Last year, MoPOP celebrated the 100th birthday of Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame (SFFHOF) member Ray Bradbury by launching its first-ever book club honoring the science fiction author's work. Bradbury's 1951 classic, The Illustrated Man, was the book of choice, and starting this month at MoPOP, visitors can find the original Dean Ellis painting that served as the book's iconic cover art on display inside SFFHOF!
As for the content of The Illustrated Man itself, MoPOP curator Amalia Kozloff had this to say about the SFFHOF inductee's use of tattoos in literary work: "Ray Bradbury’s use of the Illustrated Man is a literary device common throughout history. From Shahrazad in One Thousand and One Nights to Crypt Keeper in Tales from the Crypt, authors have used a mysterious storyteller to set the stage for loosely connected short stories. Many of the stories selected for The Illustrated Man had been previously published and needed such a device to link them into a single compendium.
"Bradbury’s use of tattoos as literary device was a new and unique twist in this storytelling tradition. Not only was it an original premise for the time but having a fully tattooed person on the book cover would have been titillating for many Americans. While the cover of the first edition only hints at nudity and tattoos, by the second edition, the art more closely resembled popular pulp fiction illustrations of the time—a format where many of these stories had been previously published—and featured the back of a seated, nude, fully tattooed man. This imagery would have further sensationalized the newly popular genre of speculative fiction where interplanetary colonization, alternative earths, automated homes, and AR would have been groundbreaking concepts to a 1950s audience.
"The use of tattoos also serves to underscore the pervading sense of human disconnection recurrent throughout the stories. It is not until the last story that the narrator’s own experience becomes entangled in that of the Illustrated Man and his tattoos."
To learn more about The Illustrated Man, the history of tattoos, or to see this very painting in person, plan your visit to MoPOP today!
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