Friday, November 28, 2008

Too Much Turkey?

Feeling guilty about all that turkey stuffing you stuffed yourself with? Well, you're not alone. On your left is the first of a recurring theme the Bolles girl had with the issue of weight control. This cover from 1927 shows our flapper contentedly posing on a scale, but only two years later and presumably a few ounces more there clearly is some alarm about the issue of weight. Not that she seems to have anything to worry about. Bolles' girls were among the slimmest of any pretty girl (again I am resorting to the standard term applied during this era) artist, aside from John Held Jr.'s stick figures.

The dictum emerging here is calories-in calories-out. By the mid 1930s Bolles girls were typically less active and spent more time indoors posing placidly than their outdoorsy counterparts from a decade earlier, hence the need for the dulling daily dozen (though with an assist from a slimming machine). A lot has been written about how magazine and advertising imagery contributed to a preoccupation with physical appearance, but what is unclear is whether Bolles was reacting to and commenting on this phenomenon or actually contributing to it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Save That Turkey!

This has to rank as the weirdest Bolles cover ever. The slice of bread motif makes no sense at all to me and that's just the beginning of my confusion. Bolles' theme of naked fairy cuddling stolid Tom Turkey is indecipherable, except at the level described by Doug Ellis in his book Uncovered, on the history of the spicy pulps. He notes that with just a small change in color the censors would have been all over this. For other reasons I think they already were.

This was also the only cover Bolles did for Ginger and I can't figure out why the art director, if it had one, splurged on him. It wasn't even the debut issue, the magazine started in 1928, a year before this issue and lasted until 1932. I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was forced out of business by one of the morals groups that were in he hunt for Frank Armer and other publishers of these so-called Smoosh mags.

The other cover artists for Ginger couldn't approach the quality that Bolles put into his work, but one far surpassed him in turkey themed weirdness. Take a look at this cover by Reginald Greenwald, an artist who did covers for Ginger and similar rags. This girl's certainly no turkey lover!

Addendum: Ok, I stand corrected and then some for my lamentable attempt at ornithology. My friend Mark Forer, big time Bolles collector and cultural touchstone for all things retro, politely pointed out to me that our fairy is embracing a peacock, not a turkey. Well that makes it a bit worse in some ways, though at least it wasn't a swan.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Getting Ready for Thanksgiving?

A great cover but a hassle to clean up. By 1937, when this issue hit the newsstands the publishers of Gay Parisienne had resorted to ever cheaper printing. Not only did I have to remove some major age wear but the image was loaded with printing blemishes. But I think the painting is worth the attention and the featured cover story could well be describing it. At first glance our baker is simply trimming up the crust, but a closer look reveals she is not appropriately, or at least, completely dressed for the job. Bolles did a lot of covers like this, innocent at first and then as you look closer all sorts of contrary details start to show up; the lack of undergarments, a flash of flesh where you wouldn't expect to see it, or clothing patterns that look like naughty bits. He must have driven the censors crazy.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

National Game & Puzzle Week Starts Today

Perhaps I've taken this too far but it has been a lot of fun to find magazine covers that connect to the theme of the day or week. And I've got a really crazy one that I'm holding back for Thanksgiving. When Bolles did this cover in 1924, the crossword puzzle had only been around for 11 years, so it was still a bit of a novelty. For some reason I think Bolles hand drew and numbered the puzzle on top of the girl instead of it being added on by the engraver.

Friday, November 21, 2008

National Smoke Out Day is Over. Need a Light?

Meet Windy. She's the most famous unknown Bolles girl of them all. In fact a lot of people still think her last name is Vargas, or is that Varga? I'll post her entire story soon. If you thought in my earlier comments I was kidding about Bolles obsessing over hand poses, check out how Windy is handling her Zippo. Talk about digital manipulation.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Light 'em if you got 'em: Today is National Smoke Out Day

On our left is the girl who in 1914 launched Bolles' career. This was only his second published cover but by popular demand from readers it was reprinted as a poster by the publisher, Leslie-Judge for the next 10 years. Please note the cigarette. From what I have read it wasn't until 1928 that any cigarette advertising campaign showed a woman even hold a smoke, much less inhale. Before then she could only longingly admire her man as he acquired a nicotine addiction. But long before this here is our man Enoch using a cigarette to great dramatic effect. I'm not aware of any other illustrator of his era depicting his pretty girl (yes, that was the standard term) with butt in hand (you know what I mean), at least in the 1920s. And at that time the very idea of a young woman wielding a smoke was transgressive. Bolles would use the cigarette as a symbolic exclamation point for the rest of his career. It was so important to him that he once had his son-in-law pose with a cigarette in hand because he was dissatisfied with how he model had wielded it (not that his son-in-law would have ever taken a puff. He was a National champion bicyclist). Bolles himself was a non-smoker but that didn't stop him from doing illustrations for cigarette companies. I have scans of original illustrations for ad campaigns but have never seen anything published.
I'll leave you with a real treat: a never before published original sketch for a cigarette ad. I have no idea if it ever saw print.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

We've Been Cleaning House!

You can't help but notice the new look around here. It's all courtesy of my Bolles pal, Brandon Dawley (see his blog), who along with giving The Blog on Enoch a whole new look contributed the new Winter themed banner. This image comes from Shane Gline's Cartoon Retro site which has some great Bolles images and a whole lot more. Let me know what you think of the new look.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Passing Resemblance or More?

I see these sort of connections all the time, whether they are real or not. The question is who influenced who? I forgot to mention, that's Carole Lombard on the right.

Like My Lipstick?

There's no backstory to this image, at least one that I'm aware of. I figured I'd posted enough unusual Bolles covers it was time to feature a classic. Great details on the makeup table and you've got to love that paisley-shaped shadow that frames her so nicely. Thanks to TJ for the fabulous restoration. He's got a whole load of these at his site.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Spicy Stories 1932

This is a real oddball for Bolles and for a time I wondered whether somebody else painted it. I also found the photo he used and this painting follows closely to it. You have to wonder why Bolles went to all the trouble to so carefully outlining all those tiles, but he had some mathematical ideas about composition and painting so who knows. I'll post some other atypical covers soon.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Recent Acquisition

Of over 300 Bolles covers in my collection a bare handful are Breezy's, and most are the 1940s reprints. It's hard to figure why because Breezy had the highest circulation of any magazine Bolles painted for, even Film Fun. Yet they seldom show up for sale at the usual venues, and when they do they are in typically awful shape (yes, its been heavily photoshopped). This issue comes from 1935, the apex of Bolles' work on this title (he even signed a few of them!), and it's my favorite. He's got both his hand poses working here: the raised pinky (which looks almost broken here but I think he did it to repeat the curve of the lantern), and the joined middle fingers. I especially like the light playing through her left hand. And the dramatic light and shadow is rare for Bolles as he considered it an artistic crutch (which is too bad). Finally, the theme of pretty girl with Japanese lantern was popular with artists in the early 20th century and I think this is Bolles personal response to it.
Oh, as to why so few Breezy's, here's my theory. Breezy didn't have any photos and the stories were straight romance. So you read it once through and tossed it. There was no reason to squirrel them away in the sock drawer like gramps did with Spicy Stories or Tattle Tales.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

November 12, Elizabeth Cady Stanton's birthday

Sorry about the poor resolution but I wanted to get this image up today, and there was no way I could have dug up the issue and rescanned it in time. So here we see Bolles championing the right of women to vote, or at least he agreed to take on this assignment. Actually, for his time Bolles was very progressive as to the role of women in society. Among other things he encouraged his daughters to participate in sports, pursue higher education and follow their interests wherever they led them. From my biased perspective I think is evident in his work. Yes, he was a pin-up artist and his covers are laden with clich├ęs and slathered with sex-appeal; some of the standard ingredients of objectification. But I think there is something more that comes through. Among other things his art is more gracious and affable compared with that of other pin-up artists of his time and since. And his girls certainly were more competent than the competition; they skied, climbed, flew and skydived while the others merely primped and preened.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Today is Veteran's Day

This certainly qualifies as a classic pinup but in 1941 the term was just entering into the venacular. In a future post I'll make my case that Bolles had as much if not more than any other illustrator in codifying the genre but ironically he left the scene at the very time when pinup peaked in popularity.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Marian Nixon, Enoch Bolles original painting for Film Fun

Ok, one more original, this a scan provided a few years back by Heritage auction. Starting in 1929 and for a couple more years Bolles did occasional movie star covers for Film Fun, and this one of Marian Nixon done in 1930 is one of his better likenesses. Certainly they were done from stock photos provided to the magazine but Enoch's daughter once told me that Lupe Velez actually posed for her cover, which makes sense to me because it is a total knockout. This cover too has something extra and it's not just the fabulous composition and court jester costume. Take a look at the details in the painting. It's Bolles at his best, there are carefully rendered color fields but his approach to the wrinkles and highlights was utterly relaxed. You can see the speed and precision in the brushwork (it takes total confidence to paint like that). A couple of years later Bolles' style evolved to a more mannered application and the brushwork disappeared.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

"Sappho" Enoch Bolles original painting 1933

This may be the only surviving cover painting of the 'under-the-counter' title, Tattle Tales, which was one of the most notorious of the smoosh mags targeted by the vice cops under New York mayor La Guardia. Bolles would have been lucky to make a hundred bucks from this cover (the great Hugh Ward got even less and he complained about how difficult it was to collect). And any association with the magazine presented the risk of jail time, a fate suffered by several staffers and more than a few hapless newsstand sellers. The big question is why Bolles knocked himself out on these covers as they rank among his best. I'll be featuring several other unseen originals in some upcoming posts.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

To Restore or Not to Restore?

For your perusal: a low-rez scan of a rather tattered magazine cover that I've applied my meager Photoshop skills to reviving. Aside from removing some of the more obvious stains I've warmed up the pallette, perhaps beyond what it looked like as it would have fresh on the newsstand. It wouldn't have been hard to completely bleach out the background of any spots but I decided enough was enough.

And that's the question I have for you. Would you rather see original covers in all their original stained and torn glory, or cleaned up to digital perfection? I admit that I can't keep from fixing up the most egregious damage but at some point I begin to wonder if something is lost. There are comic book sites where the scans of 50 year old pages are bleached not only of their age, but of their origins.

On the other hand, take a look at my pal TJ's handiwork below. The scan of dingy issue is as close as I'll ever come to owning it but what TJ has done makes me feel I am seeing the image as it may have appeared on canvas. Stolen Sweets was among the magazine Bolles worked for that used cheap printing methods and sometimes only printed in three colors. As far as I know there are no surviving paintings from this title so TJ's efforts are as close as we are going to get.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Very Early Enoch Bolles

I thought it was time to share something that has never seen the light of day. A few years back I got in contact with a person living in London who had this piece from 1910 and another dated, 1915. He knew I was the Bolles-guy so he graciously let me buy the pieces one charcoal stroke at a time, so to speak. I've seen a few earlier works by Bolles but this one knocked my socks off. The problem is that I have no idea of the context, who she was or how it got across the pond to England. But that's been the story more often than not.