Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ad hoc hack

Here's an illustration for a men's clothing company that I am dead certain was composed and painted by Bolles and equally sure was overpainted by another artist. Now, perhaps you aren't convinced it's a Bolles (and initially I wasn't) but there are some compositional giveaways and other clues. Most telling; take a look at this original sketch by him for the same company and I think you'll see why I came around. So the big question is why would you mess with a good illustration. One of my theories is that an editor used one of Bolles' unfinished sketches and had it embellished by another artist. Or perhaps it was a completed composition that an editor was unhappy with and instructed another artist to give it a more painterly look. Who knows, but what I am sure is that the overpainting isn't by Bolles. It's just too muddy and unassured in spots, particularly the weave pattern on the rattan chair. That's the very type of repetitive detail that Bolles would have nailed down to geometric precision. The woman's shawl is another problem. The folds in the wrinkles follow Bolles style but they are muddy in execution. I kind of like the detailing of the older gent's face but his hands are another matter.
So who can truly say why this ad was subjected to another artist's reworking. Back then, advertising exec's were vocal in their assertion that illustration should be considered on a par with fine art, or what they called"art-art". Accordingly, they were forever chasing the newest trend in fine art. Perhaps Bolles was a victim of this trend and his precise illustrative style fell out of favor. But let's hope today's example is the exception and not the rule.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Meet Armida, and How!

I had in mind an entirely different theme for today's post but it went up in smoke after coming a recent entry on the actress, Armida Vendrell featured in the fabulous and fabulously informative Starlet Showcase. The name rang a loud bell in my head. I recognized her as one of the cinema starlets occasionally featured on the cover of Film Fun, debuting in 1929 with the It Girl, Clara Bow and ending in 1932 with the utterly obscure, Margaret Poggi. The Poggi cover---which will be featured in an upcoming post--is a real poser; it was both a superb effort by Bolles yet a total departure from his typical style. But that story must wait, so back to Armida.

Aside from the cover painting there was not a lick about her inside the magazine, which was odd. As light on information as Film Fun was, the editors typically tucked in a short half-page feature on the cover girl, usually nothing more than a couple extra stock photos and a fake interview. So it was a real delight to get to read about Armida in the Starlet Showcase entry and better yet, see some great pics of her. Admittedly, Bolles likeness is a bit weak, and the same could be said for most of the other "specially posed by..." covers (See. I did it! I actually wrote something negative about our man Enoch). Compare for yourself with this terrific photo of Armida I expropriated from Starlet Showcase. It's a curiosity in itself because I'm nearly certain it was swiped for a pinup (Gene Pressler? Bradshaw Crandell? Maybe I'm thinking of Bolles, he did something similar in a 1938 Film Fun). Just to be clear, there was never any special posing; not with Armida, or Clara or Loretta or Alice. No famous, near famous or mere Hollywood hopeful sat for Bolles in his modest New York studio. He worked from publicity shots, which the Film Fun mail room received by the crate load. Except...there might be one lone exception. Long ago Enoch's daughter told me she had heard Lupe Velez actually did pose for him, and I am inclined to believe her as the cover Film Fun painting of Lupe is miles beyond any other. But it must be said that Armida's getup is another matter entirely. The designs are fabulous and knowing Bolles very likely historically correct. It's only too bad that in 1930, when this issue was published, Film Fun was skimping on printing and paper quality. This cover deserved better.