Gentle reader, might I beg a moment of your time to help with an artistic mystery? I cannot figure out the artist or context of a 1943 sketch I bought at a flea market!
A few weeks back, I bought an intriguing sketch. But I need help trying to figure out who might have drawn it, and to what purpose. If you can provide any help, it would make my day.
…of the woman I love!
“You are speaking of the woman I love!”
So runs the caption under the drawing that I purchased at Lewes Flea Market on Saturday 13 April 2019.
The seller had simply labelled the picture “original sketch.” The sketch depicts a lively and seemingly good-natured chat in a (possibly rather sophisticated) bar between two chaps in WWII naval officer uniforms and a gent in a suit, as a white-jacketed barman looks on, smiling. The picture appears to be in pencil, pastel and charcoal, with touches of white paint to accent the seated naval type’s cigarette smoke, and to make the odd minor correction.
This looks to me like an illustration (or a preliminary sketch for an illustration) for a story that might have run in a newspaper or illustrated magazine in the 1940s. Indeed, there is a handwritten date on the back, 11 November 1943. Presuming that it is British or English in origin, this makes me wonder if it might have been for an official publication to help keep up the spirits of the armed or naval forces (paper rationing having been a priority back then – so I shouldn’t imagine this was for a “civilian” publication).
There is some additional handwritten information to the bottom-right of the image. This is where things get intriguing. I cannot quite decipher the handwriting here. It appears that we might have both the name of the artist and the name of the story.
Sea change or sex change?
Let us start with what might be the title of the story, or of this particular image from this story.
Could it be…
“Mr Pringle’s [or Mr Bringle’s] Sea Change”?
Or – and this is probably significantly more unlikely, given the era, but it would make the picture oh so much more intriguing – might it even be…
“Mr Pringle’s [or Mr Bringle’s] Sex Change”?
Were it a sex change of which they spake, could the besuited gent have only recently become a gent? Is this the real reason for the barman’s wry smile?
Who was that mystery artist?
The possible signature of the artist is altogether harder to decipher. Might it be Elaine Austin? Frank Dustin? What on earth does it say?
Finally, the text to the bottom right of the picture would appear to be instructions to the printer. I am guessing that “4 1/8 x 5 3/4” refers to the intended final size of the printed image, in inches. And it looks like those last words could perhaps be “with text as key”?
Besides the date, the information on the back of the sketch is even more flummoxingly difficult to read. Your guess, gentle reader, is as good as mine here.
If anyone out there is good at figuring out challenging handwriting, I would love to know what you think is written on this image. If you know anything about WWII publications, I would love to know where this image might have been used. And if you have any theories as to the storyline of Mr Pringle’s or Bringle’s sea change or sex change, I would love to hear them!
Thank you for taking the time to read the essentials of this artistic mystery, and may today be nothing but kind to you and yours.