Monday, October 20, 2008

An artist of many talents

When I first began looking into the career of Enoch Bolles the official party line about him went something like this: An artist who specialized in scandalous and somewhat cartoony pinups. This and other similar descriptions of Bolles effectively stamped him as a semi-talented cartoonist who specialized in pretty girls and nothing else. But the reality of this was an entirely different matter. The unknown truth was that at the same time Bolles was turning out his charming covers for Film Fun and other magazines at the rate of three to five a month he had a parallel career as a talented illustrator in high demand who worked for the top advertising agencies including J. Walter Thompson and Barron Collier's Consolidated Streetcar Railway Advertising Company, that was responsible for publishing many of Bolles Trolley cards. The products he illustrated for these and other clients spanned the gamut from bread to swimsuits to Zippo lighters. He did advertising work for major products and companies including Sun-Maid Raisins, Fleischman's yeast, Palm Beach suits, Best Foods and Fox Films (I've only recently discovered his work for the talkies). Unfortunately most of this work was done anonymously, despite the fact that many top artists not only signed their advertising art but additionally, loaned their names to add to the status of the product. Think Leyendecker-Arrow Shirts, Maxfield Parrish-General Electric, Rockwell Kent-Bituminous Coal Institute.

Bolles was not a party among this stellar group
but even lesser names were featured in ad campaigns. Bolles was never one to foist his name but in all likelihood he had already become to some extent tainted by his own particular specialization, namely illustrating very pretty girls who were a lot sexier than those of his peers and competitors. In that sense he
had become a victim of his own talents. But if you look at the two examples I posted you'll see an artist of far greater range and emotional subtlety (also: the lettering in these ads was done freehand by him).

A copy of Snappy Magazine from 1924.
The magazine had been banned in several
cities and the entire state of Kansas.
Bolles initialed but never his entire name to
nearly everycover of Snappy he painted.

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