Saturday, January 29, 2011

Would you like to see my etchings?

Above we have a couple examples of 1930s ephemera; catalogs of hand colors art posters by "well known American artists" which were "personally selected" by Joseph Bonita.  More about him later.  The contents of these catalogs were claimed  to be photo reproductions of  the original paintings and included a few unremarkable landscapes, but the rest were all of the pretty girl variety. Needless to say, none of the artists were well known, although one of the few signed paintings was by Paul Von Klieben, who years later designed the Ghost Town in Knott's Berry farm and was a resident artist there.  

No, it was another artist's work, this one unattributed, that got my interest.  Initially I assumed the photos were not taken directly from actual paintings but reused from engravings, as was the case with a series of blotters produced in the 1930s from Bolles magazine covers.  The images were reproduced off the covers--not the originals--and printed on blank or black backgrounds, Bolles signature was tooled out of the image in every case where it had appeared on the magazine cover.  I very much doubt whether he saw a nickel out of it.  But then in one of the catalogs I came across an image instantly recognizable as an unpublished Bolles, and that changed everything.  Somehow Bonica had gotten his hands on unique and original material, very likely directly from Bolles himself.  And so I took a closer look.  It turned out that some of the other Bolles paintings included in the catalog were still around, including a more finished version of the sketch.
Better yet, I recently picked up yet another of these catalogs and it didn't have just three or four pieces by Bolles in it, but nearly 20, and of these I know that four of the original paintings are still around.  Let's hope we can add a few more to the list of survivors, especially because the catalog includes several fabulous images that are among Bolles' very best, including two paintings that made my top 10 list of original Film Fun paintings I hoped would be yet found, including the iconic motorcycle girl, oddly titled as "Slyvia" in the catalog.  

Addendum:  A few years back I somehow managed to get in touch with Bonica's grandson.  I learned that in the 1940's Bonica had moved from print to film media and was hawking 16mm movies of burlesque dancers, and later a curious movie about the atom bomb.  His grandson had no knowledge about his connection to Bolles or his 1930s art catalogs. 

No comments: