Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Out of the Ether

Be you a Bolles specialist or an omnivore of classic illustration art, you've likely feasted your eyes on the series of auctions of original illustration art at Heritage auctions over the past year from the Charles Martignette estate. For me its been both fabulous and frustrating because prices have skyrocketed, especially in the case of our man Bolles. The upside--even if you've been priced out of the market--is that all this interest in Bolles has brought some long lost treasures out of the closet, most of which have been consignments from other collectors.
The upcoming auction includes the 1931 Film Fun cover displayed here, and it's the only original I'm aware of from that year that survives. Yet as excited as I am to see the painting it is also a serious source of frustration. Every time a lost Bolles shows up on the market I can't help but wonder about its backstory; who owned it and what were the circumstances by which it was acquired? Each original I've managed to have photographed has a story behind it. Unfortunately many are scant on details, though one of the other Bolles for sale in the upcoming auction has a sticker on the stretcher that says "gift of Mr. and Mrs. Irwin Winsten, 1950", not that that means anything to me.
I've also posted the one other existing Film Fun painting of Bolles with a circus theme that I know about. The painting was done in 1935 and has its own story. It was once owned by, of all people, the girly artist Bill Ward. In a letter written to a friend he described buying the painting from an "old guy" at a flea market, recognizing it as a Bolles but not finding the signature until much later (it was tiny). He didn't say anything about the price he paid but I think it may have been around $150! Later in the letter Ward notes that Bolles could be considered the true pioneer of pinup, stating: "this guy precedes them all, before Petty, Vargas and the rest." And then he goes on to say that his very first published pinup, done at the age of 16 (!) appeared in of all magazines, an issue of Film Fun and I believe this its the final issue.

You may recall that a while back I posted a graphic that displayed surviving Film Fun paintings and am happy I'll have to update it. In fact it wouldn't bother me if I had to do this again and again. So, let's consider this: What if there were only 10 more Film Fun paintings to be found? If you could choose, which ones would they be? My own top ten list will be showing up in a post shortly. So what are your favorites?


Alan Wrobel said...

Holy cats! I'm amazed that that circus piece is alive and kickin' It really makes me think that a lot more of these are out there than previously thought. Wouldn't it be something if that classic 'Make Way For The Siren' work burst on to the scene? Makes it all feel pretty exciting!

Jack R said...

Oh, how I wish. In fact I'm going to post my top ten Film Fun wish list next.

Gary Underwood said...

Jack,After much thought I came up with a list of ten favorite paintings that need to come out of the closet. 1,1924-4 2,1924-1
3,1928-1 The first three have a humorous slant and portray "women in control". 4,1933-12 5,1942-2
6,1942-5 7,1934-12 8,1936-11
9,1931-4 10,1941-11 I reserve the right to change my mind at a later date, but these are all strong favorites that could never disappoint.

Jack R said...

Hi Gary,
I've been meaning to post the followup but have been having computer problems. It will be interesting to compare your list to mine (which should be up in a day or two), and I know exactly what you mean about reserving the right to change your mind. I find my self doing that about Bolles favorites on a regular basis.