Monday, May 11, 2009

Walter Jardine, Illustrator

From Alfredo to the Indies in Your Undies
The late, great Alfredo Alcala often cited J. C. Leyendecker as a major influence on his work. When we asked him about Walter Jardine, he always hemmed and hawed. Maybe he was hoping to keep Jardine to himself. Until recently about the only place one could find Walter Jardine's work was in Arthur Guptill's Drawing in Pen and Ink.

During a recent expedition through 1926 Collier's magazines I discovered this beautifully-rendered (and rather oddly-conceived) Jardine drawing in an ad for B.V.D. undergarments.
The cultural subtext of this illustration simply begs for deconstruction. Here are three strapping gents (Englishmen, probably) lolling about in their undies while an obsequious, turbaned native serves them tea. It's okay for him to see the sahibs in their skivvies because he's after all just a servant. The "white" gentlemen don't even notice him. What are they discussing? Cricket? Tiger hunting out in Indi-yah? And just how are we supposed to answer that saucy question, "What's back of that B.V.D. label"?

I feel these questions bear asking because of a smaller Jardine B.V.D. ad in a later issue. Unfortunately my scan screwed up. I'll have to go back to the library to get a post-able image. This ad shows two manly Americans in a forest. They stand by their tent, wearing only their undies, listening to records on a wind-up phonograph. "Next to myself," the headline reads, "I like B.V.D.'s best." Shades of Brooke Shields and her Calvins! The copy on this ad informs us, "The test of underwear comfort is to be able to forget you have underwear on!" Hmm. Are these guys forgetting?

Speaking of Alcala, the middle Englishman's face is about as Alfredo as an Englishman can get without turning Filipino.

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