Friday, March 26, 2010

A Bolles? I Certainly Soap So!

It may have been eight years ago when I received a most significant package from Theresa, Enoch's daughter. It was full of old ads that she had loaned to me, including several examples of what were once called car cards. These were advertising posters, printed on cardboard in standard dimensions that could be slotted one after another along the strip of space lying directly above the windows of trolley cars. From about 1900 until the 1950s they were ubiquitous not only in trolleys but also buses and subways. Enoch worked for the biggest advertising companies of the day and much of his work centered on the invariant format of car cards, which were sometimes scaled up to what in the trade was called 24 sheet ads, otherwise known as billboards.

Theresa was pretty certain that Enoch had done the lettering on this ad, and I concurred. It has some of his flourishes, most evident the tale preceding the letter P. But she was less sure about the charming image of the baby, and I also was reluctant to decide one way or another. Well at long last I finally managed to pick up my own copy of the card and have been poring over it since.

So is it a Bolles or not? The answer is I still don't know. First, it was done in either chalk or pastel. Bolles did the vast majority of his work in oil, though he did do one notable cover portrait in pastel, and I've seen examples of his work in a variety of other media. Second, the image has a gauzy look to it which is not at all like Bolles. As charming as the little fellow is, the technique is very different from the flat, precise application of color typical to Bolles. Yet, there is something about the treatment of the hair that harkens to Bolles, and the post with chin resting on shoulder is very typical to him. I've also seen a couple of other Bolles baby ads with more than a passing resemblance. Sorry for thinking out loud but for now all I can say is perhaps.

So let's close with a certainty. Here we have a terrific and very early Bolles from a 1917 issue of Judge. And it's not just a painting of any cute little girl, the subject is Enoch's daughter, Theresa. The story goes that he was sketching her in the kitchen just as you see, when Enoch's wife walks in, aghast at the mess. The only unanswered question, and one that Theresa couldn't answer, was if she had been responsible for the mess, or whether the culprit was Enoch.

Addendum: Just for the heck of it I'm adding one more Bolles baby, this from an ad that appeared in 1926. I think you'll see why I'm thinking our little fella in the Kirkman's ad is a Bolles.


Esther1205 said...

Today i bought a small framed poster of the baby in the high chair (in the Netherlands) and i came across your blog.
Is there a way to be in touch so you can tell me more about it?
Kind regards! Esther

Bolles Fan 1 said...

It depicts his daughter, Teresa. Over 85 years after this was published she told me that Enoch had posed her in their kitchen at home and painted this. His wife walked in and ended the session, wiping the mess off her face. She was proud to have a copy of the cover in her possession.