Tuesday, June 19, 2018

One-off Part Five


Our latest installment in the One-off series ranks as the biggest outlier of them all. Bolles would only paint two more covers for the movie fan magazine genre and this was his sole cover for Screen Romances. I think the only reason Bolles did the cover was due to the prodding of the magazine's art director, Abril Lamarque, who also served in that role for Film Fun. Initially, Lamarque was hired by Film Fun to draw monthly full page pen and ink panels but he was soon given additional responsibilities to rework the look of the  magazine.

While I'd rank this as a very successful cover and a good likeness, Bolles artistic DNA is anything but dominant. My theory is that he was assigned to make this cover as Rolf Armstrong-like as possible. Hence the gigantic signature, which is uncharacteristically camouflaged into the background. Neither Armstrong nor Bolles were shy about making their signatures pop out with bold tones.  Another reason I think Bolles channeled Armstrong is that his blending and tonality make the image look more like it was done with pastels, the medium Armstrong worked in (he had an enormous pallet of over a thousand pastels) than oil. In fact I think Armstrong took notice when Bolles produced a cover the movie fan magazine,Talking Screen (which was soon re-titled Silver Screen after the novelty of the "talkies" wore off).  Barely a month after Bolles' cover appeared, Armstrong duplicated the exact pose for a competing magazine (but that's another story left for later).

So why didn't Bolles do more of these? There certainly was a market for movie star portraiture and this example proves he could depict accurate likenesses in the prevailing style of the time. Bolles had also completed several full-figure poses of movie stars for Film Fun. The answer I think was a matter of economy and economics. More than once Bolles whipped out a cover painting for the spicy pulps (call them smooshes if you wish) within the span of a single day, and he was pretty much free to create what he wished with little or no meddling by the art director (if there was one). And for a time he had a virtual monopoly on them (Tattle Tales, Gay Book, Pep Stories, Bedtime Stories, Stolen Sweets, Spicy Stories, Gay Parisienne...). The money may not have been great but all those covers added up.  In contrast, the competition by artists for the movie fan mags was fierce and the covers required precise but flattering portraiture. 

But let's not lay blame on our man Bolles for taking the easy way out. Working for the movie fan mags would have yielded a modest number of beautiful but blandish images, each toeing to the approved style and closely based on stock head shots provided by the movie studios. Instead, we are witnesses to the three decade journey of an unfettered artistic original who left a legacy of nearly 600 magazine covers free from the dictates of art directors, finicky fans, ego-driven stars, and the priggish censor.  Lucky us!

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Ray Norman said...
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