Monday, January 31, 2011

Young Man in Profile

Another 'RPPC' (Real Photo Post Card) from, I think, the 1940s or 1950s. Unlike many examples of vernacular photography, it captures something rather more than mere everyday-ness. As Julia Kristeva puts it, 'In every bourgeois family, there is one child who has a soul.'

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Madge Incarnadined

Miss Madge Lessing--stage and film star in Germany and Britain pre-1914 . Marvelous bloodcurdling hand-coloring on this card.

For more excitement, see very odd website entitled 'For The Love of Opera Gloves,' There you will find at least 50 photos--an entire gallery--devoted to pictures of Lessing wearing the fetish-items in question. So is this card, an image of a bare-armed Madge, a rarity? Further research obviously required. Yet gloves or no gloves, in every picture I've ever seen of her, Lessing has the same simpering, infantile look you see here.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Reader, I Married Him

Well, actually I didn't, but I might have. Not a postcard exactly, but from my (related) collection of mug shots and Bertillon Cards. This unnamed fellow looks to me to be possibly the most glamorous criminal ever arrested.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Buenos Aires 1925

Child, dressed in carnival costume and melancholy. Who is she?--one, it seems, who sees us looking at her. Civilization charges an entrance fee.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Two Dittmers

A drunken William S. Burroughs accidentally killed his wife in 1951 in the way shown here--playing William Tell. (Not while standing on his head, though, and with a handgun rather than rifle.) "I am forced to the appalling conclusion that I would have never become a writer but for Joan’s death ... The death of Joan brought me into contact with the invader, the Ugly Spirit, and maneuvered me into a lifelong struggle, in which I had no choice except to write my way out". Or so he surmised in Queer (1985).

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Punctum, the Cross

An RPPC image one needs to penetrate, so to speak---it looks like nothing at first. Then one locates a world.

Monday, January 24, 2011

With A Great Deal of Dash

American card from around 1900 satirizing Aestheticism and the new (and scandalous) 'Impressionist' style of painting. (Though the jaunty canvas on the easel bears little resemblance to anything remotely Impressionist.) The artist caricatured here is James McNeill Whistler, the gifted expatriate American painter--long resident in London and Paris-- whose flowing Bohemian locks, society-mad ways, and close friendship with Oscar Wilde in the 1890s marked him as worthy of lampoon by righteous pillocks everywhere. He had the last laugh. A gorgeous painter.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

From a Foreign City

A hand-colored 'RPPC' (Real Photo Post Card). Almost everything is wrong with this photo-graph--- the 'landscape' orientation, the weird tilted camera angle, the man's rather sour focus on the dog. Still, it's somehow delightful. The colors of the couple's coats are beautiful; the dog poses nobly; the carousel horse (?) adds the necessary fantasy. The woman, if slightly anxious, is a person full of love.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

One of the Hugo Brothers

One of the Hugo Brothers--Antoine, I think--holding up 'Adriens,' a well-known circus performer, and his sister Marguerite. Antoine (1876-1914) and Baptiste (1887-1916) Hugo, otherwise known as 'Les Géants des Alpes', were two giant-brothers, much studied and photographed at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. According to a fascinating website--The Tallest Man--over a hundred different photo-postcards of the Hugo Brothers were made in France during their (relatively short) lifetimes. I have 10 or 12 cards that feature them, sometimes together, sometimes separate.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Album Cover Art

Found at a flea market in Lisbon and immediately whooshed into first place--as prime example of what literary critic Sianne Ngai has referred to as "stuplimity.' One enjoys the dispassionate expressions adopted by the band members. But who ever thought any of this was a good idea? And what must the music be like?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Water: Yes

Yes, indeed. And beautiful graphics 4 ever.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Rippin' Good Time

Part of a comic English postcard series in which little doggies get up to mischief and talk about it. This one's from 1909. I didn't realize at first what precisely was so disquieting about it---not until the word 'rippin' flipped a switch. Memories of Jack the Ripper were still very much alive in Britain in 1909: though the last of the Whitechapel murders associated with him occurred in 1891, he had never been identified or caught. (Nor would he be.) Something about the strange position of the dismembered doll makes me think the artist was familiar with the grisly crime scene photographs taken of the Ripper's victims. Jack was far more bestial than any dog.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Foot Artist

I have multiple copies of this card, just because I love it. The anonymous illustrator's sense of anatomy--or lack thereof-- never fails to amuse. Ditto the peculiar stunt depicted. One of my other versions of the card is captioned 'A Close Shave'.

A couple of months ago I found the card posted below it (showing a pair of courting rustics) on eBay--obviously by the same very strange artist. In both cards the rendering of the feet merits serious study.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Womanly Warmth

A nice, only slightly mildewed, late 19th-c. trade card for Hire's Root Beer, showing Ruth and Naomi about to break up and then thinking better of it. 'Whither thou goest,' etc., at bottom left.

'All the pathos of this touching episode of Scripture is here,' it says on the card back; 'the local color, the sentiment. It is another reading by the light of inspiration.'

Kinda hot too, I'd say--in that kinky, root-beer-splashed, Chromolithograph way.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Nobody's Perfect

Except he was, then. The yellow tee shirt (colored in later?) is a stroke of genius.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

If I Pick You for the Winner of my Heart

Who will the ice pick? An example of a home-made, one-of-a-kind Valentine card. The dog assures us that 'they'--the romancing couple--are 'harmless.' Yet considering their smarmy grins and Rorschach-blot-like shadows--more ink puddles than silhouettes--one is inclined to be doubtful.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Barcelona Sisters

Not Vicky or Christina--but I prefer these two, their reassuring composure. We are calm, we are stately; and even though we are only 5 or 6, we are entirely middle-aged and reliable, far more so than Scarlett Johansson will ever be.

Were these carnival costumes? The card: a formal studio portrait. Everything here deeply premeditated. Girls rule; boys drool.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

O Lisboa

This came in the mail yesterday--from Portugal, a country with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of old postcard dealers. The image is a 50s or 60s photographic reworking of a classic topos in modern comic illustration: fruits and vegetables engaged in human activities. The mascara'd eyelashes and crudely rendered tattoo give the whole scene a gritty, Cinecittà neo-realism, I think.

Monday, January 10, 2011

An Oxymoron

The oxymoron: a preposterous relic posing here as Jugendstil pin-up boy. The Emperor Franz-Josef, already impossibly ossified in 1908, would live to lead the Austro-Hungarian empire into war in 1914. Decadence: when youth and age, revolution and reaction, posey and potpourri, can no longer be distinguished.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Gashlycrumb Tinies Department

One of my older tintypes--from the 1870s or 1880s, I'm guessing. In late nineteenth=century America the tintype was the Daguerreotype of the working poor. Yet however cheaply produced, tintypes have their own kind of ragged--yet intransigent--intensity, as here.

Paranoid Pierrot

Standard hand-colored French romantic card of the 1920s--the 'men' in these peculiar images often look like women and in some cases (I think) quite possibly were. Other examples to be posted soon.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Pulling Out the First Wash Line

No doubt one of my stranger cards--
the enigmatic creatures in front reminiscent of some of Marcel Dzama's creations. Brilliant piece of business with the fig leaves.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Une Grande Horizontale

Cléo de Mérode (1875-1966)
dancer and courtesan of the Belle Epoque,
born in the age of Victor Hugo, and died at 92,
a contemporary of the Rolling Stones

An interesting example of the habit of writing on the *front* of the card (common before postcard backs were divided in 1907)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

No Business Like Show Business

But, my dearest Catherine, have you settled what to wear on your head tonight?
---Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Tuesday, January 4, 2011