Saturday, 15 April 2017

Easter Hatch by Georges Pavis

This illustration appeared in saucy French magazine La Vie Parisienne in 1926.  It was the work of Georges Pavis (1886-1977) who sold his first illustrations at the age of nine.  He studied at l'École des beaux-arts but was drafted into the army during the great war, where he was badly injured at Verdun.  After the war he provided illustrations for all the main French magazines as well as books.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Early Morning: Yvonne Aubicque by Sir William Orpen

Early Morning (1922)

This is an affectionate portrait of Yvonne Aubicque, the mistress of its painter, Irish artist Sir William Orpen (1878-1931), who has several fascinating stories connected to her.   Called, Early Morning it is a wonderful evocation of the pleasures of a mistress, as she sits surrounded by domestic detritus that indicates no great desire to leave her bed anytime soon.

William Orpen

William Orpen was born in Dublin and attended the Metropolitan School of Art there, to which he was admitted at the age of eleven, such was his natural skill. At the age of seventeen he moved to London to attend the  Slade School of Art.   Catching the attention of John Singer Sargent he rapidly became one of the country's top portrait painters.  Although he married and had three children he had a string of mistresses, many of whom modelled for him, despite constant worries about his own unattractiveness (caused, it is said, by overhearing his parents asking themselves why he was so ugly and their other children so attractive!).  

The Spy/The Refugee I (1918)

In 1916 Orpen was appointed as an official war artist and carried on in this role after the war, where he was was the official painter of the Versailles treaty signing.  While in France, he fell head over heels for Yvonne Aubicque, the daughter of the Mayor of Lille.  He painted two portraits of her during the war but when he sent the paintings back to Britain he found himself in hot water, as official war artists were only supposed to paint pictures of military subjects. 

The Spy/The Refugee II (1917)

Even worse, he had called his pictures of her "The Spy" and claimed she was a German spy who had been executed by the French, no doubt in order to give it an acceptable "military" provenance.  However, the subject of female spies was sensitive at this period as English nurse Edith Cavell had been shot by the Germans for helping allied soldiers to escape and Mata Hari had also just been executed by the French.  Orpen found himself facing a court martial and had to confess that the paintings were of his mistress. One of Orpen's friends was Lord Beaverbrook, who was instrumental in preventing the court martial, although Orpen was severely reprimanded and only just hung on to his official war artist role.  Orpen changed the name of the pictures to The Refugee and, like his war paintings, they now belong to the Imperial War Museum in London.

The Beaverbrooke copy on the Antiques Roadshow

There is an interesting coda to this story.  In 2013 a man brought a picture along to the filming of the BBC show Antiques Roadshow, where members of the public bring along items and a panel of experts tell them about them.  It was a copy of Orpen's The Refugee I.  The owner had taken it to the Imperial War Musem who had said it was just a standard copy. He was not convinced, however, and was puzzled by the high quality of the picture and the fact it was signed Nepro Mailliw (William Orpen written backwards).  He discovered that in 1920 Orpen had gone back to France and painted another version of the painting for Lord Beaverbrook as a thank you for helping him escape the court martial.  The expert on the show confirmed that the picture was indeed a copy but was made by Orpen himself and was the long lost Beaverbrook version.  Much to the owner's shock, he valued it at £250,000.

Yvonne Aubicque in 1918

What happened to the lovely Yvonne?  She remained as Orpen's mistress for more than ten years; although he usually ran more than one mistress simultaneously.  When in France, after the war, he had bought a black Rolls-Royce and hired a sixteen year old called William Grover as his chauffeur.  Grover was the son of an English father and a French mother but had been born in France. He immediately took a fancy to Yvonne and she him.  You might expect all sorts of problems to follow but when Yvonne stopped being Orpen's mistress he gave her his Rolls-Royce and a large house in Paris.  Grover and Yvonne married in 1929.  Grover had always been keen on cars and motorcycles and had started to race motorcycles at the age of fifteen.  Worried about what his father might think, he used the pseudonym W Williams when he started to race. By 1926 he had graduated to car racing.  In 1928 he won the French Grand Prix and in 1929, in a British Racing Green Bugatti, he won the inaugural Monaco Grand Prix.  Now known as Grover-Williams he retired from racing to concentrate on business, including working for Bugatti and running a kennel where Yvonne bred Highland Terriers which she successfully showed at Crufts dog show, eventually becoming a judge there. They were a wealthy couple and, apparently, good dancers, winning several competitions.

Grover Williams leading the 1929 Monaco Grand Prix

With the German invasion of France Grover-Williams fled to Britain where, because of his fluency in both French and English, he was recruited into the Special Operations Executive where he was trained at their wartime base, the home of Lord Montague, Beaulieu in Hampshire, now, coincidentally, the site of the National Motor Museum.  Grover-Williams was dropped into France, with no contacts or support on the ground, and was instructed to set up a new resistance network in Paris, as the previous one had been compromised. Yvonne moved back to Paris as well, although she lived in their house in Rue Weber while he lived in a separate apartment.  He recruited two former fellow racing drivers and they began sabotage work, principally at the Citroen factory.  In August 1943 Grover-Williams was captured by the Germans as their network had been compromised and it was believed that he was interrogated by the Gestapo and shot almost immediately.

Reclining Woman.  Yvonne Aubicque by William Orpen

However, in the 1990's a different story emerged.  It looked as if Grover-Williams survived and was taken to a prison camp in Poland.  It then appears that he joined MI6 after the war.  Even more strangely, in 1948 a man called George Tambal turned up at Yvonne's house in Evreux and moved in with her. She introduced him as her cousin but the locals thought they acted more like lovers.  He claimed to have arrived from America via Uganda, bringing animals for the depleted zoos of Europe. Grover-Williams, it should be noted, had family in America and a sister in Uganda. Also, amazingly, Tambal's date of birth was exactly the same as Grover-Willams'. Tambal was very knowledgeable about motor cars and bore the scars of a beating around the head. 

No-one has ever proved it conclusively but it looks like Grover-Williams survived the war, joined MI6 (MI6 have admitted they know what happened to Grover-Willams but they won't say what) and then rejoined his wife in Evreux.  She died in 1973 and Tambal/Grover-Williams was killed in 1983, at the age of eighty, having been knocked off his bicycle by a car, ironically, driven by a German tourist.

Elements of this remarkable story were used by Robert Ryan in his novel Early One Morning in which a fictionalised version of Yvonne Aubicque appears as Eve Aubique.

Sir William Orpen died in Kensington in 1931, possibly from complications arising from syphilis, and at the time was probably the most famous artist in Britain.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Something for the Weekend: Saucy Pulp Covers by Norman Saunders

This surprisingly revealing cover was for a nineteen thirties pulp US magazine. Painted by pulp art supremo Norman Saunders (1907-1989), it appeared as the cover for the December 1936 issue of Saucy Movie Tales.  The other covers here are all from 1936 and 1937.

So called because of the cheap wood pulp paper on which they were printed, pulp magazines flourished in the United States from the end of the nineteenth century until the late fifties. Typically, as the case with Saucy Movie Tales,  they were 128 pages long and were in a 7" by 10" format.

Some of the magazines focussed on different genres, such as adventure, westerns, detective, science fiction and romance but many included a mixture of genres. In theory, Saucy Movie Tales was supposed to concentrate on tales of starlets, directors and the movie industry, although they quite often included other subjects too.

The saucy/spicy sub-genre offered (mild, by today's standards) erotic stories and cartoons which meant that they were sold "under the counter". There were thrusting breasts, slim legs, firm buttocks and states of undress but no actual sex. 

The interior illustrations included bare bottoms and bare breasts but no pubic hair, of course, as that would have been classed as obscene, rather than saucy. In Saucy Movie Tales stories there were, of course, the perils of the casting couch, innocent ingenues and even rape. Some were comic and some merged with detective or even supernatural type stories. 

Romanian born publisher Harry Donenfield was the man behind Saucy Movie Tales, Pep StoriesSaucy Stories and others,  Norman Saunders had been working for another publisher, Fawcett, in Chicago, before moving to New York and Donenfield's magazines.

Not wanting to upset his previous publisher, in case he needed to go back there, he used the pseudonym  Carl Blaine (an artist friend's first name and Saunders' middle name) to use on the Donenfeld Publishing covers, hence the Blaine signature visible on these paintings.

Saunder's publisher, Harry Donenfeld, had just avoided a prison sentence having been charged by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice with producing obscene periodicals, including Spicy Stories and Pep Stories. These, unlike Saucy Movie Tales, included tasteful photographic topless, artistic nudes but the court decided that one image in particular, from January 1934's Pep Stories (below) wasn't tasteful but obscene, as the model's pubic hair was visible.

Too naughty for 1934!

This was the case that got the publishers of Playboy and Penthouse so worried nearly forty years later.  Donenfeld only avoided jail because one of his Romanian employees took the rap and said that his boss didn't know that he had inserted the picture into the magazine. A grateful Donenfeld gave the man a job for life with no requirement to actually do anything, when he emerged from prison.

Although, Norman Sunders would go on to paint many pulp covers, these ones were some of his earliest and were his most racy. Born in rural Minnesota, at the age of three his eye was badly injured and he needed multiple operations to restore the sight in his eye. After he recovered his sight he took to drawing. He turned down a scholarship to the Chicago Art Institute when he was offered the job at Fawcett Publishing,  In the early thirties he did some splendid pulp technology covers for Popular Mechanics, featuring seaplanes, flying tanks and such like.  I need to post some on my Pulp blog!

He was starting, as a freelance, to sell paintings to other publishers and by 1940 he had painted more than 400 pulp covers. By this time, Saunders was working in the conventional magazine (slicks) market but the war brought an end to this part of his life. He was drafted into the army and after some time in the military police was trained to paint military facilities with camouflage paint!

After the war he married one of his models, Ellena Politis, and having struggled with working with the slicks went back to pulp magazines, producing over 400 more cover paintings. His total of 867 pulp covers made him the most prolific pulp cover artist of all time. 

 After 1960, and his last pulp cover, he worked for trading card companies (he painted the original Mars Attacks cards), men's adventure magazines, and did comic book and paperback cover work. In the mid-sixties he did a lot of illustrations which featured dastardly Nazis, their female captives and the odd Nazi vixen, which I will look at another time.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Agnès Laurent

Agnès Laurent (1936-2010) was a lovely French actress who I remember as appearing in the title character in the British comedy A French Mistress (1960), which I saw at an impressionable age.

A French Mistress

Laurent made mostly French language films and by the time of her memorable turn in A French Mistress was getting towards the end of her short career.

After A French Mistress, she appeared in Mary had a little... (1961) regarded as the first British sex comedy, although, of course it had no sex and very little comedy.

After one more film, in 1961, her short five year film career was over. 

Un amour de Poche 

At the time, Playboy magazine liked to try and spot up and coming continental actresses and they featured her in their July 1958 issue.  She had just appeared in the film  Un Amour de Poche (1957), about a scientist who accidentally shrinks his lab assistant (Laurent) to the size of a small doll.

To save on special effects once shrunk Laurent remains inert, like a doll and is played mostly by...a doll.  At the end of the film the scientist's jealous fiancee throws shrunken/doll Laurent into the sea where the water and salt reconstitutes her into her full sized form once more. 

In these, for the time, rather racy publicity shots Laurent gambols in the sea with the actor who plays the scientist and the doll who plays her.



Monday, 6 March 2017

Linda Richie and Anna Lisa Hoffman at Virginia Water cascade for Penthouse

As promised in our post on Legatus' Wargames Armies, here we have Linda Richie posing at the cascade at Virginia Water, Surrey for the second ever issue of Penthouse.  I took the location pictures there yesterday but no naked ladies were in evidence, sadly.

At the time, Penthouse publisher, Bob Guccione, who took these pictures himself (as he couldn't afford a photographer) insisted on using models who hadn't posed for magazines before. He used to hang around outside secretarial colleges on the King's Road looking for likely girls.  

Quite a few of his Penthouse Pets in the first decade or so were British and posh (one was descended from former Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, one was a girlfriend of Prince Charles until gossip columnist Nigel Dempster outed her as a Penthouse Pet) although the magazine said that Linda was Scottish. 

Penthouse returned to the Virginia Water cascade for the November 1968 issue with Anna Lisa Hoffman.  It was either warmer than when Linda Richie was photographed or Anna Lisa was braver as photographer Amnon Bar-Tur had her in the water of the lake too.