Saturday, May 14, 2022

Today in Comics History, May 14: Happy birthday, Thomas Gainsborough!

Hello, art lovers! (Put that down!) Today let's get out our paints and canvas and turpentine (do not drink it!) and daub up a birthday greeting to the man who invented the color blue and the Gainsburger dog food patty, Thomas Gainsborough (born in 1727)! Well, not 'xactly, but that's good enough for me, along with my theory that William of Orange invented orange and Violet Beauregard...well, my theories may be laughed at in the art world, but I say, who will laugh last? The art world, that's who.

No, while Gainsborough may not have invented the color blue, he was a pioneer in the field of Blue Studies, which is why a scholar of blue is generally named a gainsboroloist. Y'see, his contemporary, Sir Joshua Reynolds, President of the Royal Academy and inventor of tin foil, believed
...that the masses of light in a picture be always of a warm, mellow colour, yellow, red, or a yellowish white, and that the blue, the grey, or the green colours be kept almost entirely out of these masses.
Luckily (or we might not have gotten Blue Beetle), Gainsborough disagreed, punched Reynolds in the snoot, and painted his most famous work of art, The Blue Boy, which combined several shades of blue and made the color the predominant shade in the work. Of course, Gainsborough is always renowned in the art world for his Mr and Mrs Andrews; Portrait of Mrs. Graham; Mary and Margaret: The Painter's Daughters; William Hallett, The Morning Walk; and Cottage Girl with Dog and Pitcher, and the ever-classic Girl with Pigs.

But the heck with those, let's look at some comic books!

from "Imagine That" in Rocket Kelly #2 (Fox, Winter 1945), creators uncredited and unknown

Oh, that's all well and good, you say, but has Thomas Gainsborough ever been in a Superman comic book? How can he be a great artist if he's never appeared in a Superman comic book? Well, I'm glad you asked that question.

In order to nab a couple criminal art dealers who have swindled Jimmy Olsen out of his life's savings (not that that's a difficult or infrequent task; Jimmy once lost a bet to a wharf rat and had to be the rat's butler for three issues), Superman devises a confidence game to trap the crooks in their own art forgery racket. So he travels back in time to visit great masters of painting in order to memorize their techniques and then paint forgeries for the villains so they can...I dunno, cheat Lois Lane out of her life savings. Look, I don't write these, I just read the things.

from "You, Too, Can Be a Super-Artist!" in Superman (1939 series) #211 (November 1968), script by Frank Robbins, pencils by Ross Andru, inks by Mike Esposito

The comet de-ages him back to Superboy and (giggle, snort) colors him blue. Y'know, because comic books! And Mort Weisinger, probably. When he encounters Gainsborough in 1770...well, the artist simply has to paint Kal! No mention of him wearing his underwear on the street or of his blueberry face, but then again, Thomas Gainsborough was famous as a man of tact.

Clark is The Blue Boy! Hands up anybody who didn't see that one coming.

After more travelling through time, visiting and stealing learning the techniques of several famous artists, Clark returns to the present, where he is hired to paint forgeries of the world's most famous artwork so that the sordid art dealers can pawn them off on unsuspecting chumps! Oh, put away your checkbook, Jimmy!

Can you spot what trap Clark sent for the soon-to-be jailbirds of the art world with his reproduction of The Blue Boy? You have been given all the clues!

And that's about all you need to know about Thomas Gainsborough, except maybe that his Girl with Pigs is a pretty cool work of art itself. LOOKIT THOSE PIGS they're so cute!

Happy birthday, Tom!

No comments: