Penguin 567
Trouble In July




Penguin 577




Penguin 588




Penguin 621




Penguin 632



Born in new York on August 25, 1907; attended the Fawcett Art School in Newark, New Jersey.
After a period of working in factories and holding a number of other jobs, including painting nightclub scenery, he began to study at New York University, supporting himself by working in the display workshop of the A.S. Beck shoestores.
It was there that he met Dutch painter Willem de Kooning. In the friendship that followed, he met and became associated with the avantgarde artists who were later to become the core of the "Abstract-Expressionist" movement.

Early in 1945, Jonas was interviewed by Kurt Enoch, vice-president of the American branch of Penguin Books.
Soon after, he did his first paperback cover, for Penguin 560 (Murder In Fiji), which was released in July of 1945. Further 1945 covers for Penguin included numbers 563 (Appointment in Samarra),567 (Trouble in July) and 569 (Conceived in Liberty); he also was assigned some covers for superior Reprints, such as number M654 (On Ice).

Meanwhile, president Ian Ballantine and art-director Gobin Stair left Penguin to found Bantam Books, and several Penguin illustrators went with them. Jonas also made two cover designs for Bantam, one of which was ultimately used: The Town Cried Murder (Bantam 16). According to Gobin Stair: "Bob Jonas was a dominant and succesful cover artist. He developed an idea and projected it powerfully without getting trapped by compromise. His designs worked year after year."

Jonas stayed with Penguin, on into the Signet years; his cover designs (sometimes incorporated photo montage) and typography determined the look of all nonfiction and most fiction titles the house released. Before Signet hired its first art director, it was Robert Jonas who effectively filled that function (his title "type director" came later, though).

In 1949, James Avati began doing paperback work; soon, Jonas was asked to begin delivering realistic covers for westerns, and other types opf books. Jonas himself feelingthat this was not his metier, but under the pressure of making a living, made an indifferent try with some titles and, rather than associating himself with them, adopted the nom-de-plume "Rob-Jon". Art director John Legakes recalls: "Before I arrived at Signet, he attempted illustrating some of the fiction covers realistically, which in my opinion was a disaster. I still wonder how some of these covers ever went to print."

He continued providing covers for Mentor Books through around 1955, and also worked for Pocket Books and Perma Books during that time; in 1952 he made a single cover for Dell, for The Mysterious Mr. Quin (dell 570). Of all his cover designs, his personal favorite is Penguin 596, The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter.

In the latter of the 1950's, Jonas turned from paperback to hardcover work, and designed for Frederick Ungar, Macmillan, Random House, Dolphin, Grove Press and other publishers.

His collegue, James Avati, has to say about Robert Jonas: "Excellent. His covers were very simple, technically speaking, but they had an enormous psychological power."


(from The Book of Paperbacks by Piet Schreuders, Virgin Books,1981)



Penguin 571






Penguin 581




Penguin 627






Penguin 634