Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Thursday, March 19, 2009
These pictures were the work of British pin-up artist David Wright (1912-1967). Both Wright's parents were artists and the father believed himself to have been descended from Joseph Wright of Derby. Wright's uncle was an artist too and it was with him that David first started work. He began as an illustrator for fashion magazines but his talent for drawing beautiful women atracted the interest of The Sketch magaazine who, in 1941, commissioned him to do a series of pin-up pictures known as "lovelies". The Sketch was an illustrated newspaper published by the Illustrated London News company which featured society and royal news, short stories (Agatha Christie was first published in The Sketch) and features on the theatre, cinema and art. It ran from 1893 until 1959. Wright continued to provide his "lovelies" for ten years eventually completing 169 paintings for the magazine.
He also did a series of slightly racier pictures for Men Only in the fifties.
During World War 2, at a time when the great pin-up artists were all based in America, he established himself as one of the most popular in the world. During the War he served as an armed forces driving instructor in Wales as the army realised that he could contribute much more to the war effort by painting pin-ups than by going into combat. His pictures adorned barrack room walls up and down the country and it would be fair to say that he was the British equivalent of Vargas.
Wright often used his wife, Esme, as a model and had a more painterly style than many of his contemporaries (including Vargas) who were using the new airbrushes.
Later in the fifties he created a number of comic strips: Kit Carson (1952), Judy (1953) and Jo (1955). His most famous strip was Carol Day, about a model, which ran in the Daily Mail from 1956 until 1967.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Easily passes the "does she look nice in a vest?" test.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Twenty-one years after the death of Chabas another furore erupted in Chicago regarding public decency. Hugh Hefner had been publishing Playboy there for just over four years and the authorities had constantly tried to stop him. His Playmate of the Month for January 1958 gave them another chance to have a go at him.
Rather naively, Playboy though that because a mother gave permission for her daughter to pose and because she accompanied her to the photo session no-one would care that college girl Elizabeth Ann Roberts was only 17 at the time (some even say 16 -it does look like her mother claimed she was 18). Her pictorial's title of "Schoolmate playmate" probably didn't help.
It sounds perilously close to the "it's art therefore it's permissable" defence. In this case we are not sure how well it would have worked.
In the end he didn't get the chance as the case was dropped for lack of evidence. Playboy had learned its lesson, however, and immediately insisted all its models had to be 18 years or over from then on.
Elizabeth looks pensive. Not quite sure what her mother was thinking but it probably had dollar signs in it somewhere
The Bathers (1910)
Chabas took three years, working during the summers, to finish his most famous painting of a young girl posing in what look like chilly waters. The setting was Lake Annecy in the mountains of Savoie.
Lake Annecy today
He finished the painting one morning in September 1912, hence the name. Who the model for the painting was has never been clear. In one version the figure is said to have been modelled on two girls. A local peasant girl provided the body whilst the head belonged to a young American girl Julie Philipps who Chabas had sketched whilst she sat in a Paris cafe. However, Chabas always kept the identity of the model secret until just before he died when rumours were circulating that his model was destitute. He said "She is now 41, married to a rich French industrialist, and the mother of three lovely children. She is no longer so slender as she was 25 years ago."
After Chabas’ death, however, a Hearst reporter allegedly found the model, who was then a middle-aged divorced (and childless) Parisian named Suzanne Delve. She claimed that she posed for Chabas in his Parisian studio (only the background was painted on location) at the age of fifteen. Both her mother and Chabas’ wife were also present at the sitting. She described how nervous she was and how Mme Chabas had played the piano to calm her nerves. She assumed the pose naturally, rather than under direction, and Chabas asked her to hold it.
Whatever the truth, the painting was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1912 where it won the Medaille d’Honneur to critical acclaim. What happened next, however, was completely unprecedented and led to the picture playing a significant role in an early American censorship battle.
Mayor Harrison and his wife in 1913
In those days popular paintings were often reproduced as prints. In March 1913 one of these reproductions was being displayed in the window of Fred Jackson’s Art Store in Chicago. A passing policeman saw it, decided it was obscene, and ordered Jackson to remove the picture from his window. This he did but soon put it back. Spotting this the police returned, bought a copy of the picture and presented it to the Mayor, Carter Harrison Jr. Harrison was a reformer and in 1911 had established the Chicago Vice Commission. The brothel districts were so notorious at this time that printed maps were provided to tourists so that they could work their way from establishment to establishment.
Mayor Harrison agreed that the picture violated the municipal code which banned the exhibit of “any lewd picture or other thing whatever of an immoral or scandalous nature.” They prosecuted Jackson, much to the outrage of the local artistic community. Despite testimony from local worthies that the picture was immoral and shouldn’t be viewed by children under fourteen the jury, after only thirty minutes deliberation, unanimously acquitted Jackson who immediately presented each juror with a copy of the painting which they all gratefully received. This decision led to numerous shops displaying the picture so that the city had to specifically forbid the display of “nude pictures in any window, except at art or educational exhibitions.” Needless to say this just increased interest in the painting. The city appealed but in May 1914 the First District Appelate Court ruled that the picture was not indecent although they made cutting comments regarding its exploitation.
Only two months after the initial Chicago controversy, in May 1913, a similar furore took place in New York. Tipped off, it is said, by a school teacher Anthony Comstock, the head of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice entered the Braun & Co art dealers’ showroom where September Morn was on display in the window. He ordered the removal of the picture. James Kelly the salesman on duty informed Comstock that the picture was “the famous September Morning”. Kelly allegedly replied that “There’s too little morning and too much maid.” Kelly’s boss then later ordered the picture back in the window where it remained for five days whilst the gallery expected the return of Comstock any day. In the end Braun & Co took the picture down themselves as the crowds it was drawing were interfering with normal customers. The manager of the gallery wrote an incensed letter to the New York Times and discussion raged about the picture all over America.
In December 1914 the students of a college in Ohio publicly burnt copies of the picture along with other erotic literature and other questionable (by their standards) pictures.
Chabas himself never made any money from all these reproductions although he did sell the original to a Russian collector, Leon Mantacheff, for $10,000. After the Russian Revolution it reappeared in the Gulbenkian collection and was bought by Philadelphia collector William Coxe Wright. He donated it to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, where it still hangs, in 1957 because the Philadelphia Museum of Art had turned the picture down because it had “no significance”.
Many credit the controversies surrounding the picture as having had a positive effect on the censorship of art in the United States. Twenty-one years after Chabas’ death September Morn would be the subject of another indecency trial, oddly also with a Chicago connection. But that is another entry altogether.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Irish (really!) born Maureen O'Hara (FitzSimons, to give her her real name) was utterly gorgeous in one of Agent Triple P's favourite pirate films, the Black Swan (1942) with Tyrone Power.
The only colour still we could find.