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Greg Hildebrandt (American, b.1939)

Comic Book Art

Greg Hildebrandt (January 23, 1939) was one half of the Brothers Hildebrandt, an iconic illustrating team that created countless work for comic books, movie posters, children’s books, posters, calendars, and advertisements until his brother Tim’s death in 2006. Perhaps most famous for their iconic Star Wars movie poster, the Brothers Hildebrandt produced some of the most notable commercial images of the second half of the 20th century. Now solo, Greg Hildebrandt continues to create new critically acclaimed work, winning the 2010 Chelsey Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award from the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists, as well as a gold medal from the Society of Illustrators.

Hildebrandt was born in 1939 in Detroit, Michigan. From an early age, he was captivated by the strong images of N.C. Wyeth and Maxfield Parish, but his biggest influence - and one that would continue throughout his life - was that of Walt Disney. Fantasia and Snow White were fodder for Hildebrandt’s fertile imagination, leading him to enroll in Meinzinger’s Art School in his hometown of Detroit.

Hildebrandt’s formal training didn’t last long, his services already in demand for commercial work at the tender age of 20. Freelancing for a number of companies led Greg (and brother Tim) in a surprising direction - documentary filmmaking. Their first film, Project Hope, told the story of a medical relief ship stationed in the Pacific. An inventive mix of live action and animation, it would ultimately win them a Golden Eagle Award. On the strength of this film, the Brothers Hildebrandt were hired by Catholic Bishop, Fulton Sheen, to make documentaries about the hungry and poor for a Catholic television show in 1963.

It wasn’t until 1969 that the brothers would return to illustration, focusing mainly on children’s books for the major publishing houses. It was freelance work that left them in anonymity, despite previous successes in other fields. Their big break came when they illustrated the Ballantine Lord of the Rings Calendar (1976). This was followed by two more consecutive calendars, each more successful than the last. The 1978 edition sold more than one million copies, a then-record for calendar sales.

The Brothers Hildebrandt’s work from this time is some of their best. Deep shadows and dramatic lighting gave their paintings a dramatic flair which lent itself to the high fantasy and adventure novels of the time. They would continue their work in film, illustrating posters for the re-release of Barbarella (1979), as well as Clash of the Titans (1981).

Their most famous piece of art, one that is still in print today, was the world-renown promotional poster for Star Wars (1977). This iconic work, which featured all the main characters striking Arthurian poses, seemed straight out of Maxfield Parrish or N.C. Wyeth’s catalog. It struck the perfect chord with its audience, that of high adventure and endless possibilities.

The brothers continued to produce work separately and together for most of the 1980s and 1990s, working for DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and Fleer Cards. Their 1994 exhibit at the Alexander Gallery led to a renewed interest in their work. After Tim’s death in 2006, Greg continues to produce work based on his singular vision, most notably the pinup series, American Beauties (1999 - present) and cover art for the Star Trek franchise.

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