A Young Man’s Fancy by Coles Phillips, 1912

Last summer I posted two photos of art by Coles Phillips that I discovered at an antiques show.  And while I loved the prints, there were a bit pricey, so I promptly forgot about Mr. Phillips and his pretty girl art.

Yesterday I decided to visit one of my (formerly) favorite places to find vintage treasures.  What was five years ago a thriving and exciting antiques market is now pretty much not worth the two hour drive.  In a town that once had six great antique stores and malls, one has closed, two are selling a great deal of reproductions, and one is barely clinging to life.

After four hours of “shopping” I’d found nothing to buy and little to even photograph to share here.  I was about to skip the barely clinging to life mall, then thought I’d might as well waste another twenty minutes.  This is a place that once had antiques and vintage items over three floors of an old department store, and now there are just a few booths left.

I spotted a rack of books, and an old, beat up, plain volume caught my eye,  A Young Man’s Fancy by Coles Phillips.  I couldn’t place the name, but I knew I’d encountered it somewhere, so I picked up the book and opened it.  The first print reminded me of the ones I’ve loved so much last summer.  And the price was more than reasonable.  Suddenly the trip didn’t seem wasted any longer.

The book is a series of sappy poems, or maybe it is just one long poem, but that is not what is important.  The prints are incredible, and there is a brief biographical sketch in the book that explains Phillips’s technique, which he called the Fadeaway Girl.  He usually used his wife as his model and the book is dedicated to her.

Phillips developed this technique after observing how the figure of a musician friend, dressed in black in a darkened room, seemed to be just suggested by his face, hands, and white shirt while his body faded into the room.  He worked on the concept in black and white, and then in 1908  did his first fadeaway in color for a magazine cover.  It was a huge success, and Phillips became a highly sought after commercial artist.  He did numerous magazine covers and he also designed ads for magazines.  You can read more about Coles Phillips and see more of his work at American Art Archives.

Many of the illustrations in my book appeared first in ads or on magazine covers. Not all use the fadeaway technique, but the fadeaways are my favorites.

The book sells online for $70 up, but my copy is in terrible shape, so the real value is in the prints.  I will most likely have my favorites framed.

The small pictures on the screen in this print are tiny reproductions of the other prints in the book.

Proof that you really cannot judge a book by its cover.

25 Comments

Filed under Collecting, Curiosities

25 responses to “A Young Man’s Fancy by Coles Phillips, 1912

  1. Diana coleman

    Wonderful prints. They will be stunning framed!

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  2. So interesting, Lizzie. How large are the prints/pages in the book?

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  3. Fabulous illustrations! Thank you for sharing them.
    The black & white striped one is my favorite. And — she is pointing at the image that she is in — so the woman in the image is also pointing at her own image, which is pointing at her own image…. into infinity! How surreal. And beautiful.

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  4. These are wonderful–so glad you shared!

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  5. What a truly amazing find.I love the Fade-away girls by C.Coles Phillips and these examples are all new to me. Fabulous!

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  6. Oh, what beautiful graphic art! I’m so glad you found and saved this treasure! They will be perfect as framed prints!

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  7. Carrie

    Hooray for finding a treasure when you’ve all but given up! I hadn’t heard of Coles Phillips before, but those prints are beyond stunning, and this will be one time when removing pages from the original will actually be a salvage operation!

    Sad about all those antiques business vanishing or diluting… It’s not as if the past got less interesting (or that there’s less of it!), so wonder what accounts for the regrettable downturn..

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    • Carrie, I’m not sure, but it does seem to be a trend, at least here in my corner of the world. People seem to be interested in vintage more than ever, but it appears that the businesses just are not thriving. I’ve noticed that even the big Charlotte, NC flea market is shrinking.

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  8. These are wonderful! I particularly love the winter scene.

    How sad about the antique market. I wonder what happened to it.

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  9. Another wonderful piece of American fashion history! My favorite is the last one, with the stripes. You are really a gold medal explorer.

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  10. How lovely! Thanks for the intro.

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  11. Oh my, these illustrations are spell binding, love them!
    As for antique shopping–here on the west coast it’s the same: fewer spaces, fewer true antiques or vintage even at the flea markets. While alternative local sources here such as Craigslist offer antiques and vintage without a cut in profit for booth rentals and such, my guess is that sellers of smaller items do more volume selling online, and those online prices under-cut what profit they might make by selling in antique malls or swap meets. The cost of brick and mortar retail is just too much for many vintage sellers to cover.

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  12. Christina

    Norman Rockwell in his autobiography describes Cole Phillips and himself using the same model.

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  13. Those are beautiful illustrations and I too had never seen them. What a great find. In my area, near Seattle, all the local antique malls also closed down and it’s so sad. I loved to browse around in those malls. I wonder if they are all on eBay now?

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  14. Absolutely stunning. What a great find!

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  15. Tom

    Thanks for sharing. Stunning illustrations. Could you tell me the dimensions of the print pages in the book?

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  16. Pingback: Shopping with the Vintage Traveler: Hendersonville, NC | The Vintage Traveler

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