Monday, January 15, 2018

One-Off Number One

Today we debut the first of an occasional series I'll be calling one-offs.  These are cases in which Bolles illustrated just a single cover for a periodical. While Bolles is most closely associated with the magazine Film Fun, you might be surprised to learn that he painted covers for nearly 30 other magazines.  For one reason or another, he often only painted just one or perhaps two covers before another artist took over, or in what appears to be the case here, the magazine folded. 

This charming example Bolles' art is showcased on a 1926 publication of of America's Humor.  I'm aware of only one other issue of this magazine (alas, the cover was by a different artist) which apparently was also published in 1926.  This was a busy time for Bolles, not only was he venturing from Film Fun to do covers for other magazines, he also was very busy painting Street Car card advertising art.  

The history of this magazine is a bit vague, but from what can be gathered from the amazing Galactic Central magazine resource site, America's Humor previous incarnation was Ziff's Magazine, a monthly humor periodical that had been published since 1923. Sadly, even with Bolles' artistry the retitled magazine didn't last, perhaps because the customers who purchased it because of the cover were less charmed by the contents. This wouldn't be the last time Bolles made the writers look bad. 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year by Enoch Bolles

Could this be not only the classiest girl in a coupe glass, but also the first?  By now even the most casual of followers of this blog knows I am not one to be shy about pointing out original examples by Bolles that have since become standards in the world of pinup art.  And the girl in the glass is one of the best.  None other than Dita von Teese has turned it into her most famous stage acts (although she uses a Martini glass).  If I can find an earlier example by another artist you'll be the first to know, but for now let's offer a toast to the new year in memory of our man Bolles.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

December 21 really is National Flashlight day!

For your perusing pleasure, we present this rare Bolles from 1932 that goes perfectly with today's celebration.  The cover was his final contribution to Pep Stories, a magazine so notorious it got yanked off the stands and tossed from one publisher to another like a hot potato.  The new owner cut the pay rate for covers and so Bolles parted ways with the magazine in late 1931.  But then months later this flashy cover shows up on the stands, and Pep Stories was once again in hot water.  My guess is that it was an older submission which had been rejected for being too risque' even for Pep, which early in its run slapped photos of semi-naked ladies on its covers.

The originals I've seen from this time period are far livelier than what ended up on the cheaply printed covers. Take a look at this original from a 1930 Pep Stories and you'll see what I mean. 

So I took the liberty of doing some digital powerwashing to the the image and the result, in my view, is truer to the actual appearance of the painting than the drab version that appeared in print. Sadly, not only did the publishers of magazine like Pep Stories stint on paying for cover art, they also stinting on printing as well.  Let's hope the actual painting comes out from the dark some day so we can make a side by side comparison.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Nothing special day today, just a great Enoch Bolles cover

As promised, we have yet another rare Bolles for your enjoyment. This was published in 1935 during a period when Enoch was producing a series of especially fine covers for Breezy Stories, one of the classier of the so-called love pulps.  Despite its high circulation, copies of Breezy are very hard to come by these days.  This may have something to do with its slightly tawdry reputation, which has been pinned on our man Bolles.  In an article on the love pulps published in Scribner's Magazine in 1938, the author wrote: "Contrary to the belief of many who never see beyond the covers of Breezy Stories, its appeal is in no sense pornographic."   And on the right you can see the visual evidence the author provided to support his claim. This cover is also one of Bolles' most reproduced images, and it was the last new image Bolles created for the magazine.  Curiously, Scribner's bit the dust just a year later, but Breezy Stories kept on plugging away for another decade until finally closing shop in 1949, ending a publication run that began in 1915. The issue was commemorated by cover art that was described in the magazine as a "new" Enoch Bolles cover girl, and you can read the story of that enigmatic cover here  

Take a closer look at today's feature cover.  Did you spot that tiny signature?  While it bears a cursory resemblance to one of the common variants of his signature, it is uncharacteristically small, and the weight of the lettering is also oddly uniform.  Stranger yet, this exact signature also appears on four other covers published in 1935, but Bolles neither signed nor initialed a single one of the other 40 plus covers he painted for the magazine.  The likely reason for his reticence (there were instances where the art director of other magazines blocked out his signature) was self-preservation. As charming and even innocent much of Bolles' cover art strikes us today, in his times the standards of decency were cinched much tighter and so even the smallest display of skin could provoke politicians eager to take up a cause into a moral frenzy.  This article from a 1940 issue of the New York Herald Tribune describes how both Film Fun and Breezy Stories were rounded up in in one of city's decency drives. The irony here is that by the 40's there was nothing new inside the pages of Film Fun to get worked up over. For several years every issue of he magazine included the usual lineup of "Hollywood hopefuls," features on nameless European showgirls, and Film Fun cover models.  And that was it.  But apparently that was enough because soon the U.S. Postmaster General took on Film Fun and by 1942 it was off the newsstands for good.  

YOWhen you take a look at some of the early issues you can't help but wonder how it ever lasted so long. Here's the first cover I could where Bolles used a lei theme. It was published back in 1925 and as you can obviously see, Bolles thought that the lei was substantial enough to stand in for a swimsuit top.  Even more scandalous, there appears to be the hint of a belly button on our Bolles girl.  Let's hope the original of this painting is around somewhere to provide confirmation of this small but racy detail. 
Never again would Bolles dare add this provocative feature to another cover of Film Fun, not even on his cover for its final issue. 
The final monthly issue of Film Fun, although the special
edition may actually have been published after this. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Today is Cider Monday!

Do you think our Bolles girl is reacting to the effects of cider, or perhaps something there's something a a wee bit stronger in that bottle. Sorry the image isn't sharper but sadly this issue is not in my collection. Too bad too because it has a lot going on.  Aside from the hint that she might be partaking in something illegal (don't forget, this was during prohibition) there's also something unusual about her outfit.  It was Enoch's daughter Teresa, who long ago pointed out to me that those cuffed shorts were denim, and back then women generally didn't wear jeans. With heels and rolled stockings no less!  It's yet another fetching example of just how fashion forward Enoch was.  And if you were wondering about those suspenders, Levi's jeans had suspender buttons until 1937.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Enoch Bolles the Originator: Today is International Selfie Day!

As previously promised, the Bolles vault of rarities has been cracked open for your viewing pleasure.  And today's celebration is the perfect occasion to share this image, which I declare is the first depiction of a selfie in the history of pinup art, until proven otherwise.  Notice that sure and stylish grip our Bolles girl has on that camera. Those signature lifted pinkies mean she's posing as much for us for herself. Now if I could just get my hands on that photo!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

A Tasty Tootsie Wootsie Trolley Card by Bolles

I can't blame you if you've been frustrated with the ebbing output over the past year on this site. You deserve an explanation.  But first, let me offer a tasty reward for your patience and continued interest in all things Bolles,  Here we have a charming and previously unknown Bolles illustration completed in 1925 for what was then called a Car Card.  They were mounted above the windows of trolley cars and buses, and were the dominant form of visual advertising. Think of them as the cardboard equivalent of TV commercials; brief, to the point, and ephemeral.  The cards would hang for no longer than two weeks and then were tossed in the trash.  Others were repurposed as wall insulation in houses. Take a look at the unrestored version below, and you see what that does to them.  

But back to the paltry pace of posting. It's not a reflection of any drop of interest in our man Enoch. Quite the contrary, I'm more motivated than ever to get my book project on his life and work published. And there's some hopeful news. It currently is in review at a major art publisher.  

The fact is that each and every one of the Bolles images in the 250 plus posts from this site have been 'repurposed' on the web thousands of times.  That's all fine and dandy but the lesson learned is that to have any chance of getting the book published, I'm obligated to save most of the unseen, unknown and forgotten advertising illustrations, magazine covers, drawings, preliminary sketches, pinup paintings(!) and other goodies for the book.  But not all of them, and so over the next few weeks I promise to post some other rarities.     

In the meantime, those of you interested in seeing more about Streetcar ads will find no better source than this book written by Woody Savage, the leading authority on car cards.  I have a copy and it's terrific, chock full of great art (including some by Bolles) and fascinating information on this forgotten form of advertising.  Woody also has a website that includes many images from the book. You can even order printed copies of your favorite card.  Maybe one day I'll have something similar for the Bolles book.  
An ad by the leading producer of

The top image is by Bolles.