Saturday, December 31, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December 14 is Monkey Day!

I'm not kidding, it really is monkey day today. And our man Bolles, who was never shy about pairing his girls with denizens from the animal kingdom, helped out by painting not one but two covers featuring one of his girls cavorting with a long-tailed companion of the simian set. Sheena got her cover shot in 1936 and curiously the other monkey cover (saving it for next year's celebration) also appeared the same year. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bolles in Esquire

Boingboing generously linked the recent post in which I had proposed a connection between Bolles and a cover of Esquire channeled via Rihanna, and wow has this site gotten the extra hits. The typical daily average is around 200 but visits peaked over 1,200. The downside was all the comments on Boingboing were adamant that the Bolles cover had nothing, NOTHING at all to do with the Esquire cover, and others wagged a scolding finger about posting filthy, FILTHY cheesecake. Well, we Bolles fans are of a different mind, and connection or not the more significant point was Esquire's largely forgotten
contribution to the history of pinup, which spun a thread running back decades to the origins of genre, and how Enoch Bolles is a part of that original fabric.

In the previous post I mentioned the intriguing 'what-if' possibility of Bolles becoming Petty's replacement at Esquire. Aside from his growing health problems I think the fact he worked exclusively in oil militated against his chances. Petty's sleek airbrushed girls were unique and readers were raving about them (though many also complained about Petty's tendency to graft two different body sizes together at the waist).  It would have been foolish for David Smart to hire a replacement whose work had a wildly different appearance. Vargas not only provided a sense of stylistic continuity but he amped up Petty's streamline look even further. Curiously their techniques were completely different; Petty's unique method to airbrushing involved laying on solid colors as if they were color plate separations. By comparison Bolles was a traditionalist and the idea of using an airbrush would have been

That's not to say he didn't have his own debut of sorts in Esquire.  In the December, 1937 issue the ad you see above appeared in its pages, featuring what came to be known as the Windy girl.  Look closely and you'll see the painting was attributed to "Enoc Boles".  The spelling is so derelict it makes you wonder whether the type setter was coached by David Smart, the co-founder of Esquire who later anglicized Alberto's sir-name as Varga.  Smart somehow neglected to mentioned he owned the trademark for it.  In Bolles' case the misspelling didn't matter so much because it was subsequently stripped out of the ad, never to appear again.  Over the years the Windy girl image got updated now and then but eventually fell out of favor for other advertising campaigns.  However, in 1993 the original image was back, embossed on a commemorative lighter--and retitled as the Varga girl!  Being curious, to say the least, I inquired about it to the archivist at Zippo and the story went that the company founder, George Blaisdell was an admirer of Vargas but couldn't afford to hire him to bring Windy to life.  Keep in mind the year was 1937.  Vargas was strapped financially and would soon for Los Angeles to work in the movie industry as an illustrator and set designer, a career decision that didn't turn out well for him. Things had changed so little by 1941 that Esquire hired Vargas for a rate less than Bolles was getting for his Film Fun covers.  So money wasn't the issue, it was George Petty.  A Windy girl by Petty would have been the obvious first choice for Blaisdell, but Petty's rates were far above Zippo's budget, and  our man Bolles stepped in.  There was another factor in Bolles' favor.  Unlike Petty, who was repelled by the image of a woman with a cigarette (his Old Gold ads all had the men holding the smokes), Bolles had no reticence at all.  In fact he had depicted a girl smoking all the way back in 1914 on his second published magazine, a wildly popular image for Judge magazine which I think may have been the first magazine cover ever showing a woman with a lit cigarette (if you know of earlier examples please let me know).  The image jump started his career and cigarettes would become a common prop for Bolles girls through the decades.
 Bolles' cover for Judge was
so popular it was reprinted
as a poster.

To Zippo's credit the web-site now gives Bolles proper credit for creating the Windy girl and no longer refers to her as a Varga (threats from the Vargas estate may have had something to do with that).  I also learned from the Zippo archivist that for years Blaisdell proudly displayed the original Bolles painting in his office, but sadly it has gone missing.   Bolles thought enough of Windy to have carefully saved the proof of the image, which I found in stashed in a box in his grandson's basement.  Now if that painting would just turn up!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Bolles by Esquire

Is there any doubt here?  Rihanna as a Bolles girl?  In the past I've been guilty about making some dubious connections between Bolles and the work of others but this is just too darned close.  Don't you agree? Alright I will concede Rihanna's dressed a bit differently (salad?), and I don't think espadrilles quite suit her.  But that pose is no accident.  So it's only too bad this connection will be lost on 99.999% of all Esquire readers.  What's more ironic is that I seriously doubt the art director of this shoot has a sense of the major historical role the magazine played in the development of pinup, first with the work of George Petty and then Alberto Vargas. 

Oh but what if it would have been Bolles who replaced Petty. The transition began in 1940 when Petty told Esquire he wanted a break.  David Smart, the magazine's co-founder and all-around jerk, used it as an opportunity to quietly shop around for a cheaper replacement.  Everyone from Alex Raymond to Zoe Mozert was considered before Smart hired Vargas on the cheap (Vargas later sued to get out of his contract), and then pulled that rude stunt with his name.  The late Reid Austin, who wrote the definitive biographies on both Petty and Vargas, and was Vargas' art editor at Playboy once asked me why Bolles didn't make a play for the job at Esquire.  There was just about no way Bolles couldn't have known what was going on at Esquire, but there's no record of him interviewing or even expressing any interest.  Bolles was in and out of the hospital during this time so it's possible he simply missed the boat.  Too bad.

But back to Rihanna and Bolles. Here's a photo of her updating the classic 1935 Film Fun cover (the original painting set a record for Bolles at auction).  Perhaps the cover pose was her idea...Could Rihanna be a Bolles fan?  

P.S., Thanks to Mala Mastroberte for alerting me to this.  You can see her take on Bolles here and other pinup art here.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Model Behavior

Over a thousand artist's models are currently at work in New York city.  Demand is so high that hourly rates for those with experience have risen to 50-75 cents an hour, with the most accomplished pulling in up to $25 a week. Modeling in the nude, which was the common practice a decade earlier has declined and many artists now maintain their own wardrobes. It's the year 1894.

The great C.D. Gibson has himself amassed a collection of 200 dresses.  Recently he was the victim of a sting, having hired a woman "posing" as a model only to learn she was planted by a newspaper writer working on an exposé about the corrupting relationship between artists and their models. A paragon of Victorian virtue, Gibson was not in the least tempted.  Moreover, he was soon in on the scam as the model could barely hold a pose, the rule being 40 minutes of work followed by a 20 minute break.  Like other famous illustrators Gibson had no end of woman begging to pose for him, but as he glibly noted, "models are not as plentiful as cranberries."  Harrison Fisher lamented: "So many pretty and attractive girls come to my studio to ask for posing that I hardly know what to do."   Gibson had a lot of other curious things to say about models. Here's another as quoted in a New York times feature about modeling published at the dawn of the previous century:  "The men who harness women up with dogs will not advance much in their art; the men who place them where they rightfully below will really progress.  It's all in the conception."  Heavy stuff.

Indeed it was impossible to be a commercial illustrator and be unaware of how the artist-model relationship served as a cultural touchstone for the age-old struggle between the sexes, that battle being in the midst of a disorienting reorientation.  The model also served, regrettably as a proxy for expressing cultural prejudice and even racial jingoism.  To wit:  “The best class of models in the world are the American girls.  The models abroad are cheaper, but they cannot be compared with our girls here, who are so bright and interesting.  Above all they are clean, which is almost an unheard-of quality among models on the other side.”  But artists weren't always so keen on the U.S. model: “What a nice class of girls pose nowadays,” gushed, Edwin H. Blashfield.  “Why when I was a young man the best models we could find were newsgirls, scrub girls, and well--, just the most commonplace, ignorant women.” 

Any commercial illustrator who specialized in pretty girls couldn't help but do their own take on the model-artist relationship. The example above by our man Bolles has to rank among the best of any commercial artist, it's fraught with tension both erotic and domestic. It's also a rare surviving example of a detailed comp (recently sold at  Heritage auctions) for a magazine cover from 1925 during his high deco period, it really shows to good effect Bolles' chops with watercolor.  Comparing the sketch with the actual cover provides some interesting insights into Bolles method, and very likely the publisher's reticence over such a blatant display of skin.  The most obvious alteration is the addition of covering on the model, very likely a concession to the art editor, but then Bolles subtly keeps the story line intact with the addition of the nude canvasTo our right is a Pep Stories cover from five years later.  Until posting these images together it never occurred to me they had anything in common beyond the same theme. But not only does the girl on the Pep cover look to be the spitting image of the Snappy model, Bolles also reused the painting (albeit with the addition of a bit of clothing) as well as the pallette.  This must have been a private amusement for Bolles as I sincerely doubt that anybody made the connection between these two covers, until now.

I'll be continuing with the theme of artist's model in future posts.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bolles Goes Goth!

This is one of the many items I planned on keeping in reserve for my book project, but when it showed up on the web I figured there was no point in keeping her in the closet (admittedly I did post a thumbnail of her a while back). The cover is from a 1943 issue of Breezy Stories. It showed up long after Bolles had stopped doing covers for the magazine and just about the very time he was getting out of the commercial art business for good.  Bolles had stopped contributing new Breezy covers back in 1938 and the publisher Phil Painter was enough of a cheapskate to be content with blowing up previous Bolles covers to use as portraits. Truth be told, many look terrific that way.  But by the early 40s he pretty much dispensed with that pretense and simply reused earlier Bolles Breezy covers with nary a change, except perhaps the even cheaper printing.  This example, however, is a bit of a poser as I have no record of it ever having previously appeared in print.  Maybe when Bolles brought it in to the office it was just a bit too much for the art director to digest.  After all, it would take another 75 years before the goth pinup scene really gained some traction. 

So consider this cover against the work of the other major pinup artists during of Bolles' era; Petty, Vargas, Elvgren, Moran, Bergey (ok, Armstrong).  All were producing great material but nothing at all even remotely like this.  Those pneumatic proportions wrapped in that outrageous costume (the gloves and a headband?!), the nuclear winter background, her power smile.  Yet, Bolles contributed as much as any artist to the look of the modern pinup, which has long since become a cliché. But he was such an original that his own work transcended it.  I'm grateful for this and am pleased that others feel this way too.

Coming up soon:  Part two of artists and their models

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Peek at Bolles at Work?

I recently picked up this copy of Stolen Sweets, then as now a hard to find title. Back in the day it took a lot of street leather to find a streetside magazine vendor who would have a copy or two stashed behind the counter.  If the vice cops got wind of it, the vendor would have been rewarded with a ride to the slammer in the back of a paddy wagon.  This may seem like a relatively sedate cover but don't let your 21st century sensibilities mislead you.  There's no ignoring that expanse of bare flesh, punctuated by an exposed navel.  Her happy countenance over that cool dessert is simply Bolles' way of playing with the potential censor.  And speaking of which, that sundae looks simply scrumptious. 
                                                                                                                     The cover was merely the first course (assuming that you started with dessert). The interior of the magazine was peppered with naughty drawings, spiced with girls peeled of heir nighties, and stuffed with overripe stories featuring endless variations of the male conquest-all equally unappetizing. Of all my attempts I've never been able to shovel through more than a couple paragraphs.  But there was something in this issue that made me do a double take. It was this photo.   Not the retouched flesh or the theme of artist's model, which in the 20s was as charged as the two poles of a battery, but had lost all its spark a decade later. No, it was the background that was beckoning to me. Look closely and you'll see a canvas of the very painting that appears on the cover. 

I told myself no, there was no way this was Bolles' studio.  But then I took a closer look at the easel and that really got my heart pounding, because I've seen the real deal. Take a look at it for yourself and decide if you all my handwringing over this is nothing more than wishful thinking. What doesn't look right about the photo is the artist. The hair seems wrong, and I just can't conjure the publicity shy Bolles allowing this, though I do think he let the publicity photographer, Murray Korman in his studio to photograph models. The photo has obviously been touched up (penciling in to strengthen some of the weak outlines) but there's no way the painting was pasted in after the fact. And why bother? It only took 75 years for someone to finally notice it.  And the easel...even the sketch on the canvas has a Bolles look to it. So, is it possible? Could we be peering at the only existing photo of Bolles painting a model?

Friday, August 19, 2011

August 19: Men's Grooming Day

Finally!!  I've found a passable excuse to feature this amazing "throwaway" cover that originally landed on the newsstands back in 1936.  Bolles would have quickly dashed it off to meet a looming deadline and then moved on to the next assignment.  His work schedule at that time was perhaps the busiest of his entire career.  Beside's his regular monthly assignments for Gay ParisienneSpicy Stories and of course, Film Fun, he was producing near monthly covers for Gay Book, Breezy Stories, and Gay Broadway.  Talk about the ultimate short order illustrator, bouncing from one publisher to another, each demanding their own particular entree.  Considering the deadlines, lousy pay and very likely the complete absence of an art director (thankfully), you wonder why Bolles simply didn't default to his standard L-pose. Curiously, the only example of that pose he did for Gay Parisienne was its last issue.

Back to this cover. Take a good look at the liberally applied titivations Bolles festooned upon it. First, how about that dress?  It's outrageous! No it's downright nasty, hard to top even by Bolles' standards.  It makes you wonder if the nail file is for manicuring or fending him off. Next, what is with that crazy hairdo? She's kind of got a 1930's pompadour thing working.  It borders on masculine-especially given her high hairline, but acts as a sort of counter against the emphatically emphasized feminine bits.  And check out that meandering background shadow. In past posts I've blathered on and on about Bolles' use of  biomorphic/amorphic shadows but the only descriptor I can peg to this iteration is oozing amoebic.  There's also a hint of deco furniture.  Her chair has a red-black lacquer deco thing going, perhaps a take on  Biedermeier.  And finally there's a lot--even by Bolles' standards--of hand semiotics being broadcasted here, most unusually by the gent who is getting all the attention.  But first consider the girl, not only is she displaying the famous Bolles lifted pinky, we also see the very rare ring finger assist.  In fact I think this particular confingeration is unique. And finally there's the lifted pinky in the male figure, another unique aspect of this cover. Of all his work for Gay Parisienne (or Spicy Stories or Tattle Tales or Bedtime Stories for that matter) this is the only example where the male gender gets any cover play, not that anyone's complaining.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Celebration Created for Enoch Bolles! August 5 is National Underwear Day

Talk about an observance custom made for our man Bolles!  This lovely original painting was completed for a 1928 issue of  Film Fun.  Bolles revisited this theme once again in 1931 during his first run of covers for Spicy Stories.  As you can see this Bolles girl is having a bit of trouble with her clothes line, not that she's in the least bit nonplussed about her predicament.  Offhand I can't recall if there are any examples where the Bolles girl is hanging up her knickers, though there is no shortage of covers where she's parading around in them.  

Friday, July 22, 2011

Dreams of a Bolles Girl

The other night I had one of those dreams...I saw a Bolles girl.   She was up in the clouds, smiling down on me.  It wasn't just any Bolles girl, but the face from a painting that had been taunting me for years, always just out of reach.  The scene abruptly shifted and next I was walking down an empty street in a strange town.  Everywhere I looked I saw pictures of her. It had to be one of those feverish dreams I must endure from time to time, a hazard of my fixation. There were other variations, in one I actually meet Bolles, get to ask him all those questions that have been burning in me, see art never before shared. In another I find the veritable closet full of paintings. Always I awake with that brief moment of confused exaltation, only to be pulled down as the weight of reality sets in.  It was just a dream.  Only a dream. But this felt different, somehow more real. 
Next thing I know I'm walking down a long street and spot the living embodiment of a Bolles girl. Not just any Bolles girl but that same cowgirl I've been in the hunt for so long.  The closer I get the more real she seems.  And then I'm inside and there are more Bolles girls, a chorus line of them...and in the middle of their dance I see it.
The painting. Only it's not a dream.  I'm awake, not hallucinating, and am surrounded by Bolles cowgirls.  And there's the painting, perched on an easel, not one of the several copies that have shown up over the past few years but the original.  The long lost Whoopee girl.

A few months ago, after a  four year search (full story here) she was pulled out of a crawlspace in an old house, amazingly none the worse for wear after lying buried for decades.  All those false trails, the impostor paintings, and finally she emerges into the light. The painting, used for a 1934 issue of Film Fun, is in near perfect condition.  A month after the issue hit the newsstands, Harmon Peery, the mayor of Odgen, Utah wrote a letter to Lester Grady, editor of Film Fun to ask if he could have the original painting to use as a mascot for a rodeo he had started.  Just a week later the painting shows up in the mail and her second career as the Whoopee Girl began.   This year marks the 75th anniversary of her serving as the official mascot to the Pioneer Days Rodeo, which is being held now.   
Mayor Peery's grandson, Robert Peery King and the Egyptian Theater Foundation graciously invited me to the official unveiling of the painting to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Whoopee Girl and I wouldn't have missed it for the world.  The event was fabulous, and painting simply amazing.  If you are interested, you will be able to purchase giclée prints of the original painting directly from Mr. King. I've seen a version done on canvas board and it looks as close to the real thing as you can get.  Some of the proceeds will be used to help build the Pioneer Days museum, which once completed with become the permanent home of Bolles' Whoopee girl painting.

So remember fellow Bolles fans, never stop searching. Sometimes dreams do come true.

Friday, July 15, 2011

This Just In: Big Time Newspaper Says it's OK to Love Pulp Art!

Photo courtesy of Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times

Ok, let's see how long I'm allowed to let this photo stay up before some big-time lawyer demands it removed. But since this site warrants nary a single blip even on the periphery of the big radar screen of blogdom, maybe we'll manage to fly off into the sunset undetected. today's edition of the New York Times there's an interesting review of a new show at  the Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators featuring Robert Lesser's pulp painting collection.  It's a nice follow-up and high society validation of  what we have known all along, namely that it really is ok to love pulp art.  Indeed, the article acknowledges how pulp art resonates with both historic and modern cultural themes.

Coming soon: The final fate of a long lost Bolles girl.

Friday, July 8, 2011

July 8: Today is Collector Car Appreciation day

This cover from a 1927 issue of Film Fun is the not simply the sole example featuring an automobile, as far as I know it's the only car illustration in any of the roughly 500 covers he painted.  I do have one really great example from a clothing advertisement (I'm saving it for the book) and there is the all-important motorcycle cover, but given Bolles capacity to render things mechanical, it's curious he didn't do more of this for the myriad of automobile products that were extensively advertised back in his day.  Or perhaps he did. Within the past month I've found two Bolles advertisements for products I had no idea he was affiliated with, so maybe there's example or two out there yet to be found.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Christmas in July

Unfortunately I'll be away from the blog the next few weeks but I'll be returning baring gifts, and they won't be dad's ties recycled from last year either.  There will be a fabulous full color advertising illustration circa 1923, a long-lost Bolles Film Fun painting finally surfaces and I'll be there to report on it first hand. Last but not least will be a never before seen original Bolles.  Yes, it will be Christmas in July and I can't wait to unwrap the presents.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Why We Love (some) Pulp Art

The new post on Illustration Art, a provocative and free ranging site pecked over the question whether it was ok to like pulp art as in a guilty pleasure? Or should praise be reserved for efforts which provide emotional and intellectual stimulation of a higher order, say above the limbic system? The set-up is a straw man argument. It's like asking someone if she loves candy.  Answer: "Yes". "So does that include both Atomic Fireballs and Pierre Marcolini truffles?"  It seems unfair and even pointless to compare works of high art (in the 1920’s it was oddly referred to as ‘art-art’) with illustration art completed under brutal deadlines according to the dictates of an art director for an abhorrent assignment (a spicy horror story) in a highly competitive market where the final product is almost guaranteed to be poorly reproduced.  Funny thing about this, it wasn’t uncommon for the stories to be assigned to follow the art. I remember hearing Hugh Cave, the incredibly prolific pulp writer recount having been assigned to write a story based on a painting of a creepy goon sliding a body into a roaring furnace. He titled the story: “This is how we bake our dead!”

During the early days of the Golden Age of illustration there raged a similar debate about the merits of commercial art, but it pivoted on advertising art versus fine art. Ad companies contributed countless screeds to trade magazines such as The Inland Printer and The Poster advocating the virtues of advertising illustration, professing it was equal to—both in technique and emotional reward--classic examples of fine art. Yet to hedge their bets companies like Consolidated Sign of New York would occasionally blow up famous artworks and paste them on billboards, perhaps both to provide the public a visual breather and serve as a not very subtle art “lesson” (“Was that a Rembrandt or a Leyendecker I saw at 14th and Broadway?”). Those illustrators who felt maligned to be stamped as commercial artists sought upward mobility through the respectable escape-hatch of salon portraiture.

True enough, many pulp illustrators were not the most gifted of artists and some were downright hacks, but there were unsung talents who did with what they had to make ends meet. Consider that they toiled during the depression with poor pay among fierce competition over a shrinking market, while photography was inexorably shoving illustration art further into the margins. Many pulp artists, including Bolles--who was raising a family of seven children--had to produce three or four covers a month to stay afloat. Hugh Ward, one of the artists featured in the Illustration Art piece, was getting $50 a painting for some of his covers, and sometimes had to wait months for the check (this Ward painting recently sold at auction for over $143,000). I’m no fan of his Spicy Horror work, in no small part because he was too good at what he did. No artist was more effective at depicting sheer terror and menacing miscreants. His originals in my view are a bit disappointing; they look unfinished and even a bit rushed. But Ward knew precisely how they would look on the newsstand and he wasn’t about to waste an extra stroke on a detail that wouldn’t show. He also realized many of his paintings would end up printed in only three colors and I think he altered his pallet to exploit the atmospheric effect he could exploit by his knowledge of printing. In contrast, some of his art for Tattle Tales was surprisingly relaxed and naturalistic. There’s none of the sexual edginess or voyeurism so typical of that genre in this fabulous cover. Norman Saunders is another artist who comes to mind. His work for the smooshes was as flagrant—meaning successful---as any artist but he was amazingly adept at all the genres, westerns, war stories, adventure, sports, men’s mags and later gum cards including the cult favorite Wacky Packages. Was there any commercial artist who covered as much territory so competently? And then there was Earle Bergey, whose painting was featured at the beginning of the Illustration Art post. He was another artist comfortable with crossing genres who pretty much was the master of the science fiction universe throughout the 1940s and 50s. You might call his work clichéd but that would be wrong, the clichés came later from artists who borrowed or reworked his ideas to death. Bergey was also one of the few pulp artists to make the slicks, not just any fancy mag but the Saturday Evening Post.

So what about Bolles? His work could be charged with the typical crimes of other pulp artists. His rap sheet would include colors straight out of a gumball machine, overripe girls in the barest of coverings, simple compositions that appeared again and again, as well as poses and set-ups that dug deep into the threadworn grab bag of pinup clichés. I feel no need to defend his talent, imagination or originality here. Like other pulp artists he was far more adept than he gets credited for, and his work wasn’t limited to pulps and Film Fun. Bolles did illustrations for movies, travel posters, and produced scores of advertising art for major companies who also hired famous names such as Rockwell, Barclay, and Wyeth. And once and a while he produced work that transcended the base aspects of the pulp genre. As evidence, here appears what I feel is Bolles pulp masterpiece, a cover that appeared on the cover of a 1933 issue of Bedtime Stories, a notorious under the counter eventually hounded into extinction by the decency leagues and vice cops. Bolles probably made no more than $75 for this painting and assuredly was given a free hand to paint what he wanted. I very much doubt that the publisher, Henry Marcus came up with the idea of putting infamous women of the ages on the cover and even if he did, he likely had little of guidance to provide to Bolles the polymath. I’ve commented before about how oddly passive many of the expressions on these covers are but this one is entirely different. I can’t find any example of what was to be labeled pinup either before or after of a girl who expressed not mirth, embarrassment or even boredom, but menace laced with contempt?  Is this any way to sell a magazine?  Take a look at the Armstrong version. Technically it’s amazing, especially the treatment of the charger. The Bolles version of Salome is so removed from Armstrong's rendition that it would be easy to conclude they read different "books".  Not that they didn't have other battles over territory (another story).

Finally, what are we to make of Bolles? What would motivate an artist who likely didn’t earn a nickel more than $75 for a painting he didn’t dare sign or put himself at risk for merely trying to purchase a copy.  Whatever provoked him to produce a work of such complex malevolence for a trashy magazine whose editor would be pleased by virtually any display of reasonably rendered flesh?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

June 8 is Upsy Daisy Day

There's been a lot of traffic on the site the past couple of days and I thought it only appropriate to do what I could to help keep it flowing.  So we are celebrating Upsy Daisy day with a very apropos original image by Bolles, painted for a 1937 issue of Breezy Stories.  The original painting is available (Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with the vendor). 

Bolles incorporated flowers into many of his paintings, sometimes for their symbolic value and in other cases to add a bit of visual trickery.  Take a look at the 1936 Gay Parisienne to your right and what you may initially perceive as a strategically (or not so, depending on your perspective) placed hole in her swimsuit is actually part of a floral motif.  Pretty tricky and perhaps more significant, a very early depiction of a bikini.

Monday, May 23, 2011

May 23 is World Turtle Day

You have to wonder how Bolles pitched the concept for this cover to Harry Donenfeld, the publisher of Gay Parisienne.  Sure, there would be the pretty girl as always, but why not add an animal? Not a cute puppy or pony; that angle worked like a sort of innocence pass that let the artist forego clothes on the girl (think Mabel Rollins Harris).  No, let's make it an aquatic reptile. Granted, Bolles did throw in some odd props on a few other Gay Parisienne  covers, including a tuba!  And you have to give him points for a girl wearing a bikini long before you'd see a suit at the beach that revealed anywhere near that much acreage.  The turtle, which I'm guessing is a Hawksbill, also seems quite content.  So, no blow-back from decency societies specializing in protecting wildlife from abusive pinups.     

Still, I just don't get it. Gay Parisienne was one of the hottest of all the so-called smoosh mags and the decency leagues stalked it like Clyde Beatty on the trail after big game. This oddball cover from 1936 just doesn't jibe with the magazine's notorious reputation, its pulpy pages chock-full of raunchy novels, dirty drawings and photos of naked girls.  It got Donenfeld hauled into court so many times he ended buying his way up a notch in the publishing hierachy, buying out National Allied Publications, after first suing them for nonpayment.  By May  1938 is pulps, Gay Parisienne and Spicy Stories were out of circulation, while at the same time  Donenfeld published the first Superman story in Action Comics.  Breezy Stories began recycling Bolles covers and his last new cover painting was for the June issue. 

For the first time in his career, Bolles was down to just one magazine, and a mere  two months later Film Fun had a new cover artist, Albert Fisher.  The Bolles girl, who made her debut in 1914 and who had been adorning three to five magazine covers a month for nearly a decade, was gone.  

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May Day is Lei Day!

I kid you not, May 1 is also officially known as Lei Day.  There was no way I could let this holiday pass without a Bolles and it was a lot of fun perusing covers for just the right example.  I've pretty much left this cover to the a 1931 issue of Hollywood Nights intact in its well-thumbed state.  For some reason I feel the wear adds something to it. 

Bolles did only a handful of covers for this magazine and others titles published by Henry Marcus' Follywood Publications. Among them are his only examples of pen and ink cover art out of the over 500 he created,  and this is one of his best. He would have been lucky to earn $40 for it. 

Hollywood Nights didn't last long; the combination of poor finances and the constant pursuit of the decency leagues would put Marcus out of business by the end of year.  But in the 1930s you couldn't put a good smoosh mag publisher down for long and by 1933 Marcus was back at it with a new publishing company  and new titles: Stolen Sweets, Tattle Tales, Bedtime Stories and Cupid's Capers.   Bolles teamed up with him again and produced the most provocative pulp covers ever printed (aside from Hugh Ward's sex-and--violence mash-ups, but they constitute an entirely different category).  They were successful, too successful. The Marcus lineup rose to the top (or sunk to the bottom, depending on your perspective) of the smoosh mag hit parade, and in the process became the equivalent of public enemy number-one for the New York vice cops and decency leagues.  Marcus would be out of business-again-before the end of 1934.  By then Bolles had moved on to another publisher.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lass Clipping

I'd forgotten I had a scan around of the original drawing of the cover featured in the previous post. Take a close look and it tells a story.  As is plainly evident, the painting was barely altered at all from this sketch.  Also clear is that it would have taken Bolles mere minutes of effort to whip this out, meaning the art editor of Spicy Stories would approve a cover based on the "barest" of efforts.  Even after producing film fun covers for nearly 20 years, Bolles often would complete fully rendered comps (detailed concept paintings done on 9 by 12" canvasboard) of potential covers for Film Fun.  I have other examples of cover concept sketches that didn't see the light of day so it's likely that he would show a batch of them at a time.  Another thing that is evident upon inspection is just how precise a line Bolles had.  He started out drawing, not painting and won, not once but twice the Charles Loring Elliot medal for drawing from the National Academy of Design.  Oh how I wish the art that got him the awards was still around.

Monday, March 28, 2011

March 28: Weed Appreciation Day

Was there a "Weed Appreciation Day" back in 1936 when Enoch came up with his kinetic vision of lawn care?  If so, what kind of weed did the appreciation committee have in mind? Not that I've expended much effort at research but from what I've learned it seems the current interpretation is more along the line of consumption rather than eradication.  Clearly our Bolles girl is having plenty enough fun making hay instead of burning it.

Our next post will be on the subject of Bolles' celebrity paintings for Film Fun. There's a rare example painted in 1928 coming up for bid at Heritage Auctions and the time is right to take a closer look at this short-lived theme among Film Fun covers. Just to let you know, posts will be slower for a while. I'm working on a draft of a Bolles book that I hope to have ready for review soon.  The time seems right for a Bolles book.  Don't you agree?

Friday, March 11, 2011

March 11 is Johnny Appleseed Day!

I was waiting patiently for some excuse, oddball holiday or otherwise, to post this cover. It's a reprint that appeared in a 1946 issue of Breezy Stories but was likely  first published in 1937 or '38.  Out of the the 20 plus magazine titles Bolles did work for my records for Breezy are the spottiest.  Why I have no idea. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Bolles Girl in the Flesh!

From time to time I've published photos of models who posed for Enoch as well as photos he clipped from magazines that served as the basis for covers. To wit, the photo of Mary Carlyle that he turned into such a lovely cover for Breezy Stories. You can imagine my reaction when I ran across these amazing recreations of Bolles covers by Mala Mastroberte. Mala doesn't just pose for these, she controls every step in the creative process from start to finish, composing and shooting her magazine covers without any assistants.  She does the styling, the layout, props, wardrobe, shoes (!), makeup, hair, lighting and photography to bring the Bolles covergirl to life with amazing fidelity.  Mala has also created several of her own original covers that are inspired by Bolles' work and you can really tell she has a grasp on what makes Bolles unique.

I asked Mala how she first became interested in creating her own versions of old magazine and paperback covers. 

"I've been always interested in history, vintage clothing, antiques, old photographs, etc... I grew up in Poland, a country with a great history, but quite different than American or even Western Europe. When I first moved here 10 years ago, naturally I felt homesick and bit out of place in a country so much "younger" than my own. I started visiting every antique shop in sight, going to flea markets and then browsing the internet in search of anything with a past. That is how I discovered vintage magazines and began collecting them. Few years ago I started taking self portraits, at first just generally inspired by the pin-up genre. With time, once I accumulated more props and wigs, I was able to be more true to the beloved originals. I prefer the illustrated covers, for their fantasy quality. As a child I loved comic books and wanted to become a comic book character when I grow up. So this is, in a way, realizing my childhood dream."

"When I feel "inspired" I just set up my studio, take out my books or originals and shoot away. Sometimes I get the right pose in a few shots, sometimes it takes tens of photos (thank goodness for the digital cameras), but it is always lots of fun. So much so, that sometimes I do not even notice that hours have passed."

Mala has recreated a score of magazine and paperback covers spanning the 1930s to the 1960s.  You can view them all at on her Flickr site.  Of course I had to ask how she came to be so interested in the work of Enoch Bolles.
"Enoch Bolles, where do I begin! I do not think I have to convince you, or other fans that his illustrations are special. My favorive is his later period, once he established his original style. Even though I admired his pin-ups for a very long time, I did not dare to take them on until recently. Not only poses are particularly challenging but those recreations demand special and more skilled editing."