Today marks the 30-month anniversary of "Carole & Co." It was precisely 2 1/2 years ago -- June 13, 2007 -- that I began this community as a way of honoring my all-time favorite actress.
More than 1,000 entries later, "Carole & Co." has 140 members (and please spread the word about us to your friends who are fans of classic Hollywood -- I'd love to reach the 150 mark before year's end). Additionally, my quest to uncover all things Carole Lombard has (figuratively) taken me places I scarcely imagined all those months ago.
Art history, for instance.
No, Carole was never the subject of a portrait by Da Vinci or Rembrandt (although had they met her, they'd likely have wanted to paint her). But between the world wars, screen stars were viewed as ethereal; their sheer size projected upon motion picture screens made them seem almost godlike to the public. So it was no wonder that many of the top artists of the day -- both in painting and the increasingly sophisticated art of still photography -- wanted to capture these images, often while the artists were in the employ of magazines or other media tied into the movie business.
I'm not sure why the following portrait of Lombard was made, but I'm certainly glad it was:
Awe-inspiring, isn't it? By the way, that's glare from the reflection, not an inherent defect of the painting. Here's proof:
Finally, a closeup of that fabulous face:
To borrow a line from Cole Porter, Carole, you're just out of this world. One almost expects her to turn to you and say, "Excuse me, but I've got to be heading back to Mount Olympus." (Of course, Lombard never put on such airs when dealing with people, one reason she was so beloved in the film community.)
Now that you've seen the portrait, made in 1940, some information on the artist who created it, a man with the unlikely name of George Maillard Kesslere (1894-1979). Kesslere, a Syracuse University graduate, began his career in 1915 as a photographer in that upstate New York town, gaining renown for his portraits; in 1921, he opened an office in Manhattan, shutting the Syracuse studio the following year. During the 1920s, he took many portraits of Broadway stars, such as this one of Lombard's friend Tallulah Bankhead:
In 1927, he took this portrait of a pre-movies Mae West to promote her new play "The Wicked Age," as Mae shows off the legs she largely kept under wraps in film (by then, she was over 40):
Kesslere's paintings were in the impressionist style, as in this one, "View Of Istanbul":
His Lombard portrait measures 27" x 23" framed, and is considered in near-perfect condition. According to the seller, "Pastel needs to be repressed in frame to smooth out slight waves in paper. Frame has some minor damage."
The seller isn't really sure of its origin, but suspects Kesslere photographed Lombard first, then used it as a basis for the painting, adding, "I've owned this pastel along with a couple of other works oh his for the past 25 years. I came upon them in an auction lot from the east coast." (Some folks have all the luck.)
It won't come cheaply -- bidding begins at $699 -- but no one has bid on it as of this writing. Bidding will close at 12:30 a.m. (Eastern) on Tuesday. If you're interested, or just want to check it out, go to http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=260522349512&_trksid=p2759.l1259.
Now excuse me; after viewing that Lombard portrait, I have a hankering to listen to this Julie London album: