Monday, May 25, 2009

Reflecting on Bolles

Bolles wasn't much for tricky or complex compositions, and my guess was that if he was offered a job that required a crowd scene or a busy composition, he would have turned it down. This lovely cover from 1936 was a bit of an exception. Bolles did some of his best work for Gay Book, a curious periodical that initially had aspirations of class, but soon descended to featuring European showgirls and fetishes. But for a time the editors paid Bolles well, and he produced some of his most inspired cover art, which received extra care by the engravers. Bolles even signed some covers and got cover credit inside the magazine. As far as I've seen, only Breezy Stories gave him cover art credit and even then only for a short stretch. By the way, this is my 100th post since starting this blog last October. The cover is another find from my recent trip to the Windy City Pulp con in Chicago and I'll post the other two gems soon. I'm off to Seattle for a few days and won't be posting anything, unless of course I happen to run into a Bolles image on the street like I did in Stockholm last month. I'll keep my eyes open.

Friday, May 22, 2009

National Wig Out Day!

Yes, it really is Wig Out day, whatever that means, and our man Bolles has come through once again. Gay Parisienne featured a lot of curiously themed Bolles covers, some bordering on the impenetrable, including the tuba girl I recently mentioned (you'll simply have to wait until next year to see). The inside joke here is that Bolles had a strong preference toward redheads, yet of the letters he got from strongly opinionated fans most complained about too many blondes on the cover. Little did they know...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Shocking! Nylon Stockings Day missed

Somehow I let this momentous holiday slip by without due notice. For those of you who'd like to add it to your calendar, the official date for Nylon Stockings day is May 15. Tuba day also marched right on past and I had a fabulous Bolles oompah girl lined up for the parade, but she'll have to wait for her solo until next year. The topic of nylons, however, is another order of matter and belated is better than never. As any Bolles fan knows, he was a connoisseur of hosiery and I think painted it as well as any pinup artist. In fact he did commercial advertising campaigns for hosiery companies and I've included a really nice gouache comp (never seen anywhere before!) for an ad. Sorry but I have no idea of what company it was for or if it ever saw print. Below I've featured several terrific covers that prominently featured stockings. In compiling these it became evident that the majority of "stockinged" girls were were done for Film Fun and among them, 1937 was a particularly good year for nylons (or maybe these were silk but I don't know how you'd tell the difference). One of these days I'll try and break down all the magazines Bolles worked for into themes. Some are pretty obvious, Tattle Tales had exotic girls from the far reaches of the world, and Bedtime Stories favored infamous femme fatales throughout history. But others, especially magazines that Bolles did long runs for, will be a bit harder to pin down. So it "seams" there will be more to this story.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pleased to Meet You!!

Here's a Bolles cover I've long been dying to get my hands on. Up until now I only had a smudgy little scan of her from Snappy Stories/Young's Realistic Stories. It hadn't occurred to me that it was originally from an issue of Breezy Stories, though a lot of Bolles Breezy covers got recycled throughout the 1940s on the covers of both Breezy and Snappy/Young's (they were all out of the same publishing house). I was lucky enough to find this issue tucked into a huge pile of randomly cataloged pulps at the Windy City pulp show a couple weeks back.
An addition to the hot orange background, I'm attracted to this image because she reminds me a lot of my all-time favorite Film Fun cover (to be featured in a future post), but even more so because it's a portrait. I also am amazed with the treatment of her hair, just a few suggestive brush strokes but so effective.
For some odd reason just about all the Breezy Stories covers Bolles did in 1938 (the last year he worked for the magazine) were portraits, or I should say close-ups of full figure paintings. Below is the most famous Breezy image of them all (sorry, it's another puny thumbnail. I don't have this issue) and it's obvious she has been cropped out of a "full" figure, as is the case with other 1938 covers. But for I don't think this is true for the image above; she doesn't look nearly so cartoony as other blown-up examples and there's a lot of expression in her features, especially her beguiling eyes. Still I could be wrong. Bolles put a lot of extra detail into his commercial work and it can bear this sort of magnified attention. So unless we find a version of this cover where we see more of this girl, let's hope that she really was just a portrait, and that there are others out there like her.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Nurse Day Today!!

I think this is a really nice cover. It's from 1928 and is such an unusual topic for Bolles, the only nurse related image of his I've encountered. Virtually all the top illustrators of the Golden Age employed nurses in their World War I posters including Christy, Fisher, Flagg (who stuck himself in a poster in his Uncle Sam regalia, groping the nurse) and others. I've long pondered why Bolles didn't contribute to this effort as well, but from what I've learned there was a pecking order for who and who didn't get to produce war posters and given that Flagg had a lot to do with organizing the creation of these posters as part of the Civilian Preparedness Committee, there was more than a little self-promotion involved. These depictions had little connection to the women who actually served in the front lines, who were made of far sturdier stuff than the standard issue pretty girls in the posters.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Pulp Paradise

Friday I drove up to Chicago to check out the Windy City Pulp and Paper show. It was a long haul in crummy weather, and ten miles from my destination I took the wrong exit which cost me a precious 30 minutes. Worse, when I got there I discovered the batteries in my camera were just short of dead and I squeezed only three shots out of it before it died completely. More unfortunate, the Bolles painting I had hoped to see had been left behind, as had been a CD of another original Bolles painting I had previously arranged to pick up. But those things happen and people were there on business with lots to deal with. There will be other opportunities. Besides, I had a great time. As you can see from the photo above there was plenty to keep anyone with an interest in pulps, comics, original art or pop culture entertained, and I spent several productive hours thumbing through stacks of glorious old paper. There was a fabulous original art show that featured the work of Hubert Rogers, one of the very most important science fiction illustrators of the Golden Age. Both his paintings and pen & ink work were terrific. The art show also had some great originals by Hugh Ward and Earle Bergey, each of whom did covers for magazines that Bolles also worked for. I also got to meet at long last, Dan Zimmer, the intrepid publisher of Illustration Magazine who has done as much as anyone the past decade to keep classic American Illustration in the public eye and who was kind enough to publish my biography on Enoch Bolles in an issue of the magazine a few years back. Dan was there with copies of all his magazines and copies of beautifully produced books he has published on the art of Reynold Brown and Norman Saunders. Accompanying him was David Saunders, frequent writer for Illustration Magazine and son of Norman Saunders, the prolific artist of pulps, paperbacks, comicbooks and gum cards (not just any cards, we are talking Mars Attacks! and Wacky Packs). David was there to sign copies of the book he wrote about his father's life and work. If you have any interest at all in pulp art or popular culture, check it out. David and I have been going back and forth on email for the past several years so it was great to place a face with a name. As those of you who have followed Illustration Magazine will know, in the past few years David has managed to track down and interview several pulp illustrators who nobody knew were still living. His fascinating interviews with these living legends have been featured in Illustration Magazine.

I also had some good luck at the show, which like other pulp cons is primarily oriented toward hero pulps such as Doc Savage, The Shadow, The Spider and so on. There is also a lot of interest in the Spicy's but not so much the Spicy titles that Bolles worked on. That being said, I had some good luck, finding several titles I had been looking for a long time, including a cover of Breezy Stories I had only seen as a rough scan. I'll do an entire post on her soon. So despite the long drive back home Friday evening the show was definitely worth it. I'll be back next year.