Stanley Meltzoff is thought to be the first paperback artist to specialize in science fiction covers and one of the most important artists of the 1950s to change the face of paperback art. Although his time spent in the science fiction genre was brief, the quality and style of his cover work elevated science fiction literature and stood apart from the pulp aesthetic of the time, which tended to emphasize violence and action.
Meltzoff started his career in illustration in the late 1940s while teaching at the Pratt Institute in New York after serving in the military during World War II. He did paintings for paperback covers and magazines including Scientific American, Life, Fortune and the Saturday Evening Post. He was a regular science fiction cover artist for Signet Books and was influenced by fellow artist James Avati, who became a close friend. Both of these artists shared studio space in Red Bank, New Jersey and produced dramatic works of art inspired by each other’s talents.
Equally important to the science fiction art field was Meltzoff's influence as a teacher and his writings on art history. His many years of at Pratt influenced generations of young artists, among them Paul Lehr and John Schoenherr, and their early works show his influence. While Meltzoff created only a small number of paintings for the science fiction paperback field (perhaps as few as ten), he is nonetheless considered one of the most important artists of the 1950s, and very influential in changing the direction of science fiction paperback art. At the age of eighty five, Meltzoff wrote: "(When) TV entered our lives, I came to realize that I was in a diminishing craft which no hero could resuscitate. Illustrators had to learn how to live as ephemeral antiquities; picture makers had to learn how to make pictures with machines."
Frank, Jane. A Biographical Dictionary: Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists of the Twentieth Century. Published by McFarland & Company, Inc.,
Jefferson, North Carolina, and London, 2009. p. 342.