Thursday, September 24, 2009

Paint Me a Picture

A question by frequent visitor Gary about how many Bolles paintings got me onto this project, which is something I've been meaning to do for a long time. Here we see a graph showing all the Film Fun covers done by Enoch Bolles from 1923 to the magazine's last issue in September 1942. This doesn't include the 1942 annual as I don't know when it was published, nor 1922 which I forgot to add until it was too late (for the record Bolles painted the October and December issues). The Blanks during 1926-27 were months when Film Fun was not published, which I think corresponds to the period that Leslie-Judge was selling off the magazine. All later blanks are months when the magazine cover was done by another artist or were, egads, photos. The question marks represent paintings that survived for a time but may or may not still exist, with some of these having been extensively reworked by Bolles.
As would be expected, the majority of the 29 original Film Fun paintings known to exist were from the later years of the magazine. What is interesting are the outlier years; three painting from 1925 are still around, 1937 with half of the year's output surviving, and 1940 where three and perhaps four of eight still exist. The 1937 trend holds for Breezy Stories and Spicy Stories. For some reason Bolles, or somebody else, held on to a lot of of paintings from 1937 through 1938. As far as I know, there's just a single surviving original painting from Gay Parisienne out of the 46 he did, and just one each from the entire run of Tattle Tales and Bedtime Stories. It also appears that no originals survive from 20 other titles Bolles did cover work for, but let's hope I'm wrong. As many of you know interest in Bolles' work has skyrocketed with record prices in recent Heritage auctions. This clearly has brought some pieces out of hiding, or perhaps just out of the den. Feast your eyes on this cover for the March 1938 issue of Spicy Stories that Heritage will be selling in their upcoming illustration auction. Until I saw it I had no idea the original was still around and let's hope there's more where she came from. If you have information on original Bolles paintings or corrections to my 'statistics' I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, September 18, 2009

International Eat an Apple Day!

Ok, so it was yesterday, but I'm not about to wait another year, simply to be calendarically correct. The Breezy Stories is a 1944 reprint from an issue I would bet was published in 1937 or '38. For whatever reason a very large proportion of Bolles originals that survive were painted during this two year period. It's too bad this cover suffers from such lousy printing but below I have reprinted the original painting, or what became of it. Bolles reworked a number of his paintings a
nd again, most were originally done in 1937 or 1938. In my estimation the original is preferable to the repaint, but it does show how richer his
palette was than what appeared in the printed version. I also think the repainting may have been a sort of warm-
up for his cover for the April, 1942 cover of Film Fun which could well be considered his most
brazen. I'll do an entire post on her soon and so you can judge for yourself.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Signature Statement

In my previous post I closed with a challenge to find an unusual element to the Breezy Senorita, and I must admit it was not easy. Take a look below and you'll see the answer. It was Enoch's signature. Or at least what looks like a Bolles signature because I don't think he actually signed it. Aside from Film Fun Bolles only signed a handful of magazine covers and for the record here are the titles: America's Humor (one issue), Gay Book (two out of seven issues), Screen Romances (two issues), Talking Screen (one issue), Judge (nearly every issue he did), Puck (one issue), and Wit O' the World. He initialed almost all of his covers for Snappy Stories and a few for Laughter, Live Stories and Zest, but that was it. My guess is that less than half his Film Fun covers were signed or initialed though I've seen several originals where the signatures were cropped out or perhaps even tooled out by the engravers. Bolles was more apt to sign Film Fun in the 1920s and by the late 1930s he had virtually stopped (one of these days I'll put all this up on an Excel spreadsheet). Even his family had to beg to get Bolles to sign portraits he had done for them.
But when Bolles did sign his covers his name became a part of his compositions. They were rarely rubber stamped; he constantly tinkered with the lettering which varied from issue to issue, as did the color. Often, he positioned it half in shadow so the lettering would transition from positive into negative space. Compare Bolles with the invariance of George Petty, who's signature was essentially a chop (no wonder, he trademarked it) and Vargas (who had it trademarked without his knowledge!). Armstrong's was a gorgeous mess of loops, almost begging to be yanked into an indecipherable Gordian knot of a scrawl, but after some early experimentation, it never changed.
So now take another look at the Breezy Stories signature and you'll see how wrong it looks. Aside from the scale, which is smaller in relation to the painting than anything else Bolles has done, it just seems off. Missing is the sweeping brush stroke and casual skill with lettering so evident in the other examples. Instead you get what looks like an attempt at forgery, which is what I think it is. In 1935, the year this cover was first published there were several other Breezy covers that were signed by Bolles, and the signature looks exactly the same in each. I think what we are seeing is an engraver's attempt at copying the Bolles signature. Aside from four or so covers in 1935, no other of his Breezy covers were signed.
Now let's reexamine our feature cover, from 1932. Bolles put a lot of extra flourish into the signature (and I'm sorry this copy has so much cover wear). It is unusual but the girl is the real outlier. The painting is well done and likely an accurate depiction of Margaret but alas, she looks nothing at all like a Bolles girl. And just who was Margaret Poggi is another bit of a poser. I could not find out a lick about her, even on It makes me wonder whether this image may have been a sort of leftover from an assignment Bolles did for Fox Films (he did some work for the company from time to time). If anyone could find something out about her or even better, snag a photo I would be grateful.