Friday, July 17, 2009

Upped-skirts, Downed Panties and Other Pinup Clichés

There's a very amusing post at Illustration Art on the physics of pinup illustration. Unfortunately it made light of a subject worthy of more gravitas. So today debuts the first in a series of occasional lectures on the topic of pinup clichés. We must begin by acknowledging that a pinup is de natura iure itself a cliché, and so our endeavour will focus on the various subspecies made so popular by the leading pinup practitioners. Among them a special shout out (shout at?) must go to Art Frahm. He was the first to document the weird phenomenon of the opposing forces of updraft and gravity well, originating approximately at the girl's kneecaps with the result of a simultaneous upskirt and panty drop. In most cases Frahm embellishes the composition by the addition of the so-called lucky leerer and inexplicably celery, as first observed by the pop-culture commentator James Lileks. On our right we feature a rare example of a Frahm front flank updraft, which seems to have aroused as much enthusiasm (at least in the postman whose appointed rounds have come to a screeching halt) as would be expected from the more common rear orientation. The final element is the orientation of girl's face. For the sake of the composition but forsaking logic, her embarrassment is directed to the viewers of the painting rather than the lucky leerer, despite the fact that we are out of the site-line of the naughty bits.

Gil Elvgren is another of the upskirt devotees and he painted several examples early in his career, which began in the late 1930s. Clearly seen in these examples is his singular contribution to the genre; namely the pursed lips variation to the more general expression of abashment endemic to the pinup world. Elvgren used this expression only occasionally in his earliest work but by the 1970s (see example on right), the "Limpet"--as some disparagingly refer to it--became the standard of the Elvgren girl. Judge for yourself whether the term is apt.



The previous setups are variations on the more generic Klutz as depicted here by K.O. Munson. In most examples the girl is shown suffering from a moment of athletic ineptitude but other examples entirely forgo the pretense of a setup. We are led to belief the girl simply lacks the basic motor skills required for bipedalism.
...
So where does Enoch Bolles fit in this discussion. It must be acknowledged that Bolles resorted to, if not created, many of the standard setups including the upskirt, the snagged skirt, the klutz, the girl astride beach toy, the girl with terrier, dressed in a tea towel, sleepy time girl, hairpin pose as well as many others. Yet there is a telling difference to the Bolles girl and that is her remarkable lack of self-consciousness. Caught in a situation that would shame others, she registers no embarrassment at all. Take a look at these examples and you'll see her unique temperament. True, our Spicy Stories girl may simply be unaware of her condition but you can't say the same for the girl on the cover of this 1937 issue of Film Fun. Miss Bo Peep blithely deals with her prediciment where the Driben girl registers obvious annoyance.


The final two covers are even more emblematic of the Bolles difference. Here we see standard setups for the upskirt and klutz. Most pinup girls would have been mortified but the Bolles girls are having a good time, and I hope you have too. Class dismissed.


10 comments:

Artman2112 said...

i think that is one of the things that sets Bolles apart from pretty much all the others, that sense of FUN in the pictures! Nt only in what is happening but also the women themselves seem like they'd be a whole lot of fun to hang out with!
looking at the two side by side (Driben and Bolles) one can not help but notice the grace of the Bolles figure, the hand gestures, the humor and the overall superior composition at work. No disrepect to Mr Driben but it just shows how few of us can play in Bolles' sandbox!

Jack R said...

A2112: You have distilled my 'lecture' (cough, cough) to its essence in a single word. Bolles was all about fun, but not at the girl's expense. They had as much fun as we did watching them swim, leap, jump, dive or simply preen. If they happened to trip on their laces along the way, not a problem.

Alan Wrobel said...

What works well for me with re: to Bolles is his respect for his subjects. Frahms 'panty-drop' poses (he did do other fine work) presented his subjects as being idiots. Many of Elgren's 'pucker' poses strike me that way as well. But I don't see that in any of our man's work that I can recall, which is why I harp on 'truth and beauty'. Nice post!

Kyriu said...

Could the differences in approach be traced to some zeitgeist? I mean, from getting along your blog I always think on Bolles in the 20's, 30's (but in some way rooted in the 20s spirit) while other artist (like Evgreen) seem to be around the 40's and 50's. I was wondering how much the perception of the roles of what sex-appeal in a girl is changed among those years and how (if any) reflection on the different approaches is at work... well, maybe I'm just reading too much into it.

Jack R said...

Hi Kyriu,
Absolutely, I think your point is central to this. Bolles was ending his career just as the 40s pinup came into full bloom. I think some of his final covers were very much of that era but whether he would have continued this transition (or wanted to) is a question we'll never have the answer to. Thanks for your comment.
Jack

Kyriu said...

My idea is girls got "nicer and dumber" from the 20s to the 40s. Or the girl idea portraited them as such.

Anonymous said...

The girl drying her cute frilly panties is magic... This artist has found yet another devoted fan.

Alan

viagra online said...

I love these covers because they're very sensual. I think they are also very original, and for some reason they make me resort to the past.

kholoud said...

In love with your amazing blog.

Sildenafil said...

I think that the invention has been perfect because women look so sexy wearing things like those, and also they feel more confident with themselves and their couples.