Ronald Clyne (December 28, 1925 – 2006) was an American freelance designer and graphic artist best known for creating over 500 covers for Folkways Records during the more than three-decade lifetime of his independent company from 1948–1986.
After beginning to draw at the age of 8, Clyne sold his first drawing at the age of 15 to Ray Palmer of Fantastic Adventures and Amazing Stories. It was published in the November 1941 issue of Fantastic Adventures. This led him to doing cover art for several fanzines of the era, such as Bob Tucker’s Le Zombie, and Al Ashley’s Nova. A few years later, he would do work for Fan Slants, Famous Fantastic Mysteries and Fanvariety and a great number of other fantasy and horror books and magazines - prominent amongst them being “The Arkham Sampler”.
Clyne's first published book jacket illustration was for Jack Snow's collection Dark Music and Other Spectral Tales (1947). This jacket originally had Ray Bradbury's name printed on the lower panel beneath the art, as Bradbury was to have provided a foreword, but after Bradbury reneged (due to the publisher insisting on including material by Snow which was juvenilia that Bradbury considered "patently unpublishable"), a bar of ink was printed over Bradbury's name on all the jackets, which had already been printed.
Clyne designed a number book jackets for August Derleth's Arkham House during the first two decades of that publisher's history.
In the early years of Folkways Records (1948), founder Moses Asch felt that the cover designs should marry with the recorded sound, and they differed from those of other commercial record labels. They use only two-colour printing on matt paper glued over a thick matt black cardboard sleeve - always leaving a thin black line around the cover’s edge. Artists that contributed to the overall style of Folkways records were Irwin Rosenhouse, David Stone Martin and Craig Mierop. However Clyne’s singular use of typography, layout and image was to be most often used and he was inspired by portrait photos given to him by Asch, and images that he would source during regular visits to the New York Public Library and National Archive.
In 2007, from the 29th of September, to the 27th of October, a retrospective exhibition of Clyne's work was mounted and curated by John Nixon, Stephen Bram and Warren Taylor and was first shown at The Narrows in Melbourne, Australia. Featured works included a spoken word record by John Cage with music by David Tudor; Indian Music of Mexico, played in traditional communities and recorded by Henrietta Urchenko; The Real Boogie Woogie by Memphis Slim and Folk Songs for Young People by Pete Seeger.
Selected Folkways covers
- Ella Jenkins - Seasons For Singing
- Pete Seeger & Sonny Terry at Carnegie Hall
- Memphis Slim - Memphis Slim
- Woody Guthrie Sings Folk Songs
- Dave Van Ronk - Ballads, Blues and a Spiritual
- Cisco Houston Sings Songs of the Open Road
- Raimon - Catalonian Protest songs
- The Roots of Lightnin' Hopkins
Selected book covers
- Something About Cats and Other Pieces
- The Abominations of Yondo
- Something Near
- The Lurker at the Threshold
- West India Lights
- The Doll and One Other
- Fearful Pleasures
- The Clock Strikes Twelve
- Revelations in Black
- This Mortal Coil (book)
- Night's Black Agents
- The Throne of Saturn (short story collection)
- Not Long for this World
- Tales from Underwood
- The Survivor and Others
- In Re: Sherlock Holmes
- Wisconsin Murders
- Nightmares and Daydreams
- The Exploits of Chevalier Dupin
- The Opener of the Way
- The Folsom Flint and Other Curious Tales
- Mycroft & Moran
- The Curse of Yig (book)
- Witch House
- Green Tea and Other Ghost Stories
- Three Problems for Solar Pons
- The Green Round
- The Fourth Book of Jorkens
Clyne was an admirer and collector of the works of Poul Kjaerholm and Melanesian Art from New Guinea and Vanuatu.
"A record cover should be seen at a glance. You shouldn’t have to study different sections of it. You should see the total instantly."
- "Ronald Clyne designed over 500 album covers for Folkways and is largely responsible for the famous label's striking visual appearance. His distinctive use of two-colour printing on matte paper and his deft use of modernist design strategies, created a body of work that gave the Folkways label its distinctive aroma of integrity and purity."
- “Clyne represents the graphic soul of Folkways. And a major factor in his success is that, like all great designers, he had a great client. In Moe Asch, Ronald Clyne discovered the ideal client; and in Clyne, Asch discovered the perfect artist to give form to his remarkable sonic vision.”
Dan Steffan’s survey of Clyne's life and career was published in Earl Kemp's ezine, e.I (December 2008)