Rafael DeSoto was born in 1906 in Barta Rolta, a small
town in Spain on the border of Portugal. He came to the
United States to study architecture at Columbia University
in New York. The depression forced him to quit school and
support himself by drawing. He studied anatomy under George
Bridgeman at the Arts Students League and eventually went
to Pratt Institute and higher degrees.
But Mr. DeSoto will tell you that he picked up his real
training in his first two years as a dry brush illustrator
for Street and Smith's western, mystery and adventure pulps.
By 1934 he had done his first magazine cover for one of
their "less advanced" pulps, Top notch. He was
soon Street and Smith's most versatile cover illustrator,
doing covers for Western Stories, Doc Savage,
The Shadow - in time over two hundred other titles.
Because he could work more than twice as fast as anyone
else in the business (he could knock out two to three covers
a week) and because he was an innovative illustrator in
demand by every publisher, Mr. DeSoto holds the record for
doing covers in the 30's and 40's.
In time, Popular Publications, one of the great pulp publishing
houses and the publishers of Black Mask in the 40's,
dominated his time. But no one owned him.
He did covers for Argosy, Adventure, Cosmopolitan, Redbook,
and The Saturday Evening Post. In the fifties he
worked for the paperback houses. "All of 'em,"
he tells us, including Dell, Ace, Signet.
Rafael DeSoto also did some notable advertising work. He
did a series of illustrations for the first Frigidaire campaign.
He also did White Owl and Canadian Club advertisements.
Mr. DeSoto, who now teaches anatomy and composition at
Farmingdale College on Long Island, feels that the magazine
illustration of the pulp era is as close as commercial work
has ever come to a fine art in America.