As many others who came of age during the 1960′s, I first became familiar with the art of Alphonse Mucha, via the logo and poster works he created for JOB cigarette papers. Although originally created in 1898, in my ignorance (which I was not alone in), I had considered this work as symbolic of the Haight-Ashbury ideal “Flower Child”. It was not until the publication of E.L. Doctorow’s novel, “Ragtime”, in 1975, that I learned not only the name of the artist and the year he created that poster, but also who the model was that inspired him and the history of her infamy. Of course, the model I’m referring to, was Evelyn Nesbit, who first came to the public’s attention as the “The Gibson Girl”, then one of the “Floradora’s”, and finally as “The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing”.
Evelyn’s physical beauty was greatly complimented by the skills of photographers such as Rudolf Eickemeyer Jr.Alfred Stieglitz, and Andrew Pitcairn-Knowles, which then lead to her becoming a favorite model (both from life and from her famed photographs) not only for Gibson and Mucha, but also Aubrey Beardsley and others. As sought after as she was, Evelyn was hardly alone, as the so-called “Edwardian Period” boasted and then promoted a number of strikingly beautiful young woman who’s likenesses made it onto not only works of “fine art” but then quickly exploded into the realm of commercialism by being adapted into poster-art that endorsed various consumer products and trading cards. Some of the most well-known of these beauties, in addition to Evelyn Nesbit, included Lily Elsie, Maude Fealy, Gaynor Rolands, Clara Bow, and Bessie Love. While their names may not be as familiar these days, undoubtedly their photographs and the art they inspired are just as well known and appreciated 100 years later as in their heydey.
Feeling in good company then, I have created my own interpretation of these timelessly classic beauties for my own enjoyment and hopefully, for yours. For your reference, you can view some of the original photographs which inspired my work at these sites: Edwardian Ladies at the The Thinking Tank and Vintage Spirit.
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