Friday, May 3, 2013

RETROGASM: My Favorite Illustrators

I love illustrations of the 1940s’60s.
They were absolutely incredible! The way many artists left their sketch lines in, the pop of the colors, the rosy cheeks and curves on their stereotyped women, the suggestive and ridiculous phrases used in the advertisements… all of it.
These illustrations are often demeaned as being cliché “low art”, mainly because they were created for mass media (instead of art of art’s sake).  Just because something is intended to sell to the public, or is appearing in a magazine instead of the Prado does not mean it isn’t art.
People call furry teacups and upside down urinals “art” for crying out loud—why demean the cover of a pulp fiction fantasy??

The twentieth century was an age of advancement and rapid change; two world wars, the Jazz Age, the baby boom, the development of the suburbs, and crazy consumption.
Just think about how much we perceive as “normal” today that was just coming into existence during the time.  The first Presidential debate (Nixon/Kennedy) was televised, you could see live war (Vietnam) on TV, and magazines were trying to appeal to housewives moving out of the city to buy refrigerators, washing machines, cars, and other “conveniences” to surprise and please their husbands.  During the Cuban Missile Crisis many Americans went into a spending frenzy, both purchasing items to prepare them for life after the nuclear fallout, and to “live it up” before they all got blown to hell.

Disneyland, Technicolor, credit cards, soft drinks, Barbie, hula hoops, breast implants, rock n roll, all came to be.

What. the. hell?
 Utilitarian was IN, and that is where these illustrations came into play.
I find them even more fascinating due to their intention; whereas other art exists for enjoyment or interpretation or to express the creator’s emotions at that particular moment, this art existed to capture the public’s attention, and it now exists as a historical record, documenting the values and lifestyle of the time.  Illustrators were narrative painters.

The interplay between the text and the image is something to note,  as well as the rampant stereotypes (helloooo sexism and racism!!).  It was definitely an era of IDEALISM rather than REALISM.

I love what is being said and what is being left unsaid.  I love the straightforwardness of the ads, and their unspoken undercurrents.  So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite illustrators:

Gilbert Bundy
He had a delicate hand, painted using live models, and his women always had the shapeliest legs!  I love the disheveled look of his lines and his quick, suggestive watercolor strokes.

John Ruge
His depictions of women were more restrained and he had some fun shapes/sharp lines in his work, along with interesting color usage.

Boris Artzybasheff
This guy fought with the White Russians before he immigrated to America!
He was a real chameleon and adapted to several unique styles, but for some reason he reminds me of the fantastical Dutch painted Bosch.

Al Kortner
He did a lot of outdoor adventure type stuff, as long as old-timey romances (I love his "Old South" work).  What most appeals to me is his vivid use of reds and his often white backgrounds.  His images really stand out and he knew how to put such glow in the faces of his women!

Mort Kunstler
He did a lot of pieces on the American Civil War and prehistoric societies (picture savages dancing around a roaring fire).
But the pieces of his I love the most are for ridiculous adventure stories (especially WWII related).
They are so overtly sexual and damn, his ladies got curves.

Bill Randall
Beloved for his tongue-in-cheek pinups.
Boy, are they CHEEKY! He also captured some melancholy sultriness.  Love love love.

Jose Rivas
What a fun use of dark and light--like a flashy chiaroscuro.

Joyce Ballantyne
Best known for the Coppertone baby, who is basically like a baby pin-up (she used her 3 year old daughter as the model).
She ended up doing fine art and portraits, but I still love her pin-ups best, and the fact that she was a woman painting pin-ups! Hell yeah. Her style uses simple color schemes and she did some great calendars.

I hope to scavenge some large prints of these artists to decorate our future home with.  A lot of people find it weird that I am a married, straight woman that loves pin-ups, but I think those people are nuts! These images are fantastic and if you're a woman who can't appreciate the beauty of the female body, you need therapy.
I have many more favorites -- I'll save them for another post.  HAPPY FRIDAY!

No comments:

Post a Comment