Saturday, March 27, 2010
Marie Flatscher is one of my favorite artists - her work is found on PFB published postcards and on Meissner Buch published postcards, plus on some cards where the publisher is not given. She has a witty, humorous way of portraying children both in natural child settings, and doing adult things as in her children-driving-thru-the-countryside designs like the one above. Her colors are bright and her draftmanship sure and confident. Once in a while sellers list cards with awkward children on them as Marie Flatscher designs, but once you have developed an eye for Flatscher's work, you won't be misled. A small number of her designs are signed with her initials M.F., but most of our collection consists of unsigned images.
Some tell-tale signs of a Marie Flatscher design include the old-fashioned baby's bottle, and some soggy socks drooping around the toddlers' ankles. Along with the socks, shoes are often missing or simply slippers. Her children's faces are unmistakable, though, with their sweet winning smiles and bright eyes. Here's an Easter design that shows the Flatscher footwear and the wonderful facial expression. A great big chick joins in the Easter celebration and the background is pastel flowers - pale pink/violet. Most of Flatscher's designs are embossed and all the ones in this post fall into that category. Some of the Meissner Buch published designs are flat - and some of them are quite elegant fantasy images with children in flowering trees, in starry skies and other magical settings. The PFB designs are easier to find in the U.S. and the M&B designs seem more numerous in Europe.
Below is another countryside design where the children are shown in motorized freedom - there's a design where they have chased a goose off the road while they zoom along in their auto, for instance. Here they are having a picnic, with wine for big brother (he isn't THAT big!) and a milk bottle for baby sister. Flatscher often shows her children with dogs or cats, and she is just as masterful at portraying pets.
PFB published a childhood set of Marie Flatscher designs that shows children at home playing with siblings and animals, surrounded by toys. Above is one of the childhood designs where baby and brother are on a red rocking horse. The poetry can be touching or surprising, as each extolls the joys of childhood...sometimes by comparing the carefree younger years to the stresses and woes of adulthood. The poem on this card says, With whip and spur they merrily course, They've ridden far today. What though their steed's a wooden horse, What hunter's life's so gay!
Here is another childhood design, this time with baby and big sister, an old-fashioned jester doll at the foot of the red cradle. This time the poetry reads: Sunny little faces always gay, Little airs and graces all the day. How their little dimples charm away our care, Make our mighty troubles vanish into air.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
There are many different sets of alphabet cards, some whimsical and some glamorous, with everything from animals to beautiful women illustrating the letters. Here we show just a sampling of the types you might wish to collect...some real photo alphabet cards, black and white designs, some with color tinting, and contributions by artists Ellen H. Clapsaddle and Catherine Klein.
This letter B is from one of the simplest and easiest to find series. Each letter is filled with portraits of pretty women. These cards are printed in black and white - we have not seen them in color - if you have, please let us know!
Another black and white series uses real photo postcards to illustrate the alphabet, with women and children in unusual outdoor scenes. Below is an example, showcasing the letter F with two little girls and a lady beside a lake. This series has a fantasy air about it - here one of the little girls is perched on the letter, wearing her white Victorian outfit and broad-brimmed hat. The woman appears to be dressed in a long wrap, and she poses dramatically. Each letter has a different image. Probably the most popular letter in this collectible series is the letter D which has a camera in the design.
Below we see another real photo postcard, this time for the letter N, with quite a different style. In this spare and clean studio image, two girls hold a big letter and look at the camera with reserved, delicate smiles. The card has nice tinting on the girls' dresses.
Below we have one of the more colorful series, an unsigned alphabet designed by artist Ellen H. Clapsaddle, with cheerful winged cherubs carrying or playing on the letters. This beautiful series is done in shades of blue, green and teal, with rich embossing (although the earliest versions are on flat, undivided back postcards) and the designs have shining gold added.
On the left is a floral alphabet card, represented by the fancy letter O which is embossed in gold. The letters in this series are surrounded by flowers, and each has a nice natural look to it - a bit more casual than the floral arrangements on many Victorian postcards. Here the floral decoration is a cluster of violets and leaves, making it clear that the letter is not always illustrated by a scene that in any way refers to the letter or a word beginning with the letter.
An exception to this would be the animal series, where each illustration is specifically tied to the letter. "A for APE" is the first card in one of the series, for instance.
Catherine Klein illustrated a fine alphabet series with her beautiful floral artwork. Here we have an example - the letter P illustrated with multicolored Pansies. Pansies do start with a P, of course, and since the French word for the flowers is Pensees, which means Thoughts, it is apt that she used these colorful little blossoms in this signed illustration. This is a particularly appealing series and the prices commanded by these Klein postcards make that clear.
We close with a postcard from a series that uses large letters that look like wood. Sometimes they incorporate odd-shaped trees, as in this letter M where the two uprights of the letter are rooted in the ground. This is a printed series, with soft colors, and each letter has its own scene. This romantic landscape finds a gentleman reading to his lady-love - if there's an M in there, we don't know what it is!
Price Estimates: Alphabet cards are fun to collect and they represent some of the largest series with 26 cards in each. You can collect all of one design, or mix the designs in your personal alphabet. The different series of alphabet cards vary widely in price, with the example letter B shown here going for a few dollars, to the signed Catherine Klein cards costing up to $35 or more depending on the rarity of the letter. The pretty Clapsaddle designs may be found as high as $30 each, but careful bidding will acquire them for less. These estimates are for cards in EXCELLENT condition, and they are only estimates of current prices.
Monday, March 15, 2010
The Reutlinger Studio in Paris was opened in 1850 and took photos of the famous and fashionable until 1937 - many stars of the stage in cabarets and opera houses found their way to Reutlinger, and many cabinet photos and real photo postcards survive for the contemporary collector to enjoy.
This post looks at the variety the Reutlinger Studios produced on real photo postcards, from famous actresses to pretty ladies to charming little girls. Always beautiful, sometimes fantastical, the Reutlingers often used combined or multiple images, sometimes adding props and artist's embellishments, to create designs that would capture the imagination. Here are two postcards of well-known performers, De Toledo and Anna Held, each using repeating images with different colored tinting to create dramatic postcards.There were actually three Reutlingers in this French family of German descent. Charles founded the studio in 1850 to take portraits of actors, artists, musicians, composers, singers and dancers of the time. Thirty years later, Charles gave the studio's leadership to his brother, Emile, who was joined by his son, Leopold-Emile a few years later. Leopold-Emile took over the studio in 1890, adding erotic images to the Reutlinger portfolio. The studio flourished, making photographs for commercial and advertising usage, but also mass-producing portraits of performers for the adoring and collecting public. These are the images modern-day collectors prize, too.
Here we see a lovely lady attended by winged toddler angels in a sepia-tone image. The fact that the woman's name is not printed on the card does not necessarily mean she was a private client or model - she may have been a performer so famous (like the three women in the close-up trio portrait with which we open this post) that her name was known to all who saw her. It does make it harder for the present-day collector to identify her status, however!
Below is a photo montage of a performer posed against a lady's fan, surrounded by painted blossoms. Adding these visual elements allowed Reutlinger to use portraits of the stars in different sets, each with its own unifying design.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Living in Florida, we have a special fondness for Bathing Beauty postcards, showing off the joys of the surf and the beach 100 years ago, with swimmers out to bask in the sun as we do today...except for the vastly different bathing suits which were then made of wool, covered most of the body, and left ladies hanging onto ropes in the surf for safety once their wet bathing suits weighed them down. Some of the Victorian bathing beauties wore colorful leggings, others had bare legs. Some bathing suits were more demure, others quite revealing. At the time, they were all considered daring, and bathing beauty postcards often include men trying to catch a peek or a photograph like the fellow on the early undivided back postcard at the right. Above we see a classic embossed and Made in Germany Bathing Beauty postcard, with three lovely ladies out for the day. One uses her binoculars to explore the view, another takes a break from her summer reading, and the third waves to a friend. These ladies are all wearing fantastic colorful bathing suits, the blue-and-white one having peek-a-boo openings up the thigh - her sailor suit design was also popular for ladies' shirtwaist dresses and children's outfits. We love these embossed designs, each with lively characters and bright colors, and included several of them in our framed display shown at the end of this post. They are not difficult to find, but they only represent one type of bathing beauty postcard.
Below is a more unusual highly-embossed and airbrushed bathing beauty on a card that illustrates the safety rope mentioned above. This bathing suit is more modest, with a skirt and sleeves.
Rafael Tuck of England published a very attractive series, Greetings from the Seaside. We show two examples from the set here - not only are pretty bathing beauties in abundance, but children and dogs appear to complete the day-at-the-beach images. A variety of well-crafted designs and nice embossing add to the charm of the series.