Charles Santore, a leading illustrator who reached millions of TV Guide readers with his cover portraits of television stars before finding more artistic fulfillment depicting characters from classic children’s books, died Aug. 11 in Philadelphia. He was 84.
His daughter, Christina Santore, confirmed his death at a hospital but said the cause had not been determined.
Mr. Santore’s most recognizable work appeared on about 30 covers of TV Guide, beginning in 1972, some years before the magazine reached its peak weekly circulation of about 20 million. His first cover rendered Peter Falk holding a cigar as the private detective in “Columbo.” Later covers depicted the stars of “Kojak,” “The Jeffersons,” and “60 Minutes.”
In a striking composite cover drawing for TV Guide made in 1977, Mr. Santore drew Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, and Robert De Niro as their characters in the first two “Godfather” movies, which were being shown together in a special TV presentation. His 1976 cover depicting Redd Foxx as the title character in “Sanford and Son” is in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington.
Mr. Santore worked in many different media, including ink, pastels, oils, and watercolors.
In addition to his work for TV Guide, Mr. Santore illustrated print ads for AT&T, De Beers diamonds, and Pfizer pharmaceuticals. He sold illustrations to Cosmopolitan, Playboy, Redbook, and other publications.
In the mid-1980s, he was commissioned by the publisher Running Press to illustrate Beatrix Potter’s “The Classic Tale of Peter Rabbit and Other Cherished Stories” (1986). He went on to illustrate retellings of “Aesop’s Fables” (1988), “Snow White” (1996), “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (2017), and “The Wizard of Oz” (1991).
Mr. Santore wrote and illustrated his own children’s books, among them “William the Curious: Knight of the Water Lilies” (1997), an environmentalist parable about a frog who becomes a medieval knight, and “The Silk Princess” (2007), a fairy tale about the origin of silk, with art reminiscent of classical Chinese painting.
Despite his success, Mr. Santore was wary of self-satisfaction.
“You have to be humble,” he said in a podcast released last year by the Woodmere. “You have to say, ‘I’ve got a hell of a lot more to learn,’ and try to be open to learn it even if you’re trying to teach yourself. So I never think of myself as a professional, always as an amateur.”
Charles Joseph Santore was born in Philadelphia on March 16, 1935, and grew up in a hardscrabble Italian neighborhood on the city’s South Side. His father, Charles, was a union organizer, and his mother, Nellie (Jackel) Santore, was a homemaker.
He began to draw at an early age, an eccentricity his tough friends tolerated.
Mr. Santore graduated from high school in 1953 and went to the Philadelphia Museum School of Art (now University of the Arts) on a scholarship. He studied illustration and graduated in 1956, then worked as a freelance illustrator before serving briefly in the National Guard in the South.
In 1963, he married Olenka Litynska. She died this year.
In addition to his daughter, he leaves two sons, Charles and Nicholas; two brothers, Joseph and Richard; and three grandchildren.