Margaret Brundage was born Margaret Hedda Johnson on December 9, 1900 in Chicago, IL. Her father was Johnathan E. Johnson, born 1871 in Illinois of Swedish ancestry. He was an auditor at a Malt Makers. Her mother was Margaret J. Johnson, born 1871 in Illinois of Scottish ancestry. She was their only child. The family lived at 4835 Quincy Street.
When her father died in 1910, she was raised by her mother and grandmother, who were both devoted Christian Scientists.
After she graduated high school she studied fashion design at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts from 1921-23, but failed to graduate.
She got her first professional job in 1925 drawing pen & ink designs for the local fashion industry.
In 1927 she married Myron "Slim" Brundage. They had one son, Kerlynn Brundage. They lived at 3318 Maypoll Avenue. Her husband was an alcoholic. He was often absent, so her mother lived with them and helped to keep house and raise Kerlynn.
Her first pulp cover was for the September 1932 Oriental Stories. Brundage went on to create covers for other magazines produced by the same publisher, Popular Fiction Publishing, including The Magic Carpet and most famously for Weird Tales.
Brundage sold 66 original pulp cover illustrations to Weird Tales from 1933 to 1945. Her work often featured fantasy scenes of women trapped in sexually vulnerable situations. Brundage covers were very popular with the readers of Weird Tales, but most of the public was not aware of the artist's gender, because her work was usually signed "M. Brundage." When puritanical social forces complained about the overt sexuality of Weird Tales cover art, the editor finally revealed that the artist was a woman, hoping to mollify the perceived offensiveness of her work.
Aside from the remarkable aesthetic of her approach to pulp art, and the rarity of her being a woman in a field that was almost entirely composed of men, Brundage was also unique in the fact that most of her work is created with pastel on illustration board.
After the publishers of Weird Tales moved to NYC in 1938, Brundage continued to create fantasy scenes in pastel for the rest of her life, but she was never again able to find a steady publisher for her work.
After twelve years of tolerating her husband's drunkenness and neglect she was granted a divorce in 1939. Her mother died in 1940.
Her later years were spent in relative poverty. Her son died in 1972. Margaret Brundage died at age seventy-five on April 9, 1976.
© David Saunders 2009