I wrote a post last year on Margaret Brundage. I don’t really have anything to add. But given all the brouhaha about art lately (see Daughter of Naked Slave Girls, Illustrated Edition as an example of what I’m talking about), I thought I would put up a few scans of some of her work to mark the occasion.
Note to those who are uptight or only want other people to enjoy/like/appreciate the same things they like: Brundage’s work is about as politically incorrect as you can get and often features nubile young women wearing little to no clothing and being threatened or bound (or both) in some manner. If this might offend you, then rather than clicking the READ MORE link, do us both a favor and go somewhere else.
Brundage is best remembered for her work on Weird Tales. As such, she’s often associated with Robert E. Howard since a number of her covers illustrated his stories. The cover to the left doesn’t, but it’s indicative of the type of work you’ll see on both the cover of Weird Tales in the 1930s (no matter the artist) and of Brundage’s work in general.
More Weird Tales on the right. The two covers are similar in some respects, except the man threatening the girl is wearing a robe that covers more of his body. The girl is also wearing more, in this case a filmy see-through gown rather than a chain of flowers.
It wasn’t uncommon for writers submitting to Weird Tales to put in scenes like this one, often gratuitous, in which a beautiful young woman would be menaced or shackled or menaced while shackled, all the time wearing her birthday suit and a look of terror. Seabury Quinn probably had the most covers of this nature. While the picture above doesn’t illustrate one of his stories, if very well could have.
Here’s another scene of a woman being menaced. I’m sure someone somewhere is offended and having a fit of the vapors that this picture even exists much less that I posted it. Because according to them, it’s anti-woman. The fact that it was drawn by a woman is usually lost on these folks.
This time the story is by Jack Williamson. Williamson would go on to write some of the classics of science fiction during the Campbell era (Have you read “With Folded Hands”? Stop what you’re doing and read it if you haven’t.) and continued to publish until well into the 21st Century. What many people don’t realize is that he was a regular in Weird Tales before he started writing for Campbell.
More women, more menacing. I was going to include an example of work Brundage had done for a magazine other than Weird Tales, but then I came across this picture as I was looking for illustrations for this post. It’s not one of the covers you see reprinted very often, at least I haven’t. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, I’d never seen it before tonight.
It’s got everything Brundage tended to put in her work. Beautiful and voluptuous woman wearing little to nothing? Check. While in the example I’ve included, the woman is a little more covered than your stereotypical Brundage damsel, I saw another version of this one that showed a bit more than probably could have been included on a cover back in the thirties. Menacing male figure with a slightly oriental appearance? Check. Some bizarre statue somewhere in the frame, possibly an idol? Check.
The final example of Brundage’s work is a cover for Oriental Stories. Not everything Margaret Brundage did involved themes of bondage or menace. Just a beautiful girl (scantily clad, I grant you) engaging in a dance. There’s nothing here that would rouse cries of misogyny from any self-appointed guardians of our eyes and minds. Well, actually the fact that a beautiful girl is shown engaging in a dance (and presumably enjoying it) while not wearing much would probably be enough to knot someone’s knickers all by itself.
Margaret Brundage was definitely an artist from another time and place, with values and tastes that, shall we say, are not up to contemporary standards. Fine. Deal with it. While you do that, I’m going to enjoy her paintings and try to imagine what it was like during the Depression to go to the newsstand every month and see a new issue of Weird Tales, especially one with a Margaret Brundage cover.