Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Peek at Bolles at Work?

I recently picked up this copy of Stolen Sweets, then as now a hard to find title. Back in the day it took a lot of street leather to find a streetside magazine vendor who would have a copy or two stashed behind the counter.  If the vice cops got wind of it, the vendor would have been rewarded with a ride to the slammer in the back of a paddy wagon.  This may seem like a relatively sedate cover but don't let your 21st century sensibilities mislead you.  There's no ignoring that expanse of bare flesh, punctuated by an exposed navel.  Her happy countenance over that cool dessert is simply Bolles' way of playing with the potential censor.  And speaking of which, that sundae looks simply scrumptious. 
                                                                                                                     The cover was merely the first course (assuming that you started with dessert). The interior of the magazine was peppered with naughty drawings, spiced with girls peeled of heir nighties, and stuffed with overripe stories featuring endless variations of the male conquest-all equally unappetizing. Of all my attempts I've never been able to shovel through more than a couple paragraphs.  But there was something in this issue that made me do a double take. It was this photo.   Not the retouched flesh or the theme of artist's model, which in the 20s was as charged as the two poles of a battery, but had lost all its spark a decade later. No, it was the background that was beckoning to me. Look closely and you'll see a canvas of the very painting that appears on the cover. 

I told myself no, there was no way this was Bolles' studio.  But then I took a closer look at the easel and that really got my heart pounding, because I've seen the real deal. Take a look at it for yourself and decide if you all my handwringing over this is nothing more than wishful thinking. What doesn't look right about the photo is the artist. The hair seems wrong, and I just can't conjure the publicity shy Bolles allowing this, though I do think he let the publicity photographer, Murray Korman in his studio to photograph models. The photo has obviously been touched up (penciling in to strengthen some of the weak outlines) but there's no way the painting was pasted in after the fact. And why bother? It only took 75 years for someone to finally notice it.  And the easel...even the sketch on the canvas has a Bolles look to it. So, is it possible? Could we be peering at the only existing photo of Bolles painting a model?


gary underwood said...

Great bit of detective work, Jack.This could very well be Enoch at work. By faceing away from the camera, he knew his identity might be concealed

darwination said...

That's definitely the Stolen Sweets painting from your cover in the background. I wonder if you could identify the work he has on the easel there by the little bit showing. It'd have to be from exactly the same time period.

And, hey, you outbid me on that Stolen Sweets! ;) I haven't had the good fortune to obtain an issue of the title yet and never see them about.

A serendipitous find here, Jack, I can't imagine anybody but you would put this together. As to whether that's Bolles or not, you'd probably have to ask a family member that'd be able to recognize the him from the gesture and from the back.

Daniel [] said...

Well, one possibility would be that Bolles were photographed without being told that the picture would be submitted for publication; another would be that his studio were used, but someone else posed as the painter.

My question is of how much hair Bolles had at that time.

Alan Wrobel said...

The artist kind of looks like Norman Rockwell from behind. I love the caption: "...surveying the model critically."

Sally Smithson said...

I looked at the photo carefully, Jack. As much as I'd love this to be a found photo of my great-grandfather at work, my feeling is that the body type isn't right. The man's hips appear much wider than I remember his to be. I agree with your comment about the hair. Love the magazine cover!

Sim said...

Hello Jack!
Please to meat you!
I thank you so very much for your visit & sweet comment!
Ouf! I don't understand english very well, but I've understood that I've just been near to make you angry...
I'm discovering your blog & congrate you for its choice & quality!!
Good continuation!

wentworth said...

Awesome that you're doing a book. FYI, Illustration #9 is out of print and not available anywhere. One issue I hope you comment on: under wikipedia (and I think in the book Uncovered) it says Bolles was in an insane asylum and implies he died crazy. But a link on the wikipedia site says he actually just had a stroke and was not insane. I suppose the insane part fits in nicely with the myth of the romantic artist (and gives a lot to think about in terms of his life) so was it true? Of course, back then the understanding of the mind was so primitive that lots of people with alcohol issues or just normal life issues were probably labeled and institutionalized out of ignorance. Finally, given that you've tracked down the family, no photos of him still? Pretty odd, don't you think? He is such an amazing artist, thanks for the work!

Jack R said...

You should be able to get a copy of it off of eBay for about list price. It's got all the info on what actually happened, and I discuss it in various blog entries on this site. Dig around the blog and you'll find photos I've posted of Enoch (many of which have been swiped and posted on other sites). I've even visited the mental hospital where he was a patient (he didn't die there, they finally let him out).