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Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Brinkley Girls. The Best of Nell Brinkley's Cartoons From 1913-1940. Trina Robbins (Editor), Fantagraphics Books (2009)


Nell Brinkley's stunning art graced the pages of William Randolph Hearst's newspapers for more than thirty years, her warmly romantic drawings of beautiful women and handsome men made her a star in her own right. This book is a superb demonstration of why she was so popular and a testament to an extraordinary talent that deserves to be restored to public attention. Nell Brinkley's elegant art captures the spirit of light hearted glamour and deeply romantic beauty in a way that photography, however creatively manipulated, cannot. The art communicated the ideal with such directness, with the necessary air of fantasy and with the emotional context so intimately drawn into the cast that they remain as seductive today as they did decades ago.
The Brinkley Girls are very distinctively of a type, they are willowy, with glorious hair that that frames their wide eyed expressive faces. They are dressed in the gorgeous clothes that flow and swirl around the them with such stunning details and colours that they are virtually characters in themselves. In the illustrated romantic serials that Nell Brinkley wrote as well as illustrated she clearly had a strong preference for spirited heroines who were willing to take bold action to protect their lovers. In particular the "Golden Eyes" serial is an outstanding example of the astonishing talent. The story is melodramatic to the core, the flowing artwork is joyous. In later serials where she was illustrating the stories by other authors that features more conventionally constrained heroines, her art is still luminous, the fashion details and calmly understated sexuality of the heroines are treasures of lush romance.
The volume is beautifully produced, the artwork is crisp and the details bright and clear. The pieces by Trina Robbins are informative and very well written, they add an valuable critical commentary to the art.

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