This blog is still alive, just in semi-hibernation.
When I want to write something longer than a tweet about something other than math or sci-fi, here is where I'll write it.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

My people and our agenda, kicking it old school.


Charles Dana Gibson (1867-1944) was one of the most successful American illustrators in the era from the 1890's to the end of World War I. His pen and ink drawings graced many magazines and his cover illustrations for novels were much in demand. His name survives to this day in two ways. The Gibson martini is named for him and his iconic drawings of lovely, long necked and haughty beauties are still classified as Gibson Girls. A lot has been written about smiling and non-smiling models in advertisement. The general consensus is that a smiling model is both giving and seeking approval, while a non-smiling model demands that you give approval. You are much more likely to see a non-smiling model in an ad for an expensive item and non-smiling models are seen in Vogue more often than they are in Ladies' Home Journal. Gibson fashioned his iconic look after his wife and her sister, two lovely young women born to a once rich but still proud Virginia family.
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So if one of my great grandfathers was one of My People with Our Agenda back in the day, and I have absolutely no proof that any of those gentlemen were so inclined, he might have been an especially keen fan of the work of C.D. Gibson. This illustration of an aloof quartet of young women about to dissect a puny and pleading young suitor is titled The Weaker Sex. As you can see, except for subtle differences in the way their hair is swept up on top of their heads, the differences in the look of these Gibson Girls is minimal. Only one of these titanic tormentors is actually threatening the poor little lad with a hat pin the size of a battering ram, but not one of the others is crying out in protest. In other words, he's toast.
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Gibson was not the only artist of his day who portrayed the suitor as small and helpless and the object of his affections as holding all the power in the relationship in its early stages. This hand held young fellow seems to be hitting it off a little better than the poor supplicant in the previous illustration, and the young lady actually appears to be listening to him. I wish my ancestral brother all the best in his effort to woo this comely and colossal queen.

My friend The Curator, who is not only one of My People but also an avid collector of American illustrations as well as a talented illustrator himself, has seen this picture before, but does not know the artist. It is from the era of Charles Gibson, but it is not Gibson's work. This copy of the work was sent to me by Padre Mickey, who is not one of My People, but is a Close Personal Bud for more than 25 years. ¡Gracias, Padre!

2 comments:

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

I have always loved Gibson girls.

dguzman said...

I dig this historical perspective on Your People. I love learning, you know, and these kinds of things just can't be found in your everyday textbook!