The Brinkley Girls
Cartoon Art Museum exhibition: March 21 – August 23, 2009
The Cartoon Art Museum presents The Brinkley Girls, a celebration of one of the most popular cartoonists of the early 20th century, Nell Brinkley. This retrospective, guest-curated by comics herstorian Trina Robbins, showcases over 30 lavishly illustrated newspaper tearsheets, magazine illustrations, original artworks and other highlights from Robbins’s personal collection.
Details regarding the opening reception and a special presentation by Trina Robbins will be announced shortly.
About Nell Brinkley:
For over thirty years Nell Brinkley’s beautiful girls waltzed, vamped and shimmied their way through the pages of William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers, captivating the American public with their innocent sexuality.
In 1907, at the tender age of 22, Nell Brinkley came to New York to draw for the Hearst syndicate. Within a year, she had become a household name. Flo Ziegfeld dressed his dancers as “Brinkley Girls” in the Ziegfeld Follies. Three popular songs were written about her. Women, aspiring to the masses of curly hair with which Nell adorned her fetching and idealized creations, could buy Nell Brinkley Hair Curlers for ten cents a card. Young girls cut out and saved her drawings, copied them, colored them, and pasted them in scrapbooks.
Nell Brinkley widened her scope to include pen and ink depictions of working women. Brinkley used her fame to campaign for better working conditions and higher pay for women who had joined in the war effort, and who were suffering economic and social dislocation due to acting on their patriotism. Unlike most of her contemporaries, she drew women of different races and cultures.
Today, except for a small group of avid collectors, she is unjustly forgotten.
But no longer. The forthcoming Fantagraphics Books publication The Art of Nell Brinkley collects Brinkley’s exquisitely colored full page art from 1913 to 1940. Here are her earliest silent movie serial-inspired adventure series, “Golden Eyes and Her Hero, Bill;” her almost too romantic series, “Betty and Billy and Their Love Through the Ages;” her snappy flapper comics from the 1920s; her 1937 pulp magazine-inspired “Heroines of Today.” Included are photos of Nell, reproductions of her hitherto unpublished paintings, and an informative introduction by the book’s editor, Trina Robbins.
Retired cartoonist and current comics historian Trina Robbins has been writing graphic novels, comics, and books for over 30 years. Her subjects have ranged from Wonder Woman and the Powerpuff Girls to her own teenage superheroine, GoGirl!, and from women cartoonists and superheroines to women who kill. She lives in a moldering 103 year old house in San Francisco with her cats, shoes, and dust bunnies.