For the Love of Pulp Fiction

•August 5, 2008 • 13 Comments

Hello groovers. Today, for a bit of light relief I present to you, yet another fine selection of my favourite trashy pulp novel covers from the mid 20th century.  Oh, you know you love them.

Before we get on with the show, I have a few interesting points regarding pulp novels, which I shall pass on to you in handy bullet form:

  • The book covers on pulp fiction novels from the 1920’s onwards were such a point of sale that they were often designed before the book was even written.
  • Interestingly, this “literature” was not even considered to be so – funnily enough – and therefore wasn’t held in high enough regard to be censored.
  • Another way the publishers avoided censorship was to make sure never to proselytise homosexuality and other “perversions”, as the books were carried through US Mail and every package carried in the post was subject to government censorship.  This is a major reason for the seemingly ridiculous moral judgements contained in the blurbs on the covers of the books, and also why any characters deemed to have “perverse” characteristics usually ended up insane or dead.

Anyway, enough with the facts.  Let us enjoy some gloriously debauched cover art from the age of pulp fiction:

An unscrupulous rake, eh?  This book is taking on a whole new meaning.  There are all kinds of things an all-wise young lady could get up to with a rogue garden implement.

Maybe this is where Rollergirl found her inspiration.

I do have to add that I once owned an identical pair of rollerskates [except mine had stoppers for er, going downhill], but I never did rollerskate naked.  Although the notion is quite appealing.

Ooh, well look at you Mr Fancy Panties!  Just the title makes me giggle.   However, I’m not sure what’s going on with the illustration.  Are they the same person?  Is one pair of panties fancier than the other?  Is this a fancy panty stand-off?

Wait!  Doesn’t Dick Dale play guitar… ON THE PULP FICTION SOUNDTRACK?

I think someone is trying mess with my head.

Oh, I just don’t know what to say about this.  Two fetishes in one?  Why not, I say!

Excuse me, but I was under the impression hipsters didn’t have sex.  Oh, you mean those kinds of hipsters.  The real kind.  Not the current breed who are so attached to their ironic t-shirts that you’d have assume they probably don’t even get naked in the shower, let alone whip each other with straw brooms.

Passion bum!  I think I’ve found my calling…

More soon.

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The Decadent Aubrey Beardsley

•August 1, 2008 • 5 Comments

I have been in love with Art Nouveau ever since I can remember.  Literally.  I was a child of the ’70’s when my parents owned a soft furnishings shop which was filled with Art Nouveau inspired mirrors, prints and wall hangings.  The period was undergoing a bit of a revival at the time as you may have guessed, and I was fascinated with the beautiful flowing lines and exotic representations of femininity – as well as a certain dark quality that pervaded much of the artwork.

Art Nouveau [1890-1914] was a movement which stemmed from the frustration of avant-garde artists and writers in Victorian times, who began to criticise and satirise the Victorian value system and social order around them.  Much of the work that came out of the period was sexual in nature and centered around hedonism,  pessimism and all things artificial.  They were constantly in search of the “new”.  Many of the artists of the time led very decadent lifestyles [for then] with drug use and homosexuality abounding.

Which brings me to my artist of the day, the wondrous Aubrey Beardsley.

Aubrey Beardsley was a stand-out artist amongst his peers.  He worked in ink and his mostly erotic drawings are distinctive in the way that there are areas of fine detail, surrounded by large white spaces.  It is both sparse and intricate; quite original and highly unusual for its time.   He also had a fondness for blurring gender lines.

One of Beardsley’s first major works was the illustration of Oscar Wilde’s play, Salome [1891].   Salome is a  story based on Biblical characters centering around sex, vice and corruption.  It’s very bloodthirsty, and basically everything that constitutes a damn fine yarn,  hah.

And here I have a few examples of Beardsley’s illustrations from Salome.  I’ve posted them in a general order of events and having not read the play in its entirety, I am only aware of a basic synopsis, but this post is really about the incredible drawings, so I think it matters not.

The Stomach Dance

My favourite Beardsley of all.  It is constantly amazing to me that not just this one in particular, but all these pieces were drawn in 1894.  Those Decadents really had it in for the Victorians

Here, Salome is dancing the Dance Of The Seven Veils, designed to whip her father Herod into an incestuous frenzy, so he will give her the head of John The Baptist on a platter.

The Eyes Of Herod

I’ve always liked the afro on the little guy, not to mention that rather incredible candelabra.

Herod Ordered Salome The Head Of John The Baptist

A large part of the premise of Salome is that Salome orders Herod [her father] to give her the head of John the Baptist on a platter after she becomes crazily obssessed with Johnny when he won’t give her a kiss.  Herod is coerced into the beheading and upon receving his head, Salome picks it up and kisses it as if it were alive.  NICE.

The Dancer’s Reward

Then, being so horrified as to what he’s just seen and as a reward for being a complete nutter, Herod then chops off Salome’s head as well.

Of course there is more to it, but for all intents and purposes, that is the story we are talking about here.

You know, looking at these pictures it has just occurred to me that Aubrey Beardsley could have designed a rather spectacular set of Tarot cards, had he been so inclined.  I’m kind of surprised he didn’t, all things considered…

I think it goes without saying there is far more wonderful Beardsley artwork to behold, and I may well feature him again in a future posting.

More illustrations from Salome here.

Salome: A Tragedy in One Act. [full text version]

Alberto Vargas

•May 23, 2008 • 5 Comments

Alberto Vargas.

A name synonymous with the art of the pin-up, and with good reason. I adore his work, as you may recognise by the pretty header above.

Allow me tell you a little about him: Alberto Vargas was born in Peru, the son of a renowned photographer. He spent many of his formative years in Europe, where he honed his painting skills, all the time entranced by the beauty of women. He then moved to America where, very quickly, he was commisioned to paint the glorious women of the Ziegfeld Follies. From there his career took off, but not without struggle. Wartime was a good time for Vargas.

I have a lot of respect for the Alberto Vargas. His work indicates a deep respect for the beauty of the female form.

On to the art:

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I admit I know virtually nothing about his individual pieces, but it matters not. He learnt the art of airbrushing from his photographer father, and it served him well.

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Look familiar?

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I’m sensing a pattern here. Always one breast exposed. A considered and apparent carelessness on the part of the model… but of course, not. Does this evoke mystery? It seems so. I love the feminity in the way he drapes fabric…

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One breast, yet again. I love that hat. I would also love to have her arse… haha.

Gosh, surely this is going to see me blackballed again. Then again, I say that with every post nowadays.

I may have more Vargas in future.

Mirror, Mirror

•May 9, 2008 • 2 Comments

Mirrors. Sometimes they tell us what we want to hear, sometimes not. Whichever way, they will always tell us the truth even if we don’t want to see it. Unless of course you are in a house of mirrors, in which case we can all have a good, wry laugh.

In times gone by, it has come to my attention that ladies of the distant past had quite the love affair with what has become for many, an arch nemesis [you know what I’m talking about].

Or maybe it was just a photographic trend.

Either way, they did have very pretty mirrors… and let’s face it; everything looks better in sepia. *wink*

Let’s see, shall we?

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Powder puffs! They sure don’t make them like they used to…

I think I’ll go in search of a nice powder puff next week. Lovely!

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Hand held mirrors aren’t what they used to be, either. I have a very pretty mirror handed down to me by my great-grandmother, very much like the one in this photograph, from what I can see.

Yes, darling.. You look wonderful.

Although, I’m not entirely sure why she is covering herself with an enormous bedspread when her breasts are falling out of her dress.

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Now, that’s more like it… Although shamefully, not a full-length mirror. Somehow, I don’t think anyone minds…

[Finger’s crossed this inclusion doesn’t result in my banishment from WordPress. I’ve been reported for less…]

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Now, this is what I like to see. A woman so in love with her own reflection, as to give herself a smooch in the mirror.

On the other hand, she could be under the influence of some kind of hallucinogen that has brought her to the point of intensive and quite silly mirror love. Somehow though, I doubt it. It just reminds me of a time….

Apologies for the abscence, folks. I’ll endeavour to not be quite so tardy in future.

Lisa Fonssagrives – Supermodel Numero Uno

•February 15, 2008 • 7 Comments

Swedish-born Lisa Fonssagrives has a face that is synonymous with French and American fashion. Her image has graced more Vogue covers than any other model and despite the claims of Janice Dickinson to have not only been the first, but also to have coined the term supermodel, it was Lisa who can lay claim to that title – even though she described herself as no more than “the clothes hanger”. The term supermodel was actually dreamt up in the 1940’s by a journalist to describe the top models of the day.

Lisa’s career is impressive in model terms, having spanned three decades [1930’s – 1950’s]. Yet another example how society and the media’s attitudes to women in terms of body image and ageing have gone awry in recent times. Can you imagine one of today’s supermodels still being at the top of her game into her 40’s? I think not…

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Woman in Palace – 1951. Photo by Irving Penn (her husband).

Ah, such elegance. I suspect her headwear is supposed to be a turban of some description, but it reminds me of a towel… and there is always something quite beautiful and fresh about a woman with her hair in a towel. I love the exotic locale and the graceful lines of Lisa’s face and neck, juxtaposed with the shapelessness of the robe/sack/blanket she is wearing. What is that thing, anyway?

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Lisa with Harp – 1939. By the wonderful Horst P. Horst.

What a wonderful photograph. I adore photos from an early vintage where the photographer has obviously used experimental techniques to create optical illusions and the like. I’m not sure what this photo is supposed to convey, but whatever it is, I like it. To me, she appears to be entrapped within a cage of harp. What do you think?

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Sur la Tour Eiffel. Photo by Erwin Blumenfeld

At one point around the middle of the 20th century, there seemed to be quite a trend for people to have their photo taken at a great height, whether in the rigging of bridges, or high up on a building site. Or, as we have it here, the Eiffel Tower. Despite looking like the wind might catch her skirt and cause her to plummet to her death, there is something quite joyous and life affirming about this photo. Especially if you don’t suffer from vertigo.

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I have no information about this photo, except that at a guess, it was most likely taken some time in the 1940’s and I doubt very much it was seen by the mainstream populace of the day. I can’t be sure, but the statue looks very much like Marie Antoinette and Lisa’s wig is obviously mirroring the hair of the statue, but other than that, I really have no clue what is going on here. Whatever it is, I like it.

I have more lovely photos of Lisa, so stay tuned for part deux.

Thanks to Agent Lee for most of the images.

Bottoms Up!

•February 8, 2008 • 10 Comments

It’s no secret that men have held a fascination with women’s bottoms since time immemorial. I’ve pondered over this fascination for many hours over time, and have always been torn attempting to relate to the attraction – male or female, yet now finally I think I understand it.

It’s primitive. A woman’s curves are the most beautiful on earth, but the bottom in particular holds a special place, apart from the obvious curves. It’s animalistic. A rounded bottom is beautiful, yet there is something innately primal about the attraction. The vast majority of the animal kingdom won’t tell you differently.

In my perusal of late 19th century and early 20th century erotic photography, it’s quite apparent a womanly behind has always been a very desirable trait. It’s no surprise if you think about it, but if you really ponder it, we’re talking about our great-grandparents. Nevermind beyond that sphere.

Ok, before I ruin this for everyone, here are some rather fetching photographic records I’ve come across which illustrate the long-held desire for the female buttocks:

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This is probably the most modern pose you will encounter here. Not just pose, but body and apparent freedom of expression…. as uncomfortable as she looks. It’s here that I see the attraction of the female bottom. It’s a beautiful photo.

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This photo I find a little disturbing, even though it is of its time [I’m guessing late 19th century]. The reason being that her waist looks so unnaturally pinched, and probably that is due to wearing corsets long term. Of course, the photograph and her figure is lovely, but there is something wrong…

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This looks far more natural, albeit probably quite unattractive to most men in the present day. My, how times have changed, although despite what the media would have you believe, I would venture to say most women still look like this…

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Something is wrong with this photo. Have you noticed? From what I understand, airbrushing [of sorts] of photographs was around from almost the time photography was invented. Often, women’s private parts were airbrushed out of photos even when they were clearly nude and the photos were meant for erotic purpsoses. Strange, I know. Her back from her shoulders down to where her buttocks should begin looks quite unnatural. They did a pretty good job of blending. It makes you wonder what other skills they had…

Either way, what pleases me most is that no matter the photographic adjustment, these women look like women…. in a way that so many women don’t these days.

Pure, Scandinavian Joy

•February 1, 2008 • 6 Comments

Scandinavia. Land of fair haired, blue eyed folk. Land of fjords, whimsical children’s books…. and in the present day, really great music. In the decades before now? Not so much, and I say that lovingly. I adore ABBA. I grew up with their music [they were very, very popular where I come from], but if you’re looking for 70’s cheese, you only have to look at their costumes to know what you’re in for.

The Swedes in particular love their music. There are so many forms of folk and popular music in Sweden and Scandinavia generally, that I’d be here all night trying to explain them all. And that would be very dull, indeed.

The thing I enjoy most about Scandinavian bands are the slightly ridiculous, well ok, more than slightly ridiculous costumes, poses and well, everything. It’s a strange, cultural and supremely cheesy phenomenon. What isn’t to love?

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Oh, how I love me some soft focus. Soft focus and flicked hair. What more can you ask for? A common thread in all these album covers I’ve noticed, is the forced smile, usually with one person almost looking almost like they mean it. I’m not sure any of them are really comfortable here. Maybe it’s the shirts. Or the belts. Or the pants.

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Oh, but yes! Wherefore have you been all my life, umm… what is his name? Harald Tusberg. He was a Norwegian TV personality in his day. He’s also going to ruin his lovely Tudor costume carrying on like that. Just as well the monarchs of old can’t see him. They’d be terribly jealous of all those bubbles, but he could quote sonnets to me all night as long as he kept that collar on.

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And here we have another example of the famous “forced smile”. Who do you think looks most like they mean it in this photo? My money is on the guy on the top right. The guy next to him looks like he’s on the toilet and everyone else appears to be having horrible flashbacks to having their school photo taken. It’s not pretty. Then again, we have the shirts…

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I had to save the best for last. Where could I possibly start? Is it the glasses? Which might look better on someone with better hair? Or…. is it the jacket? The pants? No. I know exactly what it is. It’s the pose. It’s all about the pose. WHY on heaven’s earth did Olav feel the need to pose so proudly with an aeroplane? I could understand it if it was his plane and it was a personal photo….. but an album cover?

There are 463 people listening to Olav’s music on Last.fm.

Ok, I’m done.

I *heart* Scandinavia.

Thanks again to lp cover lover and whomever else I can’t quite recall for the inspiration…