Saturday, June 11, 2011

American Cheesecake: Photos 1940s~1960s

One of the most popular, and unfortunately overexposed, collectibles in the girlie, pin-up, glamour photo genre are black & white, glossy 4" x 5" photographs from the 1940s, '50s and '60s. Sold via ads in the backs of magazines, under-the-counter in candy stores and in many cases, available for a quick peek in our father's "sock" drawers, these images were part of the smut hidden away by the average guy, rarely seeing the light of day.

In the 1970s, when I became interested in these wonderful photographs, it was via very public local flea markets in lower Manhattan and at regional paper shows. Although I did have my sock drawer experience as a boy, I remained unaware of the amazing scope and abundance of this photo genre. Years of discovery and purchasing, eventually lead to my own drawer filled with hundreds of photographs, discretely hiding a few pairs of socks. Everything had come full circle and turned upside down!

Now, many years later and after eBay buyers pushed the prices of this material higher and higher, the collector's market for glossy 4" x 5" has all but collapsed. The economy and the efforts of unscrupulous dealers, selling fakes in the place of the "vintage" photographs they promised, has evaporated most buyer's interest. It has been a road well traveled: from magazine ads, to adult bookshops, to the sock drawer, to the flea markets and to the world wide web. And no matter how the value or interest is gauged, a small fraction of these images still work their bit of magic today.

Todays' post flashes forward through my ten year accumulation of these digital images, making a selection of some my favorite photos and models. A random selection follows; model's are identified when known. 

A second post will be needed to do justice and will follow soon.

Shirley Kilpatrick

Donna "Busty" Brown

Jackie Miller

Terry Higgins

Brenda DeNaut on the left

Terri Barton

Bettie Page


Friday, June 10, 2011

Cigarette Cards: Part two circa 1900 ~ 1930s

One of my earliest and most popular posts is Cigarette Cards from December, 2010. Sifting through my digital archives I segregated another substantial group and that calls for a second look at these wonderful miniature photos.

(above) Cigarettes Melia. Hand-tinted real photos, circa early 1920s; six of the eight photographs by Albert Wyndham.

 Fer Larcade series of French music-hall stars circa 1905

Two scans above from Melia and Clement, circa 1905~1915, some are hand-tinted, including French music-hall stars.

Original, circa 1910, collector's cigarette card album published by Melia. The exterior of the album and the binding are worn and soiled but the pages and cards (see below) in 
very good condition. 


A circa 1900 writing tablet made into a cigarette card album. Unfortunetly the cards were pasted in, however it includes some very nice, unusual examples of hand-tinted Melia cards. See the two following scans.


An anomaly in the cigarette card genre are seen below. The three following scans are large format 8" x 10" photographs published in Cuba, circa mid-1920s of cabaret performers/dancers. Rarely seen in this large format; published by TrinidadyHno for their Cigarros Exquisitos.


 Above and below: unusual, sepia toned, Bastos cigarette cards printed by gravure from two different series, circa 1920s; includes nudes rarely seen on these cards.

 (above and below) Two scans showing 27 cards of actors and actresses
from the Moderne Schonheits Galerie series, circa 1933. 
Published by Kur Mark, the series is comprised of 300 cards.
One of the most elaborately designed and beautifully produced cigarette card sets ever made with amazing embossed borders and impeccably printed, color-ized photo portraits. Cards measure 2" x 2.5"

Sarah Bernhardt circa 1905

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Gene Bilbrew: Paperback Cover Illustration 1960s

Gene Bilbrew (aka Eneg), one of the names synonymous with American fetish art and illustration, was a born in Los Angeles in 1923 (click for brief bio). He settled in New York City in the early 1950s and after meeting Eric Stanton they both began creating illustrations for Irving Klaw at Movie Star News. His early career, like Stanton's, is most closely associated with Klaw and in the mid-1950s to early 1960s with Burmel's Exotique magazines and later with Selbee publications.

Of the major American artists of the fetish illustration genre, Bilbrew, even though one of the most popular amongst collectors has been ignored by contemporary publishers. Willie, Stanton and Bill Ward have all had books devoted to them and their careers. Bilbrew, however, has yet to reach coffee table book status. In the context of the mandate of Taschen books, this fact remains a bit of a mystery and in a way, a recognition of his continued cult status.

Like Stanton, nearly all of the attention and collector interest goes to his work published in the fetish digests from Klaw and Burmel. Also like Stanton (and Bill Ward), Bilbrew created excellent color illustrations for the covers of sleaze paperbacks published in the early 1960s by Wee Hours, Unique Books, After Hours and First Nighter ~ the themes:  always female domination over men and lesbianism.

The end of Bilbrew's story (or is it an urban myth?) came in 1974 at the age of 51: he dies alone in his Brooklyn apartment; a few days later the contents of his apartment (including all of his artwork) is thrown out onto the sidewalk, where it is found by trash pickers (dumpster-divers) and immediately sold. For whatever it's worth, some of that original artwork, was still showing up in dealer inventories 20 years later.

A selection of paperback covers from my archives follows in no particular order and without captions. 

Note: Character in the background of Perpetual Motion is believed to be Bilbrew