Postcard Image

Postcard Image
As the Victorian era passed into the Edwardian and Roaring Twenties, a market developed for bisque and china bawdy novelties and figurines of women in revealing outfits. Although now most of these figurines seem more coy and cute than ribald and risque, in their time they symbolized the casting off of the perceived restraints of the Victorian era.

These little lovelies included bathing beauties, who came clad in swimsuits of real lace or in stylish painted beach wear, as well as mermaids, harem ladies, and nudies, who were meant to wear nothing more than an engaging smile. Also produced were flippers, innocent appearing figurines who reveal a bawdy secret when flipped over, and squirters, figurines that were meant to squirt water out of an appropriate orifice.

Most were manufactured in Germany from the late 1800s through the 1930s, often showing remarkable artistry and imagination, with Japan entering the market during World War I.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Walter Whitehead, Are You My Daddy?

This antique oil painting on panel of a beautiful windblown bathing belle venturing out among the swelling waves has been featured previously on this blog.  It was clearly painted by a skilled artist and the style made me wonder if it was intended as an illustration for a magazine.

The painting was signed only with an odd monogram looking like a "W" interposed over a paw print or flower petals.  A friend had suggested that the artist might have been Henry Sumner Watson (1868-1933), who also used the name Hy S. Watson, and sometimes used a monogram of a "W" in a circle.  However, although the time period was right and there were some similarities between Watson's works and this one, all of the paintings and sketches I have found by Watson are signed with his name, not his monogram.

I finally found time to visit the extensive collection at the University of Texas Fine Arts Library, and spent an afternoon researching the reference books on artists' names and signatures.  And I think I have another possible painter for this pretty picture, Walter Whitehead (1874-1936).  Whitehead was an illustrator active during the 1910s, when my picture would have been painted, and he often signed his works with a monogram of a "W" against a dark background.  Below is his "Encore," painted in 1908 as an advertisement for Cream of Wheat.  Note his monogram in the lower right corner.  To me there seems to be a similarity in the skilled impressionist looseness of the brushstrokes, was well as the treatment of the shading of whites and the use of deep strong reds to accent the figure.   

As an illustrator, Whitehead used a variety of styles and his work often appeared in posters, including patriotic works for WWl.  This more peaceful subject, a print from 1915, is signed with his monogram in the lower left corner.

Another print, "Old Miss Hopkins," by Whitehead from 1911 with his monogram in the lower left corner.

This is all speculation, as there are only a limited number of Whitehead's works pictured on the Internet for comparison,  most of which are his WWI posters.  Also, the monogram on the identified Whitehead works is tighter and more concise than the monogram on my painting and, at least in the three examples I found, always accompanied by a date.  Whitehead was a prolific illustrator, with most of his works appearing in magazines and advertisements.  Whether he is the painter of my bathing beauty could only be definitively answered by a museum curator or an art appraiser familiar with Whitehead's works, but I certainly think he is a possible candidate!  

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