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.