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Warhammer icon John Blanche retires from Games Workshop

A look at some of the most memorable pieces from the realms of Warhammer

A Sister of Battle model, the The Canoness Veryidian, a wargame miniature based off the work of John Blanche.
A Sister of Battle miniature based off the work of John Blanche.
Image: Games Workshop
Cass Marshall is a news writer focusing on gaming and culture coverage, taking a particular interest in the human stories of the wild world of online games.

John Blanche, the fantasy artist who defined the visual language of Warhammer and Warhammer 40K, has retired from Games Workshop after 46 years. John Blanche’s work in the Warhammer and 40K franchises is iconic, with vivid depictions, strong brush strokes, and sharp contrast in values. After over four decades, Blanche is retiring from Games Workshop, the company behind the popular lines of tabletop games.

Blanche’s work was used in White Dwarf magazine and on many of the covers of early edition Warhammer products. His take on these fantasy worlds has been stark, exaggerated, and at times intentionally ugly. As a result, these images are unforgettable — I still remember being a teenager and seeing Blanche’s take on a Sister of Battle and the corpse Emperor of Mankind.

Blanche also worked on converting and painting miniatures, which has inspired a school of painting miniatures called Blanchitsu. Appearing on episodes of the official Warhammer podcasts, Blanche went into how he creates his works to inspire the artists creating the wargame models. It’s a fascinating look at both his process and the creation of Warhammer figures.

Gothicpunk, a blog hosted on Tumblr, has gone through great lengths to document and archive Blanche’s works. Subreddits such as ImaginaryWarhammer also regularly host and discuss pieces of Blanche’s art, some of which have continued to fascinate fans for decades. His style will go forward on the tabletop as well, whether it be in the grim depths of Necromunda’s hive worlds or on the zany fields of battle in Turnip28.

The news was shared on May 31 by colleague Tuomas Pirinen on Twitter. Blanche maintains a personal blog. According to Pirinen, “we will see more of John’s genre-defining art as he can work projects of his own.”

Update (June 7): Following the publication of this article, John Blanche got back to Polygon. How did he spend his first day of retirement? By painting up a kitbashed female Space Marine, a picture of which heralded his departure from Games Workshop on Facebook.

A female Space Marine painted by John Blanche. Shown on Facebook alongside his retirement announcement. Photo: John Blanche

Blanche tells Polygon that the base is a resin miniature sculpted by James Sheriff, part of the team behind Trench Crusade, an in-production miniature skirmish game he’s looking forward to trying out soon. Blanche said he added arms, pouches, and other bits from his vast collection of leftover Games Workshop parts — as is befitting a die-hard kitbasher.

“It’s WW1 crossed with grim dark crusaders,” Blanche said in a direct message on Facebook, noting that medical issues are causing him to speed up his method of painting. “I’ve adopted a impressionistic style with minimal colours.”

Up next? An interwar tank — and plenty of games of Necromunda and Mordheim with new units he’s recently commissioned.