Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Santa's Favorite Helper!

That's mistletoe Santa's helper is standing under so you better give her some attention. As you've seen in recent posts, our man Enoch has 'presented' us with a a lot of classic Christmas cheer, and I think he deserves he deserves than he's gotten. Just yesterday on NPR there was a piece on how a marketing campaign by Coca-Cola in 1930 was largely responsible for ushering in red (Coca-Cola red, to be exact) and green as the official colors of Christmas, along with the red-cheeked Santa we all know and love. The artist--not identified in the segment--was the talented Haddon Sundblom (who spawned a generation of pinup artists, most notably Gil Elvgren).  But before him, others, including Enoch were already mining.  I'll share more in the coming days including a classic Santa image Bolles painted in 1924, and another that I think is the best Santa ever!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Holiday Cheer: Chapter Two

Today we have another example of Bolles' Christmas themed covers, this a charming example from 1926.  Sorry about its condition but Snappy's just don't hold up very well.  The covers were done on cheap paper, the magazine was thicker than most other pulps and the binding was often overglued.  But beat up or not I just love to see Bolles' Snappy Stories. work. These covers reveal a relaxed aspect to his painting which had already begun to disappear from Film Fun.  And there's a narrative that you rarely see in his magazine art.  I'm assuming this illustration has something do to with the story but I've never managed to to read far enough into one to figure it out one way or another.  The art may be fresh but the text has gone stale. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Today is St. Nicholas

Santa sure scored this holiday season, though it helped that he spiked the mistletoe with a little something extra sure to make our Bolles girl happy.  Or are those slippers meant for santa.  This December we'll be featuring Christmas themed magazine covers, and maybe a few ads too. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Today, I mean Yesterday was Wear Something Gaudy Day!

I meant to get this uploaded before midnight and obviously didn't.  Part of the reason is that for all the stylish, provocative, fabric challenged finery that Bolles adorned his girls with, I could find very few outfits that were outright gaudy.  But I think this one, in a minimalistic sense, certainly qualifies.  Bolles only completed five covers for Gay Broadway and this was most ambitious. The cheery title was a winking signal to those in the know that the magazine was an under the counter pulp, complete with nudie photo inserts.  

But despite constant pressure by the authorities it managed to hang on until 1938, a year which was the death knell for nearly every every spicy pulp title ever published. I have no idea why Bolles left the magazine, but 1934, when this issue appeared, was a tumultuous period for spicy pulp publishers. Bolles had to switch back and forth across titles as their publishers completed their sentences, jail sentences that is, for printing smutty stories. Lucky for us they knew the cover sold the magazine.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Bikini Day was yesterday

I'm not going to let another year pass before I have the excuse to celebrate Bikini day with a great Bolles painting, this one a photo of the original work that appeared on the cover of the December 1937 issue of Spicy Stories.  This image is not from the Heritage auction where the painting sold a year or so ago but by a photographer I'd hired nearly 10 years back, long before the painting had be publicly 'outed'.  Several other of my 'secret' finds have have ended up at auction but I still have at least 30 paintings of covers that have not seen the light of day, and which I hope to include in the Bolles book I've written and am still trying to get published.  

More about that later. For now lets enjoy one of Enoch's most inventive take on what years later would be recognized as a bikini. If you are wondering what's with the white aura surrounding our lovely Bolles girl, it's simply a border of titanium white, enough to help the printer but also no more than necessary.  This was a cost saving measure employed by the frugal Bolles which many other cover artists used when the composition was going to be printed against a pure white background.  I've seen several Bolles paintings for sale at auctions where at some point along the way the raw canvas was filled in to match.  Too bad in my mind as I rather see the hand of Bolles at work. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A Long Lost Bolles Girl

Its been a long time, maybe two years since I've come across a new cover, but recently my Bolles-pal, Alan ended the drought when he shared this magazine with me. Both of us were sure she was a Bolles girl, but there were some differences that warranted a closer look. For one, the rendering is uncharacteristically loose for a Bolles, particularly that impressionistic background. But after I showed it to another Bolles-pal, the Gentleman Collector, he aptly reminded me that Bolles was partial to daisies and included them in a number of covers. So that's reassuring. And there's also that giant sun hat, which was yet another standard Bolles prop. But what nailed this as a Bolles is the pose, which is closely resembles of one of Enoch's most widely reproduced works. It was published in 1941 but curiously, this issue of Breezy Stories hit the newsstands eight years later, in December of 1949. And until Alan found it, this issue of Breezy wasn't even known to exist. According to Galactic Central, the amazingly comprehensive index of magazines including pulp, the last issue of Breezy was published two months earlier. So our mystery cover is both the swan song for Breezy Stories and the very last Bolles. Now the fact that it was a Bolles is no surprise because throughout the 1940s, the publisher, Phil Painter had routinely been reusing old Breezy covers from the 1930s. But the twenty-thousand dollar question is how did he get his hands on a new one. The previously published and until now final Bolles cover came out in 1943 and he had been hospitalized and for all intents and purposes, retired.     
The November 1941 cover of Film Fun
What's even more curious is that Painter fully acknowledged how unique this image was, both inside the pages as well as in the design of the cover itself. It was as if he wanted the magazine, which was first published in 1915, to go out with style. In the table of contents he even identified the cover image as the "new Enoch Bolles girl." And then there's the cover itself. The Breezy masthead on this cover is smaller than usual and deliberately positioned one side to both complement the composition and leave it uncovered. Even curiouser is the complete absence of the dateline, banners, coverlines. There's no text on the cover at all, not ever the price! I have to wonder if there has ever been another magazine anywhere that has been published with the image and nothing else.

So where did Painter get his hands on a unique Bolles so many years after Bolles had done anything new. Several possibilities occur to me. One is that this wasn't a brand new cover but an overpainting done using the 1941 Film Fun cover art. This isn't too much of a stretch because  Bolles had reworked a number of his Film Fun covers as well as a few other titles, both for reuse on other magazine covers and for his own personal pleasure. He may have done this for previous issue of Breezy Stories although I hope this isn't the case. If this is a Bolles, it's got to be the worst thing of his that ever saw print, which is ironic because it was inspired by one of his most alluring covers, the amazing 1933 Bedtime Stories.
October, 1949
October, 1933
But I don't think is was an overpainting and I'll use another example of a reworked painting to illustrate why. Below is an example of a 1938 Film Fun cover that Enoch revised a year later, changing not only the outfit but also her hand poses and the hairdo. This amounts to quite a few alterations but they are minor compared to the differences between the martini girl and the Breezy Stories cover. 
April, 1938
November, 1939

So let's look at them side by side. Obviously there are some major differences in the position of her legs, and left arm. More significant, the angle of the faces in the Film Fun and Breezy Stories covers differ. Her head on the Film Fun cover is turned a bit less which reveals more of her face, particularly her right eye and lips. This difference is quite subtle but as a revision it would be more difficult to execute than simply reworking an arm or leg, or adding clothes. 

There's another reason I don't think it was unlikely to have been a rework and that's because the original Film Fun painting appears to have suffered an ignominious fate. Here's a photo out of a later issue of Film Fun and you can clearly see the painting serving as a prop in the Film Fun office in a photoshoot of a model who appeared in the same issue. I doubt very much that Bolles was able to get his hands back on it and it pains me to imagine the ultimate fate of this fabulous painting.

So that puts me back to square one. What was the story behind our mystery cover.  My theory is that was not a new painting per se but an older and unused painting that Bolles had completed years earlier, in 1941 to be exact. More specifically, I think this painting was a so-called "comp" or comprehensive sketch that Bolles would have submitted to the art editor of Film Fun for consideration as a potential cover theme. From the final version it makes sense to assume the editor liked the pose but asked Bolles to tone it down a bit (little good that did, a year later the magazine was forced to fold by the Postmaster General for being "salacious") and so was born the martini girl. There's also a piece of evidence that supports this story. Submitted below for your consideration is exhibit "a", which comes from my own collection. This is a comprehensive sketch Bolles completed for what would be the October 1941 Film Fun cover, published just a month earlier than the martini girl cover.
You can see a number of subtle but substantial changes in the pose, head position and hairdo as you move from the comp to the final (including removing the ties on all the balloons). And that two-piece outfit, scandalous because of the blatantly exposed navel, an anatomical feature that would have no place on the cover of Film Fun. So it doesn't seem to me such a stretch that the Breezy Stories cover was originally the comp for the "new Bolles girl".

Problem solved? Well, yes and no.  There remains the question of how Phil Painter got hold of the painting in the first place, and why he hung onto it for so long before using it. And then there's the image itself. As I took a hard look at it I found things that made no sense. That weird red cast to her left which also shows up just above her right leg. To me it looks like a pillow or blanket the engraver struggled to conceal. Weirder, if you carefully examine the edges of the figure, there places where you can see cut lines (her right ankle and knee, for example) that look like parts of her had been snipped out and then slapped back on top of the cover image. I have no idea what this could be but once you notice, it is impossible to ignore. And that black blob of a shoes is very uncharacteristically crude for a Bolles, even if this was originally only a sketch. So this mystery is not satisfactorily solved, and if you're interested in investigating further, stay tuned to eBay. The magazine's going up for sale there this week.

Monday, February 1, 2016

February 1 is Sssssserpent Day!

Yes there really is a serpent day and yes, our man Bolles has not left his fans disappointed. So to celebrate I pulled out a very special cover from my files. And in my opinion--admittedly biased-- this ranks as one of Enoch's very best covers among the nearly 700 he created for over 20 different titles. This issue of Spicy hit the newsstands in 1930, and it has so much going for it. He had only been working at Spicy for just a year but by then then a lot of pretty girl artists--Bolles included--had already done the girl-with-animal theme, usually a cute pet or horse. Here Bolles turned the trope on its head. If this wasn't the first girl-snake mashup it certainly has to be the first to where an unskinned snake stood in for the girl's outfit. Our charming snake charmer obviously isn't wearing a stitch underneath, but it's her exposed navel that's the real no-no. Even a decade later the art editors of Film Fun and other girly mags were still airbrushing the navels out of the showgirl photos. How about that hair style, slicked back with the widow's peak and those crazy curls around her ears. Bolles worked in one of this deco motifs into the background that ties into the rug. The terra cotta alms bowl is a nice detail and did you happen to notice the toe ring?  And finally there are the hand poses which are not at all typical for Bolles. The only other middle finger shot I've seen was on a Spicy Stories cover from 1938.

This cover brings another image to mind, a photo of Natasha Kinski by the famed and somewhat notorious fashion photographer, Richard Avedon.  It appeared in Vogue magazine over a half-century after Bolles and became a best selling poster. While it looks spontaneous the snake was anything but cooperative. Avedon said that at times handlers had to pinion the snake (a python) to her legs, and it took him two hours before he got the shot that made Kinski a pinup sensation. I don't think it is a stretch of the imagination to suggest these two images share some more than a few similarities but I wouldn't go so far to suggest Avedon got some skin from Bolles.