There is a style of cover art that was quite common in the 1990s, and seems to have fallen out of fashion more recently. It made use of bold, roughly-textured paintings, often quite surreal in style, and worked well on the books of literary authors who tended to add something fantastical to their plots.
Probably the best artist of this style is Paola Piglia: Italian-born, for a while a resident of New York, and now based in London. An old friend reminisces about knowing her here.
I first noticed her work on the cover of the English translation of Jiří Weil's posthumous masterpiece, Mendelssohn is on the Roof.
In this wide-ranging exploration of Nazi-occupied Prague, the plot kicks off when an SS functionary is ordered to remove the statue of banned Jewish composer Mendelssohn from the concert hall roof. Unable to determine which statue is which, he decides to have the one with the biggest nose pulled down. Unfortunately, this turns out to be tha statue of Nazi hero Richard Wagner. Things unravel from there.
Weil, by the way, knew what he spoke of in terms of life under the Nazis. Summoned for deportation to a concentration camp in 1942, he survived by faking his own suicide and going into hiding in various empty apartments, with friends, and even in a hospital. His other novel in English translation, Life with a Star, is one of the saddest books ever written (and I've read Boy).
Back to Paola Piglia: her work has appeared on the covers of many Jose Saramago books...
..as well as on the German translations of arch-self-regarder Jeanette Winterson...
..and on the covers of never-translated-into-English Ljudmila Petruschewskaja...
..and several books by bookshop-staff-baffling Lisa St Aubin de Terán ("Do I shelver her under S, A, D or T?").
Here are a few more of her covers:
Coming Soon: interviews with the excellent David Drummond, the marvellous Katy Homans and the brilliant Michael Kellner. If you haven't read about them before, what an opportunity to do so now!