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.


Daniel [] said...

I protest, sir! I am certain that the young lady of Jul '36 would not have expected a female turtle to bear her!

As to this fellow getting a manicure, I am reminded of the infamous pink powder puffs against which the Trib ranted a decade earlier.

Alan Wrobel said...

This is an amazingly sensual piece! She seems to be drawing his hand closer, probably for a bigger tip. Some barber shops of that time that catered to more refined men had girls come around offering pedicures or 'other things'. I love the detached look on her face, like that of a girl who seems uninterested but knows exacly what she's doing!

wentworth said...

Thanks for the cover an insights. Question: how do you know the cover is by Bolles ...have you access to the originals? I'm just wondering if misattribution is ever a possibility. Is there any collection of his work on display or is it all in private hands?

Jack R said...

Misattribution is not a problem, at least for me, with his magazine covers. I've got his entire record pretty much mapped out (over 500 cover paintings). With advertising work it can be more challenging but I've been at this so long that Bolles' work just sort of jumps out at me. As far as collections, I've a acquired a few originals, the family still has a number of them, some are in auction houses (see Heritage for several coming up for sale next week) and others are in private hands. There are no public collections or holdings of his work. The vast majority, perhaps 90%, unfortunately are lost.