Many of Baumhofer’s fans referred to him as “King of the Pulps” because of his many contributions to numerous publications.

By 1935, Baumhofer began to publish his illustrations in Liberty Magazine. It was around this time that he joined the American Artists Agency, owned by brother and sister Celia and Sidney Mendelsohn. Their agency represented some of the top artists working at the time and for the rest of Baumhofer’s career, American Artists sold over 700 of his illustrations to advertisers and numerous slick magazine titles.3 Baumhofer became a successful commercial artist by the rise of the 1940s and established a name for himself in an industry full of competing artists that were both celebrated and more accomplished.

Walter Baumhofer’s illustrations in the slick magazine were published in The American Magazine, Collier’s, and The Saturday Evening Post. He also produced a number of painting that were featured prominently in women’s magazines. Baumhofer illustrated stories for the likes of Cosmopolitan, Ladies’ Home Journal, Redbook, Today’s Woman, and Women’s Home Companion. Baumhofer is responsible for a large number of illustrations for these publications, both on the covers and within their pages. His work for slick magazines spans several decades and provides a rich sample of his work.

During the 1950s, Baumhofer earned his highest wage while contracted with the American Artists Agency. Shortly after, however, the industry started to decline. By 1960, Baumhofer started producing work for men’s adventure magazines; some titles from this time include Argosy, Cavalier, Outdoor Life, and Sports Afield. The shift from painting to photography did not stop him from making work. Throughout the 50s and 60s, he created illustrations for calendars published by the Thomas D. Murphy Co. (albeit he often used the pseudonym Martin Walters) in addition to a series of cover illustrations for paperback books.4

Baumhofer would eventually resign from American Artists to start freelancing once again; the lack of clients, however, would lead to his retirement in the late 1970s. He still kept painting, namely landscapes and other scenes from the West. He was rediscovered by pulp fans and was featured at Pulpcon 8 in 1979. In the early 1980s, he was commissioned to create a new cover painting, although still in the classic style, for a new edition of The Spider.5 This would be his last known foray into painting in his late career.

In one of his last letters, Baumhofer states: “Sure, I enjoyed the slicks, particularlly enjoyed the money. But I enjoyed the pulps more. Those were good, exciting times. I’ve always felt fortunate in that I’ve been able to do something I really enjoyed all my life.”6 Walter Martin Baumhofer, 82, died on September 23, 1987.

1 David Saunders, “2015 Hall of Fame Inductee: Walter Baumhofer,” Society of Illustrators, https://www.societyillustrators.org/walter-baumhofer.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 David Saunders, Walter M. Baumhofer, (St. Louis, MO: Illustrated Press, 2014), 158.

5 Ibid., 219.

6 Ibid., 221.


Saunders, David. "2015 Hall of Fame Inductee: Walter Baumhofer." Walter Baumhofer. https://www.societyillustrators.org/walter-baumhofer.

Saunders, David. Walter M. Baumhofer. Saint Louis, MO: Illustrated Press, 2014.

Note Author: Andrea Degener

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