Sunday, December 28, 2008

Yummy! Today is National Chocolate Day

Isn't she sweet! I've waited a long time for a palatable excuse to share this image and today is it, so Part II of my little detective story will delayed a bit. Sorry this image isn't any better but it still looks better than the actual magazine cover. It was printed cheaply and in only three colors (skipping the black saves a print run). It's a pity that so many of Bolles' best covers suffered because stingy publishers were so intent on stretching a dime. Some of you will recognize this pose as very similar to one of Bolles most provocative covers for what else, Stolen Sweets!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Part 1: The Trail Begins

Try finding a more charming Bolles painting than this, despite the fact that Bolles left a legacy of over 500 others! Imagine my feelings when I learned the original painting was given to a letter writer to Film Fun who merely expressed the fact that he really liked it (well, I think he said he wanted it too, as if that made the difference). A decade ago when I started my project on Bolles the Internet was a wild free-for-all, open for grabs. I was able to download national archives and access death notices and even social security files. My search for information on Enoch strung on for months but finally led me to a fateful phone call with his daughter, Theresa; a vibrant 88 years young and the last surviving of his seven children. Sadly, Theresa passed away two years ago but her support and friendship still sustains me in my quest to learn more about her father and publish a book on his art and life.

In the interim the Internet has grown into a very different entity. Two years ago I learned about a historical database on national newspapers and naturally, I did a search on Enoch Bolles. What I found knocked the socks off me and started me down a trail that has not quite ended.

Coming-Part 2: False Leads and Dead Ends

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What did Santa bring you?

What a cover. What an outfit!! This is one of those Film Fun covers that makes you wonder how Enoch got away with. He mastered the art of pushing the envelope to the limit without seeming too obvious about it, at least with his Film Fun covers. When it comes to the so-called "smooshes" such as Stolen Sweets and Cupid's Capers, then the censors' shackles are thrown off. Ironically it was Film Fun that ended up folding because it attracted the attention of the Postmaster General, who pulled its mailing privileges because of "salacious" content. Certainly, he could not have been referring to the covers.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Such a great image, I'm only sorry I had to doctor it up so much, but it was the best that could be done with a middling scan. I'll be curious to hear if you prefer the previous scan that I didn't meddle with over this. Bolles painted for his personal enjoyment and completed a number of snowscapes. Here we see an effective integration of the chilly outdoors into the bullet theme we visited in a previous post.


And here is one of my favorite Bolles advertising illustrations, which also happens to center on the theme of nature and the changing of the seasons. Not only is it an unusually sensitive treatment of the outdoors in, of all things, a mayonnaise ad but the composition has a nice flow despite the static structure in the composition. Notice how the lid and label of the jar continue the line of the hills from Winter to Spring. Bolles also hand lettered this.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

It's nine degrees outside and the wind is howling. But our Bolles girl is not going to let a little snow cramp her style. This may be his first Film Fun cover where the girl has a cigarette, which in 1926 was still a transgressive act in polite circles. Not that Frosty is complaining.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Spreading Some Holiday Cheer

I'm just offering a little holiday eye candy today, all the covers I've picked out have similar poses. Bolles did a lot of Christmas themed paintings along and others with winter settings, and you'll be seeing more of these in the coming days. I'm also working on a post about a Bolles painting that I've been on the trail of for the past two years and thought lost, only to get news two days ago that it mysteriously resurfaced. The story is so convoluted that it will take me a while to piece it together for you.
On our right we have a charming example of Bolles in his mid-20s period. Despite how relaxed his painting is he still invests it with telling details. I especially like the greenery that adds a diagonal sweep to what would otherwise be a rather static composition. See how he deals with this problem with this Film Fun cover from 1930 which is supposed to be Nancy Carroll. About all Bolles got right was the hair color but he did do a few of these "specially posed" covers that were pretty good likenesses and I have a really great portrait he did of her a year later. My guess is that the editors thought these would sell magazines, but it really works against Bolles' strengths. With the possible exception of the Lupe Velez Film Fun cover (which is the best of the lot) I'm sure Bolles used photos, but his daughter told me that she had heard that Lupe actually posed for him. A few years ago the original to the Nancy Carroll painting was sold on eBay and I sure wish I could get a good scan of it. Speaking of scans I've left the first two covers unaltered but have included yet another similar example below from 1929 that I've cleaned up. Let me know what you think. Last I finally have gotten my Google analytics up and working so now I'll be able to see if anybody's reading these other than me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Come Fly With Me...Today is Wright Brothers Day

We continue with the occasional theme of Bolles covers that follow National holidays, ranging from the sanctioned to the obscure and downright ridiculous. As you will see in coming months, Bolles has supplied us with fodder for all. Here we have two carefree barnstormers performing their stunts with total confidence and ease. Robert Brown wrote that that the Bolles' girl was the most athletic of any pinup artist and these examples from the late 20s bear him out. Other Bolles girls showed their stuff in pursuits such as mountain climbing, sailing, and breaking tackles on the gridiron. But when you look at all of his covers it turns out that a lot more of his girls are engaged in more passive pursuits, and by the mid 30s they become downright sedentary. This may be just a reflection of the passing of the jazz age and its energetic symbol of the flapper, to be succeeded in the following decade by the vamp who wouldn't dare exercise, lest her makeup run.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Toast of the Town

This is one of the most frequently swiped of all Bolles images. I've seen used it on book covers, on a poster where the martini glass was replaced with a beer bottle, on t-shirts and more. Almost never has Bolles been credited with the image and his heirs have not seen a nickel from the countless other expropriations of his work. Truth be told Bolles did not retain either the ownership or the copyrights to his art, but this was the fate of most illustrators of his time. One of the rare exceptions was George Petty, who successful demanded all rights to the famous Petty girls he did for Esquire. This perceived impudence, along with the exorbitant fee he charged Esquire (over a thousand an image) led the prickly David Smart, one of the founding editors, to eventually drop his contract. Smart then turned to Alberto Vargas, who was initially grateful as he was working doing odds and ends for the movie studios in California after the market in New York had dried up on him. But Vargas was so anxious for the job that he signed without reading the the details in his contract. When it later became clear just how exploitative the terms were, he sued to get out of it. Not only did he lose, but Esquire retained the rights to the name "Varga"and so when Alberto left Esquire he had a long struggle ahead to rebuild a following using his real name. Years later, Reid Austin an assistant art editor at Playboy, helped convince Hugh Hefner to publish a new Vargas illustration, and the rest became history.

But back to our man Bolles. What was the fate of his martini girl? I cannot say but I do know she wasn't treated so well. Here's a photo from a 1942 issue of Film Fun and you can see the painting in the Film Fun office unceremoniously propped behind a model (It's curious that there is a painted logo). Very likely this painting suffered the same sad fate of so many others, to be cast off in the trash. One can only hope that it is safely nestled with a stack of other Bolles covers in a closet, waiting to be rediscovered. Such was the fate of several Rolf Armstrong paintings, so there is always a chance...

One last aside. In the late 1960s Bolles had learned that Alberto was doing pinups for Playboy (they were contemporaries, Bolles was born in 1883 and Vargas in 1896) and so he took a portfolio of samples to New York to see if 'similar' magazines might want to publish the work of another famous classic pinup artist. He visited the offices of Penthouse. Needless to say, they were not interested in art.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Final Page

As you likely know, the famous pinup queen Bettie Page, recently passed away. I tried to find a photo of her in an introspective pose but it was impossible, she was invariably beaming that incandescent smile (did anyone ever notice she had beautiful teeth?). As much as I hunt for connections I never really found much in Bettie that linked them, besides a few Bolles' girls who had short bangs. But I have learned that a lot of serious Bettie fans are Bolles fans too. Greg Theakston of the Betty Pages has painted her into classic Film Fun covers poses. Joe Anderko, who's written books on Bettie is a Bolles collector and has let me photograph a superb original advertising painting I plan on including in my book. And the reigning Playboy pinup artist, Olivia De Beradinis (whom I'm hoping to interview in a future post) who not only did paintings of Bettie but met her too, is a big Bolles fan. Last, is Bolles' final magazine cover, which I think has a bit of a Bettie vibe. Titter magazine was among the earliest to carry photos of Bettie within its pages. I'll leave you with that image.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Breezy Bikini, by Bolles

One of my earliest Bolles acquisitions but for a time I wasn't sure he even did it. I have no doubt at all now but I can understand my initial reticence. She looks more ethnic than other Bolles girls (but the real giveaway is the classic Bolles hand pose, index and pinky apart, ring and middle finger touching). The outfit is something else entirely and I should have included her with the Bolles bikini post. Imagine the reaction if she showed up at the beach with this two piece today, and then backtrack 60 years. I have no idea what sort of fabric it is supposed to be but it sort of reminds me of those yarn bikinis you see now and then (in fashion magazines, not the pool). Bolles once did fashion ads for a swim suit manufacturer and his daughter told me they got free samples, but the suits were wool and as soon as they got wet they sucked up water and hung like sacks.
By the way, this is a 1940's issue that reprinted a cover from the mid-1930s. Bolles most certainly didn't get an extra dime out of it.
P.S., Let me know if the bigger size image formatting works for you. I'm still trying to figure this out.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Another Side by Side

Don't get me wrong. This is not to imply that Bolles swiped or merely was inspired by this photo of Dorothy Sebastian, or vice versa. Truth be told, this arms-behind-head pose had become part of the pretty girl vernacular long before these images saw print. Close their eyes and they would be standard sleepy girl poses (yet another upcoming post...maybe I should post an episode guide for the '2009 season'). Who knows where the pose first began, but it makes me wonder if there's a visual equivalent of etymology; the study of the roots and evolution of words (iconology? photology? Help me out here).

No, the main reason I wanted to post this is to alert your attention to the fabulous site, "It'll take the snap out of your garters." (linked in my "blogs you'll like" section) where I swiped this photo from. Amy Jeanne, who runs the site, posts virtual stacks of photos of famous stars and long faded luminaries of the silent screen and talkies. The only downside is that you'll get a visual workout. Amy Jeanne expects you to be able to sight read both major stars as well as lessor co-stars of the era, and so a lot of the subjects aren't identified. So check it out!
I had to add one more related image, this of Barbara La Marr that I swiped from: Starlet Showcase at:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Do you Prefer Your Bolles Hot or Cold?

After the post last week on bulls-eye covers my Bolles pal, Beau reminded me about a great one from Spicy Stories that I had omitted. In the middle of composing a post using the cover it dawned on me that Bolles had done a similar composition several years later. So here they are, the Spicy cover from 1935 and the Film Fun from 1942. I've seen this sort of thing before. I'm sure that in some cases Bolles was in a hurry, understandable when you consider that he often painted three or more covers a month. And so he may have decided to go back and rework a theme he developed in the past for the sake of time. When he was in a big hurry he also simply overpainted parts of earlier covers and he pulled more than a few all-nighters to meet a deadline. But with other covers I think his motivation in revisiting old themes was to try something new, perhaps updating a painting to current fashions or putting an entirely new slant on it. I've seen a number of cover paintings where Bolles later tinkered with hair, clothing or jewelry, apparently not happy with the original. In many cases the original was best left alone but I have seen a painting with the lotus flower Film Fun cover that is a lot more interesting, and not just because he decided the updated girl didn't need clothes! One more thing to leave you with. As I've mentioned before, Bolles was fixated with hand position and poses and this Film Fun cover has about the oddest combination I've seen on any cover. What do you think is going on?
Due to several requests, here's the second image in a larger format. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Saint Nicolas Day! Celebrate with a Cigar.

Before this blog peters out I will be justifiably accused of claiming ad nauseam that this or that image is my favorite Bolles pretty girl or magazine cover. But here and now I stand fast (scout's honor!) that this truly is my favorite Bolles advertising illustration. Aside from the punchy composition and incongruous theme (at least by today's standards), this is just a fabulous painting bordering on bravura. Even a casual look reveals a rhythm and cadence in the slashing brush strokes. There is no opportunity for overpainting here: one mistake and you start the entire thing over. And for me it is this very quality that make the illustration so intriguing. In a few years Bolles' technique would become so rarefied signs of brushstrokes would disappear altogether.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Have a Dice Day!

No snake eyes yet! My run on finding Bolles covers that fit with National days continues with National Dice and Gaming Day. Yes, some casino owner in Las Vegas must have conned his local representative to burden the Congressional record with this crucial celebration. I had no trouble at all finding Bolles covers to fit with this theme. Just wait to see what bizarre National holidays we’ll be celebrating with fabulous Enoch Bolles art in the upcoming months.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Bikini, by Bolles

I've previously argued, only half seriously, that Enoch Bolles deserves some credit for inventing the bikini. But after reading a bit about its official history, I'm of a different mind. Now I am convinced that Bolles did indeed invent the bikini. First, let's agree that the combination of two piece outfits involving modest amounts of cloth and immodest attributes of the wearer have been around for a long time, and Bolles likely cribbed some of his ideas from the Romans (see below). However, the bikini wasn't officially invented until 1946 by the automobile engineer/fashion designer (that makes a whole lot of sense) by the name of Louis Réard. Yet above right is a similar design by Bolles from 1941 and in the montage below there are examples from the 1930s, including a thong (!!) from 1933. Réard couldn't even get French runway models to wear his "atom" suit but Bolles' designs were in the public eye long before.

So let's give credit where credit where credit is due, to our man Bolles.

The original inspiration?

Monday, December 1, 2008

"Bolles" Eye!

Here's a great original Enoch Bolles painting for a 1928 Film Fun. After taking a closer look at this (the scan, I can only wish I had the painting) you can see the bulls-eye appears to be painted over another pattern, which I am guessing from the shape to be balloons. Bolles did a lot of overpainting, changing details such as hair styles and in this case, reworking the background. Unfortunately he also reused old canvasses, meaning that he overpainted entire cover paintings to save the time and cost of stretching a new canvas. Too bad for us and I can only hope that this wasn't the fate of the motorcycle girl and some of his other classic covers.

I went back and pulled out what other bulls-eye covers I could quickly find (I missed a few good ones) and it turns out that this was a recurring motif for Bolles (it was popular with a lot of illustrators of the time). I made some allowances for what I included in this, and so I thew in ovals and a few other shapes for the fun of it. It's interesting how many variations there are to such a simple theme. I'll upload a few other nice examples in coming posts.