Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Women in Black

There's no reason to revisit the theme of Bolles black unless we feature one of his most outrageous covers. Netty but Nice is simply over the top on all counts; her wild outfit, Bolles amazing treatment of all the different materials and textures, that fabulous deco chair, those shoes! Netty debuted in 1937, a great year for Film Fun and for collectors because-for reasons unknown-more Bolles paintings from 1937 to 1938 have survived than from any other period of his career. Sorry the scan is so poor but after all the years I've been collecting Bolles, this issue continues to elude me. So to make it up to you I've posted a detail out of the original painting (alas it has eluded me as well). As the side by side comparison with the printed cover-which was pretty well done- makes immediately evident, a lot of interesting detail and subtlety was lost in the reproduction. By the way, you can get a fabulous Giclee print taken from the original painting at Impact Graphic posters. For those of use who can't afford a Bolles original (and who can these days), it's the next best thing.

The Madame X post prompted me to take a closer look at just how many cover girls in black Bolles painted and it turns out that throughout the 1930s about one Film Fun cover a year had a predominately black color scheme. Bolles did almost none for other periodicals and I think there are two reasons for this. First, just about all of his other magazine work was for magazines even spicier than Film Fun, and so the color schemes and poses typically ran at hotter temperatures. And second, the quality of printing was poorer. In some cases, covers were printed in only three colors and the lack of a black print run could add a murky atmospheric quality to the work, which is not necessarily a bad thing for horror or gangster pulps as my friend and mega-collector, the late Pete Manesis once pointed out to me. He felt that some cover artists who knew their work was going to be printed in three colors altered their palette to take advantage of the effect. But gangsters and fiends are one thing, and pretty girls another. Bolles faced a different set of challenges doing work for the smoosh mags.

Turning back to Film Fun, I think this cover from 1934 counts among his very best examples of women in black. The image by the way, was a complete swipe from a publicity photo (I've got it around somewhere and once I find it I'll add it to this post) but as usual Bolles adds his own signature to the painting, the cleverly worked shadow both grounds the pose and lends an almost geometric element to the composition. On the subject of signatures, there was a letter printed in this issue from a reader who inquired why Bolles signed some of his covers but not others. Truth is that he often did not sign his work but I've also seen a number of original Film Fun paintings with signatures that ended up being tooled or cropped out of the cover. Why that was done is the question I would have asked the editor.

Finally, a very recent "discovery" and what must be one of the wackiest Bolles covers of all. When I found this scan from a 1943 issue of Breezy Stories I had to do a double-take. How do you begin to explain it? Perhaps Netty became bored from all that posing and preening and so donned some gloves and a muffler and headed outside to catch some fresh air, glorying in the garish winter (nuclear winter?) sunset. It's almost as if Bolles was doing a riff on himself as Quintana might have interpreted the Netty girl. As bad as I'd like to have a copy of the Film Fun Netty girl issue in my collection I want this one ten times worse.


Li-An said...

I did not know the second one and it's very nice !

Alan Wrobel said...

Very nice! ....and this reminds me...perhaps the big floppy hats Bolles employed over the years may be a good topic for a blog.

Gary Underwood said...

WOW!!!, NETTY BUT NICE is stunning.I have the FILM FUN magazine,but it pales in comparison to the original painting.The detail in the sheer fabric of the negligee and gloves are incredible. This image would look great on a t-shirt. I have 2 other BOLLES girls on t's, and people love them. Yes, the BREEZY girl from 43 is way out there. All the better.