Saturday, January 29, 2011

Would you like to see my etchings?

Above we have a couple examples of 1930s ephemera; catalogs of hand colors art posters by "well known American artists" which were "personally selected" by Joseph Bonita.  More about him later.  The contents of these catalogs were claimed  to be photo reproductions of  the original paintings and included a few unremarkable landscapes, but the rest were all of the pretty girl variety. Needless to say, none of the artists were well known, although one of the few signed paintings was by Paul Von Klieben, who years later designed the Ghost Town in Knott's Berry farm and was a resident artist there.  

No, it was another artist's work, this one unattributed, that got my interest.  Initially I assumed the photos were not taken directly from actual paintings but reused from engravings, as was the case with a series of blotters produced in the 1930s from Bolles magazine covers.  The images were reproduced off the covers--not the originals--and printed on blank or black backgrounds, Bolles signature was tooled out of the image in every case where it had appeared on the magazine cover.  I very much doubt whether he saw a nickel out of it.  But then in one of the catalogs I came across an image instantly recognizable as an unpublished Bolles, and that changed everything.  Somehow Bonica had gotten his hands on unique and original material, very likely directly from Bolles himself.  And so I took a closer look.  It turned out that some of the other Bolles paintings included in the catalog were still around, including a more finished version of the sketch.
Better yet, I recently picked up yet another of these catalogs and it didn't have just three or four pieces by Bolles in it, but nearly 20, and of these I know that four of the original paintings are still around.  Let's hope we can add a few more to the list of survivors, especially because the catalog includes several fabulous images that are among Bolles' very best, including two paintings that made my top 10 list of original Film Fun paintings I hoped would be yet found, including the iconic motorcycle girl, oddly titled as "Slyvia" in the catalog.  

Addendum:  A few years back I somehow managed to get in touch with Bonica's grandson.  I learned that in the 1940's Bonica had moved from print to film media and was hawking 16mm movies of burlesque dancers, and later a curious movie about the atom bomb.  His grandson had no knowledge about his connection to Bolles or his 1930s art catalogs. 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Blink and you'll miss her...

...and I almost did.  After a few days away I was back home, slogging through a backlog of emails that had piled up like snow in Buffalo.  Several were Google alerts for Enoch Bolles, one of which ended up linking to an image I'd uploaded to a flickr group months ago.  I hadn't been back to look since then so out of curiosity I opened the page to the group (Flappers and the Jazz Era) to check out thumbnails of recent entries.  Buried among them was an image that tickled a very small, but overdeveloped patch of neurons in my brain.  I enlarged the image and alarm bells starting ringing. There were tell-tale signs; long hands, fingers sinuously entwined; heart-shaped lips, the ends drawn tight like penny candy wrappers into a calm smile; rouged cheeks, a bit heavy for my taste; lovely pearls each so carefully rendered.  The bobbed hair style was spot-on but the treatment seemed too sculptural.  And then those peepers, beautiful yes but fringed by that mess of mascara which made them look like they'd draw blood if she blinked too hard. 

Still, I wasn't entirely certain but then my eyes were drawn to what looked like a small fingerprint in the corner and that's when my heart started pounding. I zoomed on in and "bing" and there it was.  Look closely and you'll see the initials EB modestly rendered next to her shoulder.  A new Bolles!  Published in 1925 amid his most active period of advertising illustration for all sorts of products and now we can add Winx to the list. What a great New Year present.  My thanks go to clotho98 who posted the image. Check out her flickr page for hundreds of other great vintage images.

So I'll leave you with a question that this entry has revived.  From 1924 to 1926 Bolles produced a huge body of advertising work, from trolley cards for a wide variety of products, to full color posters for films, to magazine illos like this one. There's plenty more around to be sure. But as far as I can tell, after 1926 his advertising work dropped to near nothing and I have no clue why.  In 1927 Snappy Stories stopped publication, leaving Bolles with Film Fun as his only regular assignment, so it wasn't as if he was overextended.  He must have taken on other work to fill the gaps, but where is it?

Addendum:  I want to give a shout-out to the Dawl for the fabulous seasonal update he gave this blog. Thanks!!