Thursday 6 December 2012

When love comes to town

Wine and roses scattered on a moon river. Lachrymose balladry pledging eternal love, serenaded in unimpassioned vocals accompanied by an oceanic swell of a thousand strings arranged by Ray Conniff, and punctuated with an inebriated finger-snap from Dean Martin. This was the soundtrack of the Eisenhower years when these romantic illustrations illuminated the fiction pages of American mass circulation magazines. It’s a pictorial journey through the rituals of flirtation from the pick-up, via the proposition and the clinch to the rapturous kiss. Eyebrows are raised, eyelids are lowered, sidelong-glances are exchanged and audiences are scandalised. Cigarettes and alcohol calm the nerves and soothe trembling lips. Jackets and ties were not discarded lightly and the pressure to maintain a convincing show of outward respectability and suppressing all things erotic could not be disregarded. The artistic quality is highly variable – some images are resolutely banal while the best observe their subjects with wit and imagination often suggesting deeper and darker truths to be seen below the surface. Some of the female targets exhibit an air of apprehension as if they can already sense that a future of child-raising, home-making and acting the part of an executive wife may be a high price to pay for material security despite the wine and roses. 

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