Friday, June 29, 2012

Centrefold Venus of the Month 36: Cindy Fuller, May 1959

Well, there were several possibilities for May's centrefold (we're still running behind) but as we have just returned from Boston we thought it appropriate to feature a Bostonian.  So here from Playboy's May 1959 edition is the really rather luscious Cindy Fuller in a splendidly peek-a-boo centrefold by Bunny Yeager.

Cindy also appears on the cover (on the left) in a photograph that has been so processed it almost looks like a painting.  We'll see a lot more of her in Playboy's House Party shortly.

Cindy's pictorial was shot in Florida where both she and Yeager lived at the time.  Here she is outside the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach where Agent Triple P spent an enjoyable couple of days back in 2008, shortly after its re-opening following a $1 billion renovation. We had one of those balcony rooms overlooking the ocean which you can just see at the top of the picture!

Back in the fifties the Playmates didn't get many photographs other than their centrefold and other than that and the one of her in front of the Fontainebleau we just got these three of Cindy causing a stir on the beach.  They didn't have Playmate data sheets in the magazine at this time but we do know that twenty year old Cindy was 5'6" tall and measured 36-24-36.

Now, usually we wouldn't get to see the Playmate again until the annual Playmate review pictorial the following year but Cindy featured heavily in a pictorial called Playboy's House Party in the same issue.   One of their aspirational lifestyle pieces it featured Cindy and four other girls lounging around the Miami house of Harold Chaskin, a friend of Hugh Hefner's.

Chaskin had made a fortune in tiles and built his house to his own specifications.  Photographer Bunny Yeager often used it as a location and shot a famous set of self portraits there.  Here Cindy (right) watches one of Chaskin's pet chimpanzees on his lawn overlooking Biscayne Bay.

Cindy in the sun with doctor's receptionist Bonnie Harrington

Bonnie, Cindy and blueprint firm owner Dottie Sykes showcase some tiles

Dottie, Mary Jane, Fran, Cindy and Bonnie

More tiles in the bathroom and a bath big enough for all five girls.  Chaskin's house featured many of the must-haves seen in the series of articles Playboy had run on bachelor pads and this feature was prototypical enough that it was featured in Playboy and the Making of the Good Life in America by Elizabeth Fraterrigo; one of the more academic books in Triple P's Playboy library.  

Cindy, Fran and Mary Jane

"Ambition and effort paid dividends in consumer luxuries - and sexual fulfillment" she noted, neatly summarising the tone of the piece, which examined Chaskin's progress to successful entrepreneur and his material rewards exemplified by his house.  If any one article summed up the "Playboy philosophy" in the fifties it was this one.

In this pictures the girls are supposed to be getting ready for dinner in the sort of girls-next-door in the dorm shot which would become familiar from pictorials at the various Playboy mansions.

Cindy leads the other girls downstairs to Chaskin and some friends.  There is something of the bordello about this shot, with the strong impression that the girls have been laid on for the men which, for Triple P, gives it a somewhat uncomfortable feeling.

Cindy looks very elegant with her hair up whilst the others choose some hip and groovy tunes and then get some dinner: steaks of course which, with Playboy always appeared to be as sophisticated as its taste in food ever got.

This lucky chap seems to have pulled Cindy.  He looks a lot older than her but then you can't always tell with  the late fifties look.

Fran and Cindy check out the indoor swimming pool and showcase some more of Mr Chaskin's tiles. 

Cindy and Fran take the plunge and the accompanying article is full of coy little references to the girls having no swimsuits but it not mattering because the pool is dark.

 The others admire Cindy's underwater talents

Of course it was then revealed that the swimming pool had a viewing port in the side leading to this rather fine picture of the submerged Cindy.

Hugh Hefner must have been very enamoured of this feature as when he had a swimming pool put into the Playboy Mansion in Chicago he made sure that it had a similar viewing window.

Cindy's next appearance in the magazine would be in September of that year when Playboy ran a pictorial called Bunny's Honeys featuring the work of photographer Bunny Yeager.

The January 1960 edition brought a new decade and the usual Playmate review which contained this picture of Cindy.  From the look of the ever-present tiles this was obviously also shot at Mr Chaskin's House.

Here is a slightly different version which is flipped from the one in the magazine but as she is wearing her watch on her left wrist this one may actually be the correct way round.

She is wearing the same outfit in this photograph which appeared in the July 1964 issue which had a feature on Playmates revisited.

Here she is as Miss June 1961 in the Playboy Calendar.  At least there are no tiles in this one!  This is a beach location which Yeager used quite often.

These three studies of a nicely damp Cindy showcase the fact that she was a professional swimmer in Florida's International Water Follies aqua show run by Sam Snyder.

Cindy is sometimes mentioned as the first Jewish Playmate but this is much disputed and it is believed that their were several before she appeared.  Whatever, she is just lovely whether she was or wasn't.

Cindy went on to be a showgirl in the Latin Quarter clubs in Miami and New York as well as being a dancer at the famous Copacabana club in New York.

Playboy certainly gets its money's worth from its photo shoots and in January 1983 this picture appeared in their newsstand special Playmates: The first fifteen years.   The picture (with lots of tiles) showcases Cindy's lovely smile.

In 1972 Cindy took up painting and now works as a professional artist and this is one of her paintings.   The picture below was taken in 2010 when she would have been 72, over fifty years since her centrefold. 

She is recognisably the same woman as in her Playboy pictures (something that is certainly not always the case with past Playmates) and still looks pretty good we think.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

American Venuses by William McGregor Paxton

 Nude (1915)

Agent Triple P has recently returned from the splendid city of Boston, Massachusetts, where he had a particularly enjoyable time as a result of a positive concatenation of factors which included extraordinarily fine weather, a well located hotel and the presence of his particular friend S from Vancouver.  Boston has, of course, a long history (for North America, anyway) and a particularly fine artistic reputation.  We were pleased, therefore, to discover, in its extremely impressive Museum of Fine Arts, this lovely nude (top) by William McGregor Paxton (1869-1941).   American galleries being more visitor-focused than British ones (whose main concern seems to be protecting revenue from postcard and print sales) we were able to photograph the painting ourself (without flash, of course).

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts last week.  The current building was opened in 1909.

Paxton was born in Baltimore but when he was a young child his family moved to Newton Corner, now a suburb of Boston and only a dozen miles west of where the Museum of Fine Arts is situated.

Glow of Gold, Gleam of Pearl 1906

We had been aware of Paxton's art before through this effective full length figure painting from around ten years earlier. Paxton won a scholarship to Boston's Cowles Art School at the age of eighteen and two years later he continued his studies in Paris under Jean-Léon Gérôme at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. He returned to Boston in 1893 where he studied under Joseph DeCamp.  His first one man exhibition was in Boston in 1900 and he was an immediate success.

Seated Nude with Sculpture (1915)

Paxton married the Parisian classical style of the likes of Gérôme with the colourist accuracy of the impressionists.  Although we are only showing his nudes here he was best known as a portraitist and was much in demand for society and political portraits. He even declined a commission to paint Theodore Roosevelt as he was "too busy".

The Red Mules

He actually taught at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School from 1906 until 1913.  He sat on many juries of the most prominent exhibitions in the US and was a major figure in the American art world.  However the spectre of modernism haunted him as it did many classical painters at the time and eventually Paxton and others in his circle were forced out of the Museum of Fine Arts to be replaced by modernists.  He had seen Matisse's work in Paris but rejected modernism and continued to paint in the traditional representational way.  He died in 1941, whilst painting a picture of his wife, at the age of 72, largely forgotten and rejected by the art establishment.  

Nausicaa (1937)

Fortunately his work has been rehabilitated of late.  The picture we saw in Boston, at the top of this post, is an excellent example of the influence of Vermeer on his work.  Paxton had studied Vermeer's paintings and observed that only one small part was painted "in focus" the rest was deliberately blurred. In Nude (1915) only the woman's breast and right arm are painted sharply and draw the eye to the centre of the painting.

Paxton's handling of composition, colour and light was remarkable and these features are at the core of his paintings.  As one of his students, RH Ives Gammell (1893-1981) put it in his book The Boston Painters 1900-1930: "His unsurpassed visual acuity combined with great technical command enabled him to report his impressions with astounding veracity.  Of all the painters whose color perception had been sharpened by plein air study he was the most accurate draftsman and he never slackened his efforts to render both shape and color just as they appeared to the artist's eye.  Paxton opined that all painters, excepting Vermeer at the top of his form, permitted some tonality absent in nature to tinge their pictures.  He constantly pointed out that the invisible atmospheric envelope through which we look is limpid, 'like a glass of pure water' and he responded to that challenge.  His best indoor paintings are distinguished by an ambient lucidity we do not find to a like degree in the pictures of other men."  Gammell, himself a realist painter whose greatest work The Hound of Heaven was completed in 1956, was the last great American painter to be trained in the classical French tradition and so was an appropriate champion for Paxton and his Boston-based contemporaries (Joseph DeCamp, Edmund Tarbell and Frank Benson who are also covered in his book).  

Monday, June 4, 2012

Updated: Venus in handcuffs: Jane Birkin

Thanks to S in Vancouver we have quite a few more pictures of Jane Birkin for the post we did on her infamous handcuffs pictorial from Lui in 1974.  You can see the updated version  here.

S sent us several other excellent Birkin pictorials so we will post them shortly.