Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Signature Statement

In my previous post I closed with a challenge to find an unusual element to the Breezy Senorita, and I must admit it was not easy. Take a look below and you'll see the answer. It was Enoch's signature. Or at least what looks like a Bolles signature because I don't think he actually signed it. Aside from Film Fun Bolles only signed a handful of magazine covers and for the record here are the titles: America's Humor (one issue), Gay Book (two out of seven issues), Screen Romances (two issues), Talking Screen (one issue), Judge (nearly every issue he did), Puck (one issue), and Wit O' the World. He initialed almost all of his covers for Snappy Stories and a few for Laughter, Live Stories and Zest, but that was it. My guess is that less than half his Film Fun covers were signed or initialed though I've seen several originals where the signatures were cropped out or perhaps even tooled out by the engravers. Bolles was more apt to sign Film Fun in the 1920s and by the late 1930s he had virtually stopped (one of these days I'll put all this up on an Excel spreadsheet). Even his family had to beg to get Bolles to sign portraits he had done for them.
But when Bolles did sign his covers his name became a part of his compositions. They were rarely rubber stamped; he constantly tinkered with the lettering which varied from issue to issue, as did the color. Often, he positioned it half in shadow so the lettering would transition from positive into negative space. Compare Bolles with the invariance of George Petty, who's signature was essentially a chop (no wonder, he trademarked it) and Vargas (who had it trademarked without his knowledge!). Armstrong's was a gorgeous mess of loops, almost begging to be yanked into an indecipherable Gordian knot of a scrawl, but after some early experimentation, it never changed.
So now take another look at the Breezy Stories signature and you'll see how wrong it looks. Aside from the scale, which is smaller in relation to the painting than anything else Bolles has done, it just seems off. Missing is the sweeping brush stroke and casual skill with lettering so evident in the other examples. Instead you get what looks like an attempt at forgery, which is what I think it is. In 1935, the year this cover was first published there were several other Breezy covers that were signed by Bolles, and the signature looks exactly the same in each. I think what we are seeing is an engraver's attempt at copying the Bolles signature. Aside from four or so covers in 1935, no other of his Breezy covers were signed.
Now let's reexamine our feature cover, from 1932. Bolles put a lot of extra flourish into the signature (and I'm sorry this copy has so much cover wear). It is unusual but the girl is the real outlier. The painting is well done and likely an accurate depiction of Margaret but alas, she looks nothing at all like a Bolles girl. And just who was Margaret Poggi is another bit of a poser. I could not find out a lick about her, even on imdb.com. It makes me wonder whether this image may have been a sort of leftover from an assignment Bolles did for Fox Films (he did some work for the company from time to time). If anyone could find something out about her or even better, snag a photo I would be grateful.


Artman2112 said...

hah! the mystery is revealed! very interesting, thanks for the insight. i find it odd that an artist would be so reluctant to sign his own work.
personally i think Armstrong had one of the most beautiful signatures of any artist ever despite that it is nearly indecipherable! Mucha and Frazetta also have great sigs.

Jack R said...

Hope it wasn't too much of a letdown. I agree on all counts about your choices of fabulous signatures. Bolles had a great one himself but was hamstrung by his name, which had run in his family for five generations but ended with his son, Enoch who went by Red and did not name any of his sons Enoch.

Alan Wrobel said...

Thanks for the great post Jack! I like Enoch's signature with just the 2 letters and a line down the middle. I also like Zoe Mozert's and Billy DeVorss's as well. Never cared for the mess JC Leyendecker made of his though. thanks again

Jack R said...

Hi Alan,
Glad you liked the post. There's a web site with signatures from hundreds of artists that I should link up to. I agree about Leyendecker's, a bit old school.

Anonymous said...

I used to date her in art collage.


Anonymous said...

The girl with the dagger in her garter I mean... She's a nun now.