I'm not going to let another year pass before I have the excuse to celebrate Bikini day with a great Bolles painting, this one a photo of the original work that appeared on the cover of the December 1937 issue of Spicy Stories. This image is not from the Heritage auction where the painting sold a year or so ago but by a photographer I'd hired nearly 10 years back, long before the painting had be publicly 'outed'. Several other of my 'secret' finds have have ended up at auction but I still have at least 30 paintings of covers that have not seen the light of day, and which I hope to include in the Bolles book I've written and am still trying to get published.
More about that later. For now lets enjoy one of Enoch's most inventive take on what years later would be recognized as a bikini. If you are wondering what's with the white aura surrounding our lovely Bolles girl, it's simply a border of titanium white, enough to help the printer but also no more than necessary. This was a cost saving measure employed by the frugal Bolles which many other cover artists used when the composition was going to be printed against a pure white background. I've seen several Bolles paintings for sale at auctions where at some point along the way the raw canvas was filled in to match. Too bad in my mind as I rather see the hand of Bolles at work. Enjoy!
Thursday, May 26, 2016
|The November 1941 cover of Film Fun|
What's even more curious is that Painter fully acknowledged how unique this image was, both inside the pages as well as in the design of the cover itself. It was as if he wanted the magazine, which was first published in 1915, to go out with style. In the table of contents he even identified the cover image as the "new Enoch Bolles girl." And then there's the cover itself. The Breezy masthead on this cover is smaller than usual and deliberately positioned one side to both complement the composition and leave it uncovered. Even curiouser is the complete absence of the dateline, banners, coverlines. There's no text on the cover at all, not ever the price! I have to wonder if there has ever been another magazine anywhere that has been published with the image and nothing else.
So where did Painter get his hands on a unique Bolles so many years after Bolles had done anything new. Several possibilities occur to me. One is that this wasn't a brand new cover but an overpainting done using the 1941 Film Fun cover art. This isn't too much of a stretch because Bolles had reworked a number of his Film Fun covers as well as a few other titles, both for reuse on other magazine covers and for his own personal pleasure. He may have done this for previous issue of Breezy Stories although I hope this isn't the case. If this is a Bolles, it's got to be the worst thing of his that ever saw print, which is ironic because it was inspired by one of his most alluring covers, the amazing 1933 Bedtime Stories.
But I don't think is was an overpainting and I'll use another example of a reworked painting to illustrate why. Below is an example of a 1938 Film Fun cover that Enoch revised a year later, changing not only the outfit but also her hand poses and the hairdo. This amounts to quite a few alterations but they are minor compared to the differences between the martini girl and the Breezy Stories cover.
So let's look at them side by side. Obviously there are some major differences in the position of her legs, and left arm. More significant, the angle of the faces in the Film Fun and Breezy Stories covers differ. Her head on the Film Fun cover is turned a bit less which reveals more of her face, particularly her right eye and lips. This difference is quite subtle but as a revision it would be more difficult to execute than simply reworking an arm or leg, or adding clothes.
There's another reason I don't think it was unlikely to have been a rework and that's because the original Film Fun painting appears to have suffered an ignominious fate. Here's a photo out of a later issue of Film Fun and you can clearly see the painting serving as a prop in the Film Fun office in a photoshoot of a model who appeared in the same issue. I doubt very much that Bolles was able to get his hands back on it and it pains me to imagine the ultimate fate of this fabulous painting.
So that puts me back to square one. What was the story behind our mystery cover. My theory is that was not a new painting per se but an older and unused painting that Bolles had completed years earlier, in 1941 to be exact. More specifically, I think this painting was a so-called "comp" or comprehensive sketch that Bolles would have submitted to the art editor of Film Fun for consideration as a potential cover theme. From the final version it makes sense to assume the editor liked the pose but asked Bolles to tone it down a bit (little good that did, a year later the magazine was forced to fold by the Postmaster General for being "salacious") and so was born the martini girl. There's also a piece of evidence that supports this story. Submitted below for your consideration is exhibit "a", which comes from my own collection. This is a comprehensive sketch Bolles completed for what would be the October 1941 Film Fun cover, published just a month earlier than the martini girl cover.
Posted by Jack R at 6:59 AM
Friday, October 30, 2015
Here's Enoch's depiction of the actress Sue Carol, who was born on this day in 1906. She appeared on the cover of Film Fun in 1929. From 1928 to 1932 the magazine would occasionally feature a "specially posed" cover of an up and coming starlet. Despite the claim on the cover, Bolles, like other movie magazine illustrators, worked from publicity photos. This image is a pretty fare likeness of Sue and certainly Bolles knew that putting her in a canoe would add a slightly risque' aspect to the composition. Some of Bolles' other covers of starlets were a bit uneven, but his painting of Lupe Velez as a pirate girl stands out as among Bolles' very best covers. And according to Bolles family lore, Lupe actually did pose for it.
Posted by Jack R at 1:03 PM
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
From time to time on this blog I’ve remarked how Bolles’ girls were unique; a creation arising out of his imagination, rather than a realistic depiction of an actual model. In fact, many of his covers were based on cartoon sketches he would dash off several at a time, rather than a one-on-one session with a model. By contrast, the work of many other pinup artists exhibits a mirror like fidelity between the completed product work and the model. The best known case would be Gil Elvgren. When you compare the photographs of his models with the finished work you can’t miss the remarkable match between the model and final painting. The late Francis Smith, Playboy cartoonist and author of the book, Stolen Sweets once told me that if an Elvgren model had her garter on crooked, then that's how he painted it.
Earl Moran is a another example of a pinup artist whose work closely followed the lines of the model, but you can’t blame him considering one of his favorite models was a young beauty named Norma Jean Dougherty, who later went by Marilyn Monroe. And George Petty was so particular about getting a model’s pose just right that he once resorted to strapping her foot to a board.
Even in the case of Bolles you can occasionally see an obvious connection between the composition in the painting and the model’s pose, the difference is you’d never mistake the face of model for the girl on the cover. But I have found a few glaring exceptions to this and in fact there was one movie star that Bolles took a real shine to. So who do you think she was? Some of the likely contenders would include Jean Harlow, Alice Faye or the lesser known but widely photographed, Toby Wing. None of them, as lovely as they were, got the part. The role of the Bolles girl went to another blonde bombshell, Mary Carlisle, a smoldering screen presence. Her name was Mary Carlisle. First noticed by a Hollywood executive at the tender age of 14 she went on to become a Wampus Baby Star in 1932, a title given to young up and comers, not toddlers. Mary lived up to the 'acclaim' and would star in many Hollywood movies alongside the likes of Bing Crosby, Jack Benny and Lionel Barrymore.
Over the years I’ve found at least three Bolles covers which were directly worked from photos of Mary, though it took me a while to identify her. With looks like Mary's it was no surprise to learn she was a huge favorite of the reigning Hollywood photographers of the era, including Clarence Bull and George Hurrell, who dated her for a time. But what I had no idea of until just recently was that Mary is still with us, and going strong at the age of 101! Take a look at this recent video of her being feted with some classic piano tunes and you’ll see she is as glamorous and lively as ever. With the gracious assistance of her agent Darin, I was able to send Mary some side by side examples showing how Enoch’s art was directly inspired by her. You can imagine how thrilled I was to receive one of them back, personally autographed by Mary! And what a coincidence that the contemporary pinup model, Mala Mostroberte used a Bollescover that itself was inspired by Mary for one of her own fabulous interpretations of the Bolles girl.
If you'd like to see more of Mary, be sure to check out her Facebook page.
If you'd like to see more of Mary, be sure to check out her Facebook page.
Posted by Jack R at 9:12 AM