Tuesday, May 11, 2010

White is the New Black

Bolles fans worth their fodder have surely heard the resounding report that this painting sold for over 80 thousand dollars at the Heritage auction last week. It's yet another record for a Bolles and is the 10th highest price of any painting yet sold from the Martignetti collection. It is certainly a great painting, no argument from me, but it is also completely atypical for Bolles. As rare as his black themed paintings were, a magazine cover awash in white borders on treason. At least with black you have the opportunity to establish contrast, create a silhouette, craft a definitive statement. But with white all that is so much harder. Pen and ink without the ink. Which is one reason why this painting is so successful.

Bolles earlier examples indicate he wasn't quite ready to take the monochromatic plunge. To your starboard hails yet another Bolles sailor girl, with a blot of ink for Professor Rorschach to ponder. But as you can see Bolles hedged his bets and grounded her in a sky blue field. I've featured this cover before because it's a composition Bolles revisited at least two other times, and no wonder.

To our left is the other Bolles white cover, which appeared on the newsstands in 1928. I've blogged about it before, not because I find it particularly attractive but because the subject of nursing was one a lot of illustrators took up. It first became popular as a theme for war posters and also likely because it was such an revered occupation. Bolles could add some double entendres to the sailor theme (I'll say! But let's not forget that sometimes a cannon is just a cannon) but nursing was off limits, at least back in Bolles' day. My how times have changed.

Again the thing to notice with this cover is that Bolles obviously decided white would not do without some additional embellishment and so he threw in one of his bimorphic shadows. Typically they discretely pool around the girls' shoes but this one dominates the composition, virtually propelling our nurse right off the cover. All this reinforces just how unusual the cannon girl is. Still...did you notice that thin spike of red? If you know Bolles you know there was no way he could have resisted.


Alan Wrobel said...

Wasn't there another sailor girl from a late '20's FF cover? On another thought about original Bolles work, Brown & Bigelow produced blotters that have very sharp images that I would assume came from originals. I wonder if any staff from B&B have any knowledge about any other originals' whereabouts.

Jack R said...

You know Alan, I'd completely forgotten about that cover. And I even have a scan of the original painting to it. And there was a poem that a fan wrote in tribute to that particular cover. I'm going to have to add a post script here. Thanks a lot, and thanks for the shout out for the blog on your eBay ads. I've gotten a bunch of hits from it.

Alan Wrobel said...

My pleshah!