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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

William Russell Flint

I could find no reliable title for this but it bears a strong
resemblance to Flint's Variations series dating from the
first decade of the 20th-century.
When men think of nude images of women (and who doesn't from time to time?) the format one contemplates depends on the individual's age. Personally, I grew up in the age of Playboy, though I led a rather sheltered life. I don't recall for sure, but I think I was over eighteen the first time I ever actually read one up close and personal (only the articles, of course). I do recall that back then, in the early 1960s, you had to be over twenty-one to actually buy a copy. That changed, to eighteen by the end of the decade, the thought being that if you were old enough to fight in Vietnam, you were old enough to buy Playboy. Shortly thereafter hard core pornography raised its ugly head. And today all that is somewhat antique, given the Internet where every level of nudity, both male and female is readily available with just a few keystrokes.
The Red Portfolio, William Russell Flint
If nude pictures of sexy ladies bring to mind mostly pinup calendars, then you must be well into your eighties. And before that, there was the fine art of the British painter, Sir William Russell Flint. Yes, a pinup artists was knighted by King George VI in 1947 (maybe he was a connoisseur of such art). Of course the proper Englishman wouldn't have called Flint's ladies "pinups." And even if they knew such a crass term back then, Flint's art was always a notch or two above the salacious, resting comfortably at what might be called tastefully erotic or artistically nude (never naked). Moreover, Flint's "tasteful nudes" were, often as not, fully clothed (above, though sometimes just barely), or at most only semi-nude (lots of bare breasts).
There seems to be no self-portraits, only photos of Flint
taken late in life.
Born in Edinburgh, in 1880, William Russell Flint's prodigious talent was discovered at an early age. His art studies began at the Royal Institution School of Art in Edinburgh, after which he served a six year apprenticeship at a large printing works. Around 1900, Flint decided to move to London and become a medical illustrator. In 1903, at the age of twenty-three, he joined the Illustrated London News which allowed him to travel to the far reaches of the British Empire. Then around 1907, Flint became a freelance artist, which lead him to illustrate a number of classical limited editions such as Mallory's Morte D'Arthur, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Homer's Odyssey (below).
In the early years of his career, Flint's work was somewhat
classical, though with a tendency to show lots of skin.
Flint served in the First World War, which took him back to his native Scotland. After World War I, William Russell Flint's artistic career began to flourish. He painted in France and Spain where he produced impressive renderings (mostly watercolors) reflecting the local scenery and culture. During visits to Spain, Flint was impressed by Spanish dancers, whom he depicted often throughout his career. Although Flint enjoyed considerable commercial success, he garnered little respect from critics, who were disturbed by a perceived crassness in his erotic treatment of the female figure (below). Flint was active as an artist until his death in London in December, of 1969 at the age of eighty-nine.
The seeds of the calendar pinup, Playboy, and even Internet erotica.
Flint's images are from the first half of the 20th-century.

Models For Olympians, William Russell Flint. A
glimpse inside the artist's studio.

Shortly before the artists death he released
 a second version of his original Variation on
a Theme. I wonder how many buyers realized
it was simply a reversal of the original.

William Russell Flint, W. S..
Gilbert, Savoy Operas. Princess
Ida: "I can tell a woman's age in
half a minute—and I do."

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