Friday, October 17, 2008

Display case 5 (Wulz, Blumenfeld, Steichen)

  Italian artist Wanda Wulz, known primarily for 1932 photomontage Cat and I, clearly the inspiration for Lester Krauss' cover photograph for Florence Stevenson's novel,


Title: Ophelia

Author: Florence Stevenson

Publisher: New American Library 1968

Designer / Illustrator: Lester Krauss

  Erwin Blumenfeld's stylized Surrealist simplification of a woman's face to a single mascara'd eye and painted pair of lips captivated the fashion world in 1950 when it appeared on the cover of Vogue's January issue. The picture was a product of it's time (a number of photographers had been using high contrast imagery in their fashion work; Irving Penn, Richard Avedon and William Klein, to name several), but it may have had an impact on the world of book cover illustration as well. That same year, for example, William Morrow first published The Case of the One-Eyed Witness, a Perry Mason thriller by Erle Stanley Gardner. Five years later, Blumenfeld left Vogue, and Pocket Books reissued One-Eyed Witness in paper with a cover illustration by James Meese that looks startlingly familiar.

  While there is no connection between Blumenfeld's exit from Vogue and the release of the Perry Mason paperback, there may be a trail of influence leading from Blumenfeld's photograph to Meese's illustration. Or, it may simply be a striking coincidence. A third possibility is that both were influenced by an even earlier image, done by someone else.

  Regardless of it's provenance, the woman's face, whited-out but for eye and lips, has figured a number of times over the years as a motif for covers of mass-market books involving sexy dames with a taste for danger.

Title: The Case of the One-Eyed Witness

Author: Erle Stanley Gardner

Publisher: Pocket Books 1955 (1st ed 1950)

Designer / Illustrator: James Meese

  One might be justified in wondering if the photographer for J. Randy Taraborrelli's 'unauthorized' biography of Diana Ross, or even Miss Ross herself, had Edward Steichen's classic 1928 portrait of Greta Garbo in mind when shooting the cover image. It is not necessarily out of character for a celebrity with Ross' public persona and temperament to want to emulate a diva from a bygone era.

Title: Call Her Miss Ross

Author: J. Randy Taraborrelli

Publisher: Birch Lane Press 1989

Designer / Illustrator: Steven Bower

Hand Tinting: Joanie Schwarz

Photographer: Wide World Media

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