Sunday, March 18, 2018

E. Simms Campbell: Unfinished Business

A postcard-sized black and white glossy photograph of a cartoon by E. Simms Campbell was found, we are told by an eBay seller, in a seaman's 1936-1937 photo album. The cartoon was likely published in Esquire roughly at this time period, although whether the original cartoon is in black and white or in color is difficult to ascertain from the photograph. Perhaps photographing a favorite printed cartoon wasn't that unusual in the age before photocopiers.

A pipe-smoking bohemian artist is seen clutching his paintbrushes and talking to a friend. An unfinished female nude sits prominently on his easel. A fairly bland and uninspired caption explains the situation. Today the startled reaction of the friend seems more than a bit overdone.

The composition can be understood as a triangle with the three heads forming the vertices. The painter's extended arm and the model's torso help to define the sides of the triangle. Each head directs the eye to the one clockwise from it. There are additional strong diagonal lines from the legs and the pipe smoke which provide a counter to the flat rectangular painting seen head-on. The one-point perspective helpfully directs the eye upwards.

"That's as far as I got, when we had an
argument and she left[.]"
E. Simms Campbell
Esquire, c. 1935-1937

Note:  Now to add the finishing touches! Attempted Bloggery continues its revue of the work of prolific cartoonist E. Simms Campbell (1906-1971). Motivated readers—that's you—can assist incurable bloggers—that's me—by providing high-resolution scans or photographs of outstanding original Campbell art or perhaps of obscure published cartoons such as this one. 

In what issue was this originally published? If you know, just pipe up.

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