Sunday, December 16, 2012

Saving Beauty

This image popped out of my mental archives the instant I eyed a New York Times article about a group of women training to become life guards at Manhattan beach, circa 1940.  Apparently it came to light when someone saw the newsreel the Prelinger archives and reposted it on Youtube.   As you can see, our Bolles girl is ready for some diversion, if not getting her hair wet.  I think you'll agree that this cover is a great composition, and I've long wondered why Bolles knocked himself out on it.  The editors at Judge were notorious for stiffing their writers and artists on payday, and the its publisher, Leslie-Judge had only recently come out of bankruptcy (and this not the first time).   Bolles hadn't done a cover for Judge in over two years.  He didn't need the work or the hassle.  There was plenty enough to keep him busy with Film Fun, along with other magazine covers and advertising work.  The likely explanation for his effort became apparent a couple years back when a scan of a Trade magazine appeared on the terrific site Magazinart, managed by Michael Ward.  It may well be a rare example of Bolles repurposing an advertising assignment, a strategy other illustrators had perfected years before. This cover would be Bolles' last for Judge, and it appeared at the very time that Theodor Geisel  was just hired on staff.  Poor Dr. Suess, the finances deteriorated at Judge had deteriorated to the point to which the newly married Suess (he moved up his wedding date after getting hired) not only got his salary chopped, but soon was paid with vouchers which he could remit for services and products for the few companies that were foolish enough to advertise in Judge (Geisel was happy about the free hotel rooms).  Bolles was not only done with Judge but he soon stopped doing work for Snappy Stories.  In an act of desperation, Leslie-Judge had sold off the rights of Film Fun, the only title that consistently made them money, to Delacorte press.  They made a fortune off it.
And of course Bolles would stay on with the magazine until it folded 15 years later.  He clearly was pleased with the cover, enough so that he revived it it a decade later for the smoosh pulp, Gay Parisienne.  He left the color scheme unchanged, if not the swim suit.  It was one among a number of other compositions that Bolles recycled and updated, the connections a private visual joke. going unnoticed. and until today I don't think the connection between the covers had ever been made. Thanks to my Bolles pal, Beau for sharing this previously unknown cover.  Be sure to check out his fabulous site on pulps and historical magazines at: Darwination.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sunday, September 30, 2012

On Tap: National Beer Drinking Day

Our man Bolles pulls a pint for us to celebrate this effervescent occasion.  The subject matter was as far removed from his speciality as could be, but he still really nailed it. It should be no surprise that at the same time he painted this cover in 1922 he was busy working as a food product illustrator for one of the largest advertising companies in the U.S.  Bolles himself was only a modest imbiber who never would be found in any of the gin mills his fellow "picture-makers" frequented such as the Kit Kat club.  His grandson once told me he went rediscovered a taste for beer late in his late 80s!  A decade later this cover reappeared, the editors of Judge had another artist duplicate this image (or try to) and they were equally lazy to the point of recycling the exact same copy line.  Bolles was long gone from Judge by then, but he was prideful enough about his work that if he happened to have passed it on the newsstands he wouldn't have been any too pleased.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Judge for yourself

I haven't posted many of Bolles covers from Judge, the periodical that launched his magazine career back in 1914.  Here we see one of his most his most energetic compositions, published in 1924.  Enoch crowds more ladies on the page here than he has in all but one other example (do you know?) among his other 560 (and still counting) magazine covers.  After this, he would go on to paint only a few more covers for Judge and my guess is that Bolles, like the majority of artists and writers who contributed to the magazine, ended up getting stiffed more than once and finally said enough is enough. 

Among magazine editors the staff at Judge had a notorious reputation for delaying payment.  Theodor "Suess" Geisel was thrilled to get his first regular gig with Judge but within two months they had not only reduced his pay, but would then resorted to an odd form of IOU' vouchers that Geisel could redeem for products or services of companies that advertised in Judge (not that he had much of a choice,Judge consistently lagged in selling ad space) but not money. The editors even dared to skip paying James Montgomery Flagg until he showed up unannounced at the editors office and threw a pique until the cheque was cut (more than likely he demanded cash).  Bolles milder temperament was not conducive to such tactics and by 1924 he had diversified, not only painting covers on a regular basis for Film FunSnappy Stories and other periodicals, but also producing art for the advertising and film industries.  Norman Anthony, the art editor at Judge, would likely have been thrilled if Bolles had just put one dancehall on this cover but to his delight and ours, Enoch packed the house.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

August 5 is National Underwear Day: Our man Bolles does his part

Here's a terrific cover from 1931, in all her original unaltered glory.  Enjoy!

Friday, June 22, 2012

June 22: National Handkerchief Day

No, it's not. For once I'm kidding about it being a special holiday.  But there is a small thread of connection between this image and the previous one I posted so I figured why not. She's the only reason I could imagine celebrating the handkerchief. I can't image many people under the age of 30 (40?) even know what a hankerchief is, much less ever used one.  Sorry about the image quality. I don't have a copy of this issue, but do have a photo of the actual painting, which alas will have to await the book.  And on that topic, my agent just told me a couple of publishers are interested so perhaps it won't be that long before you can see our knotty girl in the original.  

Last, I noticed that this blog just reached a sort of milestone, 250 followers!  In gratitude for all your support and interest, I'll be sharing some extra special Bolles work in the next few weeks.   

Friday, May 25, 2012

May 25: Happy Towel Day from Bolles!!

From 1932.  Nothing really to add to this one.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cha Cha!!

I've long been frustrated by this cover-or I should say how it was treated.  Published in the waning days of 1937, barely six months later Bolles was gone, not only from Gay Parisienne but also Spicy Stories, Breezy Stories and even Film Fun.  In short he was out of the magazine illustration business entirely. An entire year passed before he painted a new cover for Film Fun, and in the interim the corner of the publishing landscape Bolles had long toiled had been plowed away. With the exception of Film Fun every other magazine he'd worked for had folded, along with just about all the rest of the so-called smoosh mags.  It was as if when Enoch left the building he took the entire genre with him. 

There will be more to say about this when the Bolles book gets published, and frankly this is why the pace of posts on this site has ebbed.  During the last year I've been directing a lot of effort into the manuscript and now that it is off off to my agent I need to become a bit more selective about what goes on the blog, lest I give away too many goodies that need to be debuted in the book.  But not to worry as I have scans of over 500 Bolles covers and plenty else to share.  

So back to this cover. The printing, as far as I can tell (alas, this issue is not part of my collection) was lamentable, as was the rule for this title.  The dramatic shadow over the girl's eyes, her sombrero, and the fan were all overexposed into a dark blob. The color of the entire composition muted. And you know that Bolles would not have painted her this way.  So I judiciously applied a little photoshop to create what I think is a truer version, though you can bet the original (do I wish she was still around) would be even livelier. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Pattern Recognition: Today is Tartan Day

This cover from late 1942 is one of Bolles very last of all.  Film Fun, which started in 1915 folded two issues later, having had its second class postage privileges revoked by Grant Walker, the Postmaster General. He may have pulled the pulled the plug on the magazine, but it was by the directive of the Catholic National Organization for Decent Literature, which regularly sent his office lists of magazines they deemed too "stimulating" for the general public.  Film Fun sent some lawyers to Washington to plead their case but it was to no avail.  The final issue included a short tribute to Bolles who aside from the occasional fan letter, had not garnered any mention within its pages since the late 1920s.  Along with this being a really nice painting, it's an example of a trend in Bolles work that had only just starting showing up in his art. 

Take a closer look.  Can you see a pattern in this cover and the others I've posted?  Well of course you can, and therein lies the trend.  Bolles was starting to integrate complex patterns in his outfits: tartan, stripes, gingham, none of which were evident during the previous three decades of his career. He had resorted to the occasional polka-dot and a lot of outfits included floral motifs (strategically positioned to hint at anatomical details) but that was about it.  But in 1941 he started a series of covers with excruciatingly exacting patterns, beginning with stripes.  They are great but you have to wonder why all the extra work.  Then there was his mathematical tour de force, the showgirl cover for the first issue of  Titter, with the exquisitely rendered fishnet stockings.  Published in 1943 it was his last cover.  What a going away present for his fans, then and now.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring has Sprung

I've been saving this cover for a special occasion and thought it had a nice Spring-like feeling to it.  She was likely painted in 1937 or '38 but I only have the cover, so I can't definitively date it.  Bolles rarely used much pink.  It was hard for engravers to get right, especially next to skin tones and even more so when the printing quality wasn't so great to begin with.  But probably more important, as a printer once advised Bolles, "use any color as long as it is red."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

March Two, Dress in Blue

What shall I say?
For this blog
has set me agog

So the web I peruse
until the theme I choose
March two, Dress in Blue

But which girl wins the pose
because of her clothes
Only 550 covers to view I suppose

Then my eyes fall on the wall
today’s choice is the easiest of all!

(with apologies to Dr. Seuss, among others)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Bolles inside Esquire

Our saga of the Bolles girl channeled on the cover of Esquire continues, courtesy of mega Bolles-fan, Alan Wrobel who wrote the magazine to alert them of the Bolles connection covered here a few posts back.  While the editors may have been less than open minded about the potential legacy of Bolles' work, they were intrigued enough to write about it in a sidebar in the February issue.  Given the pinup legacy of Esquire; from Petty to Vargas and then Al Moore, Ben-Hur Baz, Ernest Chiriaka and others there is a certain irony that after all these years the work of Enoch Bolles has finally appeared within its pages.  For the record Bolles showed up in Playboy back in 1990 as part of an article on Francis Smith's book, Stolen Sweets.  Before that, Vargas used a couple of Bolles covers as inspiration for a couple of his pinups for Playboy.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Bolles Valentine's Day

We can't let Valentine's day pass without a cover by our man Bolles. It was a favorite celebration for him, and he created at least a half dozen other versions of heart themed covers over the years, many of which have been well thumbed over on the internet.  So today I've selected a early, neglected and a bit hard to find (well, at least for the next 15 minutes) cover.  It hit the newsstands in 1924, and although Enoch hadn't even been a year at Film Fun in many ways the year remains a high water mark for him. He reworked this particular pose several more times for magazine covers and advertisements and it's one of his earliest examples of what I've labeled as the L-pose.  Subsequent versions, however, omitted the helpless little men, a common motif for several magazine artists beginning about a decade earlier which seemed to epitomize the angst many felt about the rising power of the "new woman."  Aside from his now regular assignment at Film Fun, the year 1924 was a particularly busy for Bolles. He was also producing a couple of covers a month for Snappy Stories and painting dozens of trolley cards.  And there was the occasional film poster illustration for Fox Pictures, an association which began in 1924 and continued off and on until 1931 or so.  Enjoy!!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Bolles!

This cover of Film Fun was published in 1932, and its always seemed to me to be a bit of an outlier.  She has a more modern, almost 1950s look than just about another other Film Fun cover I can recall.  I'll post more of Bolles' gridiron girls-including an original that is coming up for auction-in the weeks to come along with other good sports.