Friday, October 30, 2009

Can you see me better now?

I was sure I had a nicer version of this cover somewhere and here she is, courtesy of TJ and his amazing photoshop skills. The post of this cover from yesterday has "peeked" the interest of a lot of readers of this blog; I've received several other examples of keyhole covers from Beau and so now we know that other artists were onto this theme before Bolles. Mark told me about a Kay Francis movie where a keyhole motif was used as part of the title sequence. I'd love to see that! At some point I'll post all the other examples I come across and see how far back we can trace the girl through the keyhole theme. Finally, in celebration of Halloween here's a cute Spicy Stories cover from 1935. Sorry again for low quality but I only have this as a scan and not a very good one.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Who're you looking at?

It's only too bad that I don't have a better scan of this 1937 issue of Spicy Stories, or a real copy for that matter. She truly pushes the envelope--along with some buttons--and is an early example of what has been come to be called a "keyhole" cover. A lot of other pinup artists, among them Peter Dribben, seemed to favor this motif and it's become something of a standard in pinup. I've yet to come across an earlier version of the keyhole cover and is the only example I've seen where the room key is a part of the composition.
Which brings me to the theme of this post. Who first came up with this idea? I've written other posts where I display Bolles covers that fall into one pinup setup cliché or another (upskirt etc.) but my question is whether Bolles first dreamed up this idea or did he take it from another artist. The field of etymology deals with the coinage of words and their usages but I am unaware of a visual analog of this, at least for the case of illustration.

Perhaps the time is ripe to propose the creation of a new branch of art criticism, but what to call it? Pinupology?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mulligan Day was October 18, I'm taking mine now

The Bolles covers from Laughter, a periodical in the vein of Judge and Life that ran from 1925 to 1927, really tickle my fancy. They ranged from his standard oil paintings to more cartoon-like covers resembling pen and ink sketches, like this example. It's only too bad that the magazine didn't last longer, but toward the end it started to run other artists on the cover, a familiar story for Bolles. The likely scenario was that as sales began to ebb art editors began to economize on cover art and turned to other illustrators, not that Bolles was commanding exorbitant prices.
Below a lovely example of his advertising work done about the same time as the Laughter cover (1925). I've included it for comparison to dispel the myth that Bolles resorted to "cartoony" because he couldn't do anything else. As much as I like the portrait, it's the fabulous the typography, all in Bolles' hand, that makes this painting aces.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hold That Pose!

Do you have a favorite style of Bolles girl? On display today are three prime examples spanning 13 years, all in the same pose and predicament. On our immediate left is a put out but still fabulous flapper from a 1924 issue of Film Fun, below we see a perky but slightly pettish officer sporting a decidedly modern interpretation of a sailor suit, who appeared on a 1931 cover of Spicy Stories, and the vamp in the body stocking from a 1937 issue (fantastic cleanup courtesy of TJ).

Each epitomizes the Bolles style of the era though it must be said that the Film Fun girl is a lot more curvy than the John Held Jr. body type Bolles appeared to be emulating a year later. The 1931 Spicy girl comes right in the midst of a two year period when Bolles was either undersizing the body or oversizing the head on his girls, or both. And the 1937 example shows him Bolles in the apotheosis of all his mannerisms. Notice how she has not a hint of concern about the growing fissure between her seams. The concern (anticipation?) of her audience, well that's another matter. It's only too bad there isn't a version of this pose from the 1910's when Bolles was working for Judge, otherwise we could add an Edwardian version for yet another comparison.

These examples highlight one of the things I like best about Bolles, namely how he stayed true to his core. There are stylistic references in his earliest published work that run throughout his entire career, but at the same time he adapted his style for the both the fashion and the figure of the times. The other thing evident in these comparisons is that his style did evolve over the decades; the relaxed yet precise brushwork during the 1920s was gone by the early 1930s, supplanted by canvases so smooth they sometimes appears airbrushed. It's also interesting to compare the treatment the girls hands, and if you've been reading this blog you already know that Bolles was close to obsessed about how hands looked. From these examples it is clear he put a lot of thought into them. He also certainly was aware of that he was revisiting the same pose and made some efforts to avoid merely resuscitating the same stance and look. What's curious to me is how he remembered all this. He painted at least a hundred magazine covers between each of of these and so one might suppose there was something special about the initial pose (and I'm in agreement here) that made him come back to it. I do know he saved at least some of his proofs so he did have reference materials.

There are yet more examples of revisited themes, outfits and poses and I'll be sharing these in future posts.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Just a Little Taste

My interest in Enoch Bolles began over a decade ago, and as many of you know it has evolved into a goal to publish a book about his life and art. Toward that end I've worked to learn as much as I can about him and to root out new examples of his art, both published and in the original. Its been frustrating at times but there have been successes in uncovering "new" examples of magazine covers and advertising art as well as locating originals owned by collectors who have graciously allowed me to have them photographed for the book. Some of this material has appeared in the articles on Bolles and Film Fun I've written for Illustration Magazine. In additional to these articles, a sampling of previously unseen art and photos has made its way on this site. Still, much of what I've found has remained in storage so to speak, for the obvious reason that if it's already up on the web or published in an article what's the point of a book. But hoarding it has been no fun at all so from time to time I'll be serving up some toothsome hors d'oeuvres. On tonight's menu we have a very rare 1923 vintage cover to Film Fun, taken directly from the proof. Consider it a sort of amuse oeil.