Monday, January 21, 2008

Flair Magazine

Discovering Flair Magazine is like stumbling upon a small street in Manhattan paved with cobblestones and lined with old townhouses. It's filled with history and its own peculiar charm, but there's also a timeless quality about it.

I did some research a while back for an article about Flair, which published 12 issues from February 1950 to December 1951. I first glimpsed Flair when I found the hard-cover Flair Annual of 1953 in a used book shop. Here is what I found within its pages: a small blue 16-page booklet, measuring 6” by 9”, bound within the large book, “The Flower of Flowers,” by Katherine Anne Porter, about the history of the rose; a two-page water color of the Place Vendome, with little flaps opening onto small water color renditions of its establishments: Elizabeth Arden, the Ritz bar, the fashion house of Schiaparelli. The annual also featured articles about calligraphic art in Italy, photographs by Walker Evans, art work by Saul Steinberg, an article about Chile by its national poet, Gabriela Mistral, a Degas sketchbook…

I tracked down two issues of Flair, each with a cover story and articles devoted to two places I love: the March 1950 issue on Spain and the September 1950 issue about New York City. Like the 1953 Annual, the magazines had a signature die-cut front cover: one had a map of Spain with the face of a stylized bull peeking through, the other had a windowpane die-cut framing the Statue of Liberty in silhouette against colorful waves, etched in different colors, in the design of a quilt.)

The New York issue has a 9 ½ by 6 ½ booklet of 16 pages, called “The City,” which is a photo-montage, pen-and-ink delight by Saul Steinberg. Garbage cans, burlap bags, cardboard boxes and an old curio cabinet are transformed with a few strokes into a classic New York City street scene. In the Spain issue, Salvador Dali has an article about “The Gypsy Angels of Spain,” with his own illustrations. There’s a quirky article about beds, including photos of the camp bed in which Napoleon died and a Mae West swan-barge bed from her 1928 play Diamond Lil.

For those of you who enjoy vintage fashion, altered books, pop-up books, tag art or small hand made books, I think Flair is well worth the hunt. Try eBay, but don't neglect the online bookstores and vintage magazine shops.

From Jean Sullivan: Hi, Linda, I enjoyed the blog on Flair. I also have the annual you mentioned, in additional to a few more of the mgzs. You have inspired me to see which ones. They were always my favorites with their inserts, peek-a-boo covers, art and design. Thanks for the memories! Jean

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