Whoa, Nelly! It’s Nell Brinkley!

Lazyest Gallery cannot access Brinkley, Nell/

Who better to give us short, bittersweet glimpses of early 20th Century life in America than an actual American icon? Hey, deja-vu!

But truly, Nell Brinkley is a perfect follow-up to Thrillmer’s Flagg post. She straddled the gilded age and the jazz age both artistically and culturally; like Flagg and Gibson, she mainly worked in the vein of captioned illustrations more than what we’d strictly call comics, and she continued mining the format well past its turn-of-the-century heyday. Her “Brinkley Girls” took over the public imagination in a big way, taking over from the previously ascendant “Gibson Girls” the mantle of idealized womanhood. Abetted by the ever-improving methods of newspaper printing, her work was possessed of lines which were delicate and proliferous, lines which her masculine peers wouldn’t and couldn’t produce twenty years earlier.

Matching her voluminous style of art, Miss Brinkley’s accompanying text was likewise outsized. Where Flagg and Gibson contented themselves with a perfect sentence or phrase to caption their pieces, Brinkley produced reams of saccharine prose extolling the virtues of love and romance. But she was something of an actual journalist as well, giving lurid murder trials a female point of view. In the batch I’ve put up today, there’s an update on her most famous subject, Evelyn Nesbit Thaw, the femme fatale who drove her husband to murder and provoked the original “Trial of the Century”.

All things considered, I prefer Flagg and Gibson’s work to Brinkley’s, but I do find her work charming and gay, and I suppose that’s exactly what it aimed to be.

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