Like all kids I loved to be scared out of my wits. A friend of my spinster auntie had a subscription to an incredibly dull grandma magazine. Me and my brother were dragged to her house on countless and endless occations, and didn’t have much else to do than leaf through whatever we could find, just to avoid dying from sheer boredom. I remember sitting on the floor, browsing past crochet instructions, recipies and True Stories from Life. I turned a page – and WHAM! The weirdest, scariest drawing I could imagine hit me full page. smack in the face! It was an illustration of a weekly horror story called Shock of the Week, illustrated by Hans Arnold. I was breathless and shaken and very much smitten. It was the beginning of a love story.
Hans Arnold was born on April 22, 1025 in the town of Sursee, Switzerland. He grew up in a very strict, conservative and Catholic area where the concept of sin, hell and purgatory was omnipresent and very real. Although his family on his father’s side was catholic, his mother was Protestant, a fact that caused young Arnold much worries and anguish. Could she really end up anywhere else than in hell? School was very strict, and punishment was given daily in the form of hard beatings on your knuckles with steel rulers, or standing on your knees with outstretched arms for hours in front of the class. Most interesting things in the life of a young boy threatened to break one or the other of God’s Commandments. Especially the seventh, which nobody really would explain but in som blurry way had to do with girls: that strange and wonderful spieces inhabiting the school yard on the other side of the invisible but unyielding dividing line that none could pass. Arnold and his best friend dreamed and fantasized about girls, girls, girls. They committed all kinds of sinful thoughts, and confessed accordingly after service. In theory, confession was confidential, but to the priests that was just formalities: Due reports were given to the parents who whipped them good to chase out all evil. Of course this didn’t stop them. They spent hours lined up with other boys under the rickety bridge, watching through the gaps when girls passed above. Someday, somehow one of them just had to forget their panties… Arnold decided to become a gynecologist, just to finally get to know more about these intriguing creatures. Unfortunately his school grades were not sufficient. Since he was quite good at drawing, he decided to become an illustrator instead. When the war was over, he moved around, living in various European countries before finally settling in Sweden. His early style was traditional and rather impersonal. But when he was given the commission of illustrating horror stories, he flourished. He brought out all his childhoodt fears and obsessions with devils, hell and horrors, mixed with beautiful girls and sweet fairytale creatures, and forged it all into his own, very personal style. He illustrated many books, and countless magazine stories. He is perhaps best known for his horror illustrations and the cover of Abba’s Greatest Hits record.
Hans Arnold died in 2010.
Other book covers by Hans Arnold: