Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Most Searched Item: August 2010

This month's highest new entry: Zoe Saldana

We are still trying to catch up so here are the top searches for August.

1 (1) Linda Lusardi. Looks uncatchable.
2 (2) Pubic Wars. Stays at number two.
3 (5) Louann Fernald. Back into third for vegan beauty.
4 (4) Elizabeth Ann Roberts. Schoolgirl Playmate is ever popular.
5 (13) Polynesian Girls. Big jump this month. Must be the weather.
6 (6) Sue and Louise Elvin. Mother and daughter hold steady.
7 (12) Sofia Helqvist. Big jump for Swedish Royal totty.
8 (-) Zoe Saldana. First entry for Star Trek star.

Maureen from the golden age of slinky!

9 (24) Maureen O'Hara. Big climb for Hollywood star.
10 (3) Evelyn Treacher. First US Penthouse Pet dives.
11 (21) Susan Ryder. Big jump for Seventies Pet.
12 (-) Jacqueline Onassis. First entry, on back of Hustler pictures.
13 (10) Gloria Root. Sixties Playmate stays in there.
14 (17) Hyapatia Lee. Up a few places.
15 (-) Hustler magazine. New entry for seventies magazine.
16 (25) Veronica Zemanova. Big climb for bouncy Czech.
17 (20) Melodye Prentiss. The other popular sixties Playmate.
18 (-) Helen Antonaccio. Pretty good showing as we only have a couple of pictures of her.
19 (15) Piranha 3D. An eagerly awaited film, obviously.
20 (8) Lani Todd. Big drop for Playmate.
21 (-) Tahitian girls. More South Seas lovelies.
22 (7) Kelly Brook. Kelly drops!
23 (-) Francoise Pascal. First time entry for French lovely.
24 (-) Stephanie McLean. Re-entry for Page 3 and Penthouse girl.
25 (-) Pamela Saunders. First appearance for buck-toothed Playmate.

No less than eight new entries this month with the highest being Zoe Saldana. Highest climber within the chart is, surprisingly, Maureen O'Hara. Biggest faller is Marguerite Empey who crashes out of the chart having been ninth last month.

The top ten artistic searches were:

Tom Poulton: 3 girls with dildo

1 (4) Tom Poulton. First time at number one for last month's new entry.
2 (2) David Hamilton. English girlie photographer stays at number 2.
3 (1) Mario Tauzin. French artist stays in top 3.
4 (-) Vargas. First time in list for pin up artist.
5 (7) Gil Elvgren. Up two for American pin-up artist.
6 (-) Anders Zorn. Swedish painter makes return.
7 (3) Herbert Draper. Drops four.
8 (9) Lady Godiva by John Collier. Most popular individual painting.
9 (10) Marie Louise O'Murphy. Not quite getting back up there.
10 (8) Fritz Willis. Another US pin-up master.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Finnish Venus: Saimi's Back by Eero Järnefelt

Saimi's Back date unkown

Eero Järnefelt was another fine painter from the Finnish golden age and parts of his story link to those of Akseli Gallen-Kallela, the character of Aino and Sibelius.

The artist's father General August Alexander Järnefelt

Eero Erik Nikolai Järnefelt (8 November 1863-15 November 1937) was born in Viipurii, then part of Finland but now named Vyborg and located, since the end of World War 2 in Russia. In fact, Järnefelt's father was a General in the Russian army and his mother Elisabeth (née Clodt von Jürgensburg) was from St Petersburg. Although he started his art studies in Helsinki it was the time he spent studying at the St Petersburg Academy of Arts, under his uncle Mikhail Klodt, that really started to form his style. Klodt's love of sky and clouds influenced Järnefelt considerably. From 1886-1888 Järnefelt studied in Paris where he became friends with the subject of our previous post, Akseli Gallen-Kallela.

Aino Sibelius by her brother

Returning to Finland he travelled to Keuruu in 1889, where he met actress Saimi Swan (1867-1944), the subject of the picture at the top of our post. They were married in 1890. Saimi worked as a translator and translated the works of Dickens, Henry Rider Haggard and George Elliott into Finnish. In 1892 Järnefelt's sister, Aino (1871-1969), married Jean Sibelius and the two families were later neighbours. Saimi and Aino were close and shared a passion for gardening.

A family portrait of the Järnefelt's taken in 1896 shows conductor Arnas (the tall figure standing in the centre), on his left the painter Eero and standing next to him his his wife Saimi. Sitting on the far left is Aino Sibelius with the composer seated third from left.

Aino had met Sibelius through another of her brothers Armas Järnefelt, a conductor and a fellow student of the composer. Aino, of course, was named after the character in the Kalevala; a name which, until the stories were collected in the earlier part of the nineteenth century, did not exist; as it was invented by compiler Elias Lönnrot.

Koli (1927) by Eero Järnefelt

In September 1909 the Järnefelt's and the Sibelius' took a holiday to Koli in Northern Karelia which was already becoming a popular destination for artists with an interest in the Kalevala and Karelianism. Järnefelt had first visited the reion in 1892. It was this visit that gave Sibelius the impetus to compose his Fourth symphony, which he dedicated to Eero Järnefelt. The hilly region around Koli was a popular subject for Eero.

Saimi in the meadow (1892)

Although he painted pictures of his wife a number of time this nude of her seems to be the only one. Indeed nudes were not a suject that Järnefelt habitually painted so this one of Saimi is a rare example.

Portrait of Saimi

The picture itself uses three big blocks of flat background tone to emphasise the golden colours of her body. The rather awkward pose indicates that perhaps she has her right leg stretched out to one side. It is not a great work but a good, solid Renoiresqe effort.

Eero Järnefelt

Apart from his normal paintings Järnefelt was a pioneer of Finnish graphic art, created altar paintings, and made many murals on historical and mythological subjects.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Finnish Venus: Aino Myth by Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865 - 1931)

Aino Myth (1891) by Aksel Gallen-Kallela

This time we look at an alternative rendition of the figure of Aino, from Finnish mythology, which is also in Helsinki's Ateneum Museum. The artist, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, was undoutedly Finland's greatest painter and, Agent Triple P woould suggest, is probably one of the best painters to come out of the Baltic region; moving through an impressive range of styles, media and approaches whilst largely keeping focussed on his Finnish inspiration. His work was also an important influence on Finnish nationalism at a time when the country was under Russian rule and, in many ways, helped define the Finns modern sense of themselves.

Omakuva maalaustelineen äärellä (Self portrait with easel)

In fact, he was born in 1865 in the Swedish speaking part of Finland as Axél Waldemar Gallén. His father was police chief of Pori, his birthplace, and opposed Axél's early-expressed desire to be a painter. It was his mother who encouraged his artistic expression. It was only after his father's death, when Axél was 14, that he was able to attend drawing classes at the Finnish Art Society (where Takanen - see previous entry- had also studied) after school.

Poika ja varis (Boy and Crow) (1884)

His early works were marked by a striking. almost brutal, realism. In 1884 he took a holiday back to the lands of his childhood where he painted his early masterpiece Boy and Crow. It depicts a young boy, dressed in worn and patched clothes, taken from a high viewpoint so that the only background is scrubby grass. A crow pecks at the ground to the far right of the picture. It is a bold composition and there is nothing of the then current idealised view of Finnish country life as epitomised by the likes of Aukusti Uotila's Shepherdess and Sheep (1879), which owes more to the Fontainebleu school in Paris where Uotila studied than any innate Finnishness.

Démasquée (1888)

In 1884 Gallén himself went to study in Paris at the Académie Julianwhere he documented the bohemeian lives of his artist and writer friends (including Strindberg). From this period we have this rare nude; Démasquée (1888), painted in his studio. Again, it is a very realistic work, the depiction of pubic hair still being most unusual in European art, and although the model is French (and looks it) she sits on a traditional Finnish ryijy weave.

Female model (1885)

Although he continued to study in Paris he spent his summers in Finland, resulting in two very distinctive approaches to his painting. In Paris he painted pictures of street scenes, academic studies and aspects of his student life.

Nuori Fauni (young faun) (1888)

But he was homesick for much of the time and when he returned to Finland his pictures of the Finnish landscape displayed a developing clear, graphic style he would use for his later Kalevala paintings and which would eventually take him into printmaking. Gallen was not a great appreciator of the landscapes of other places in Europe he had visited (apart from the Riviera) and found that they did not inspire him to paint them in the way that the Finnish landscape did. He would row himself across the lakes and in winter would cross country ski up to 35 miles a day exploring it.

Mary mustassa silkkipuvussa (Mary in Black Silk) (1887)

During his time in Paris, Gallén, started to become increasingly fascinated with the Finnish national poem the Kalevala. He returned to Finland in 1889 and married Mary Slöör who was the daughter of the Finnish cultural nationalist Kaarle Slöör with whom he had been spending a great deal of time. They honeymooned in Eastern Finland and Karelia in 1891 and it was here that he started to make sketches and gather material and ideas for the paintings he would produce illustrating stories from the Kalevala.

The Great Black Woodpecker (1894)

From this period would come the painting The Great Black Woodpecker (a creature of the forests that Gallen strongly identified with) a paean to the great, wild woods and lakes of Finland (whilst showing some influence from Japonism). Gallen himself, for most of his life, managed to stand astride two worlds with equal ease; the backwoods of Finland, which he did so much to epitomise at a time when Finnish nationalism was beginning to assert itself, and the sophisticated, cosmopolitan world in which he travelled widely.

Askeli Gallen-Kallela

The Aino Myth (1891) was the first of these Kalevala stories which Gallén painted. He decided that rather than illustrate just one part of the story he would try to encapsulate the whole tale in a tryptych.

When Elias Lönnrot started to collect Finnish folk poems and songs for his Kalevala in the nineteenth century the character that would become Aino had no name in the source material. In fact the part of the Kalevala devoted to her story is more Lönnrot than myth but he crafts a deeper and more enigmatic story than the original tales provide.

Väinämöisen venematka ('Väinämöinen's Boat Trip) 1909

In Finnish mythology Väinämöinen, is the son of the water-mother who escapes to earth. Lönnrot downplayed his god-like origins and suggested that he was based on a historical dark ages warlord. Nevertheless, he is presented as a somewhat mysterious shaman and singer who can charm animals and create objects with his voice alone. JRR Tolkein was fascinated by the Kalevala and it has been suggested that, consciously or otherwise, elements of his character Gandalf (and indeed Saruman) were based on aspects of Väinämöinen. Certainly Gallen-Kallela depicts him with his traditional long, white beard. Later, Gallen-Kallela would continue to portray him this way in other works. A notable later painting features Väinämöinen with a boatload of nubile Finnish maidens. This painting was produced in Paris and shows how much his style had changed in the less than two decades since the Aino painting.

In the Aino myth, The Lapland youth Joukahainen believes he can sing better songs than Väinämöinen. He tells his family, despite their warnings, that he will defeat Väinämöinen in a battle of knowledge and song. Joukahainen sets out and literally runs into Väinämöinen who is not impressed with the youth. After taunting the older man and challenging him to a swordfight Väinämöinen loses his temper and, using his charmed voice, turns Joukahainen's possessions into parts of the landscape and burys the youth up to his shoulders in the earth. In panic, having offered all his possessions to Väinämöinen, to the older man's disinterest, Joukahainen offers his sister Aino as Väinämöinen wife. He accepts and releases Joukahainen from his song-spell and the earth.

Aino, when she learns of the deal is far from happy although her parents tell her to get on with it and get ready for married life.

Aino is shocked by the kindly old man's suggestion...

The first part of the tryptych illustrates the next part of the story where a distraught Aino, out gathering wood in the forest, comes across the elderly Väinämöinen. She rebuffs him and runs away. Aino mopes about, crying for days until, finally, she dresses up in her finest clothes and goes down to the waterside where she sees some girls on a rock. Carefully stripping off her clothes and jewels she swims to the rock only for it to sink down into the water taking her with it. The third part of the painting depicts this scene.

Väinämöinen, upset at the news of Aino's death, sets out onto the lake where he catches a unique fish who turns out to be Aino, as depicted in the main part of the painting. She tells him that she will never be his and escapes into the water.

Gallen had painted an earlier version of the tryptych in Paris but was keen to re-do it and his visit to Karelia provided the inspiration and a commission from the Finnish senate provided the finance. He designed and made the frame himself, which included excerpts from the Kalevala. The style and many of the designs on the frame were based on houses and woodwork he saw on his honeymoon in Karelia. Because of its size (1.5metres x 3metres) and luminescent quality the trptych does not reproduce well but looking at the original the sheer physical presence of Aino in the central panel is overwhelming. Aino was modelled by Gallen's new wife Mary, then 23 years old, who also embroidered the dress she is wearing in the left hand panel. The bracelet she wears in the right hand panel was a wedding present to her from the artist.

Lönnrot's version of the Aino legend is steeped in sex and water imagery (as is the Kalevala). Aino (a name he invented, it simply means "only" in Finnish) rejects Väinämöinenhas because she has become a woman and wants a satisfactory sexual partner not an old man who basically will just use her to sweep the floors. Her disappearing into the water is not just a suicide but an immersion into a female element which in the Kalevala often represents female consciousness. Her transformation into the Aino-fish is more about her rebirth as a woman and her taunting of the old man is about him not recognising her as a sexual woman in the first place. Essentially, surrounded by her wet, female environment she is more sexually satisfied than she would have been with the old man.

Portrait of Sibelius by Akseli Gallen-Kallela

Despite trawling the water for days Väinämöinenhas never catches the Aino-fish again. Eventually he heads north to find a bride in the north (Pohjola) where he comes across an enchanted beauty, the Daughter of the North, who he also fails to win as his wife. It is this latter story that form's the basis of Sibelius' tone poem, Pohjola's Daughter. Sibelius was a friend of Gallen-Kallela, who painted his portrait several times.

Agent Triple P has been writing this entry whilst listening to Sibelius' Kullervo, in the world premier recording by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under Paavo Berglund. The cover contains one of Gallen-Kallela's later Kalevala inspired paintings Kullervo's departure for War. This demonstrates the simplified painting style which he adopted for his later Kalevala paintings.

Kullervo's Departure for War (1901)

Although Gallen was not a follower of conventional religion he certainly took inspiration from it and was a spiritual person. Some of his paintings express this side of him and hint at a mysticism which, eventually, he realised could be satisfied by the old myths of Finland.

Ad Astra (1894)

From 1895 we have the Maiden of Tapiola which is interesting in that the sketch for the main figure is actually mode detailed and realistically rendered than that in the finished painting.

Tapiolen nieto (The Maiden from tapiola) 1895 study

Our final look at Akseli Gallen-Kallela's (he changed his name officially to the more Finnish sounding name in 1907 when he had to renew his passport) Venuses is a picture that was painted in 1909, five years before Sibelius wrote his tone poem of the same title, The Oceanides. These were, in Greek mythology, the sea nymphs. The Finnish translation, Aallottaret, means, more literally "spirits of the waves" and Sibelius' piece (opus 73 and written in 1914 (from sketches for an earlier version from the year before) immediately before the fifth symphony) unfolds in distinct waves itself.

Aallottaret (spirits of the waves) 1909

Gallen-Kallela whilst embracing expressionism increasingly found the direction painting was taking in Paris uninspiring. He travelled in British East Africa and lived there for a year and a half from 1909-1911. He fought in the war in 1918 and with Finnish independence was appointed adjutant to General Mannerheim, the Regent of Finland. During this time he also designed flags and medals for the Finnish army. In the early twenties he lived in the US, in Chicago and Taos, New Mexico. He died of pneumonia in 1931, in Stockholm on his way back home from a visit to Copenhagen.

Gallen-Kallela's nudes ara a small part of his overall output but we celebrate him here for the sheer sexual energy he imbued in his painting of his young wife in the central part of his Aino tryptych.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Finnish Venus: Aino by Johannes Takanen (1849-1885)

Aino, plaster 1876

Agent Triple P always enjoys visiting Helsinki: eating some reindeer, admiring the lovely blondes and visiting the Ateneum Gallery there. So here we present a quintessentially Finnish heroine, Aino, which is on display there.

Johannes Takanen

Johannes Takanen was the son of a crofter from the Gulf of Estonia. He was something of a prodigy, discovered carving animals, then studying from a young age at the Finnish Art Society drawing school (now the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts) and first exhibiting at the age of fifteen. At the age of eighteen he moved to Copenhagen to study at Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi. Six years later he went to Rome to study and stayed there, marrying an Italian girl, Giacinta Biavascon.

Although Takanen worked mainly in plaster he really yearned to sculpt in marble but it was largely beyond his means and, as a result, during his whole career he only managed to produce four works in marble. His three principal works were all different variations on beautiful maidens. All solitary, wistful and rather distant.

Aino, marble (1886)

The first of these was Aino (1876) (a figure from the Finnish national epic poem the Kalevala, who we will return to shortly) which he only completed in plaster: the sculpture in marble only being produced after his death. There was some criticism of the fact that Takanen had rendered the Finnish heroine in what was seen as an overly Italianate manner. She gazes across the lake to the distant water maidens of Vellamo who she wishes to join: to drown herself rather than marry the old man she has been promised to by her mother.

Rebecca 1877

His second major female figure was of Rebecca, the biblical wife of Isaac, produced in 1877.

Andromeda (1879-1882)

His third great sculpture was based on the mythical Greek Princess, Andromeda. This was the only one of the three which Takanen carved in marble himself and it took him many years to complete, mainly as he did it in his spare time as he had no finance and no buyer for it. She is depicted chained to a rock to sacrifice herself in order to save her city from a sea monster which is seen on the base of the rock in Tarkanen's sculpture. Andromeda herself looks far from terrified but then maybe she knows that Perseus is en route to save her. Andromeda is also in the Ateneum gallery.

The Senate Square in Helsinki with the Alexander II monument

Takanen won a competition in 1884 to design a monument to the popular Czar Alexander II in Helsinki but he died in Rome the following year, at the age of only 36, leaving only some drawings and sketches. The monument was completed by Walter Runeberg but using some of Takanen's designs, particularly for the figure of the Tsar himself. Desapite later suggestions by Finnish nationalists to replace the figure of Alexander II with Finnish hero Carl Mannerheim the statue still stands in the Senate Square in Helsinki, where Agent Triple P photographed it in the summer of 2007. Takanen's last work.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

July Venus: Yvette Vickers

Yvette Vickers from 1959

Yes, we know that it's September but we have been rather caught up with holidays and a business trip to Canada so we will have to catch up on some of our regular features over the next week or so. So it's back to July for our review of the best of the month's playmate centrefolds. Triple P has found selecting his top centrefolds for July to be the most difficult so far, as it has proven to be a particularly strong month with no less than ten girls in our initial cut.

Linné Nanette Ahlstrand from 1958

We have had to be very disciplined and throw out some of our favourite girls because whilst they are lovely maybe their centrefold wasn't so strong. So, very unhappily, we have had to discard the original Baywatch babe Erika Eleniak as we found her nautical picture rather contrived (oddly, there was a rash of nautical themed centrefolds for July running from 1989 to 1991). After a lot of consideration we have only manged to get it down to six. There is no doubt about the winner, however, and, even though we have featured the picture before, Russ Meyer's shot of Yvette Vickers' from 1959 is one of Playboy's great centrefolds and probably their best of the fifties. Running it a close second is the previous year's Linné Nanette Ahlstrand. It's a classic picture and we like it because it still looks contemporary, its beautifully lit by photographer Frank Bez and Linné exudes the cool allure of a Hitchcock blonde.

Angie Dickinson for Esquire (1966)

Bez started his artistic career as a band leader before moving on to photography. He would later be the stills photographer for The Sound of Music (1965) and take an iconic photograph of Angie Dickinson which would appear in Esquire the following year and be re-used as the magazine's cover in 1993. Bez would shoot four more centrefolds for Playboy: one each year from 1959 to 1962. Later he specialised in portraits of musicians and record covers. Sadly, Linné died of cancer in 1967 at the early age of 30.

Karen Elaine Morton from 1978

We weren't that impressed by the sixties July centrefolds and so we have to jump forward to 1978 and Karen Elaine Morton for our next pick. Karen handles the rather arch pose, devised by photographer Ken Marcus, very nicely whilst providing Playboy's most explicit centrefold to that point; displaying her bits in a way that would hardly ever happen again. We particularly liked the contrast between the bare foot being enticingly kissed by the bubbles in her bath and the ludicously impractical stiletto slipper!

Elaine Morton in 1970

Karen was the cousin of Miss June 1970, Elaine Morton, here pictured in a not dissimilar pose.

Dorothy Mays from 1979

Jumping forward 12 months we were also very taken by the luminous eyes and tantalising fluff of Dorothy Mays, in a picture taken by staff regular Richard Fegley. We also like the idea that she has just come back from a bike ride!

Teri Peterson from 1980

Another 12 months forward gives us the impressively shiny Teri Peterson photographed by Phillip Dixon. It's all about the hair and the hair grip in this one.

Finally, we can't leave out Liz Stewart from 1984 with her starched collar and cuffs complete with Playboy cufflinks. Liz's centrefold is, with Karen Morton's above, one of the most forthright of any of Playboy's centrefolds

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Venus Revealed: The Pubic Wars 8 1976 Part 2

April's rather glum cover-girl, Kristine de Bell, reflects the atmosphere at Playboy at the time

April 1976 was a miserable month for Hugh Hefner. Firstly, he had to sell his pride and joy; the Big Bunny; the Douglas DC-9 he had bought as his personal jet in 1967 for $4.5 million. He had spent another $1 million on having the intererior equipped with a bar, disco, TVs, a galley which could feed thirty people and his own private quarters which featured a six foot by eight foot elliptical bed. Tasteful!

The Big Bunny in its heyday

To pander to his every whim he employed black leather clad "jet bunnies" including several Playmates, such as Miss June 1971, Leiko English who, as a bunny in her pre-Playmate days, had been one of the first girls to flash her fur in the magazine.

Jet Bunnies Sharon Gwin and Leiko English on board the Big Bunny

When Hefner had split his time between his Playboy Mansions in Los Angeles and Chicago the Big Bunny almost made sense, as he commuted between his two main women er, houses, at the time. Now that he hardly ever left Los Angeles the huge aircraft sat on the tarmac most of the time but still cost over $1 million a year to run. Not a good strategy when the entire Playboy empire's profits in 1975 had been a paltry $2 million. In the end it was sold for $4.2 million dollars (to be fair, above book price) to a Venezuelan airline. "Playboy gives up its biggest Bunny", trumpeted the Chicago Tribune on April 3rd that year.

The Big Bunny, just painted in its new colours and about to leave Wilmington Ohio for Venezuela in April 1976

But there was worse news for Hefner that April. Ten days later the Wall Street Journal ran an article highlighting all the depressing news about Playboy: drops in circulation and revenue at the magazine and the music and film divisions losing money. The problems with the hotel division were news too. In fact, things were so bad at the beginning of 1976 that Playboy had taken its name off two of its biggest properties in New Jersey and Chicago; realising that the Playboy name had actually become a liability rather than an attraction. On top of this the Inland Revenue Service had asked for $7.5 million in back taxes.

Ursula Andress undressed for April 1976

What must have been the most hurtful assessment, however, was that the Wall Street Journal felt that Playboy was now old fashioned and hopelessly out of touch with the sexual revolution. Certainly, April's issue did nothing to counteract this view with a pictorial featuring Ursula Andress, who had first appeared in Playboy over a decade before in 1965. In 1965 she still had some cachet as the first Bond girl but by the mid-seventies she was hardly a star anymore (although she was still splendid looking).

Playmate of the Month Denise Michele carried on the new tradition of keeping her bits covered but still had a sensuous hand on groin shot.  That spring Hefner stepped aside as President and Chief Operating Officer acknowledging, at last, that some fresh business acumen was needed at the helm. It would be some months before a new leader could be found, however, and in the interim the company was run by a seven man "President's Council".

April's Penthouse continued to push Guccione's post-Pubic Wars vision of increasingly displayed pussies, with cover girl Georgina Crown offering a full page, rear-end beaver shot, which was still a rarity in newsstand magazines.

April's Pet, Sandy Bernadou, was even more forthright, displaying her charms quite clearly in several pictures photographed by Jeff Dunas.

Sandy teases it

 Sandy Bernadou's April Centrefold

Indeed, her centrefold was undoubtedly the most explicit Guccione had produced to date. There was absolutely no doubt what the centrepiece of the double page spread was and it wasn't Sandy's lovely green eyes.

Penthouse had another couples set, Auto Erotic, which was actually rather less explicit than the previous two or three had been but it did feature this still unusual implied fellatio shot.

April 1976 Genesis

The covers of Genesis were just as strong on the nipple front as Penthouse at this time. 

Lenka for Genesis in April 1976

Inside, however, it was not as explicit as some of the other magazines at this point and was featuring the sort of European-shot beach nudes often seen in Oui.  Genesis would, however, evolve into a more explicit magazine over the next few months.

As Olivia in UK Penthouse Vol 8 no 8

It is quite likely that they were less explicit than the other magazines because they had been buying older material.  Their girl "Lenka" for April, had been a very popular model a few years before, appearing under a number of different names.  In November 1973 she had appeared as "Olivia Elliott" in UK Penthouse as their Pet of the Month (not in the US edition however).  It is quite possible, therefore, that Genesis got caught out by the sudden spread of models' thighs in the first part of 1976 and just didn't have more explicit material available.

Meanwhile, over at Hustler, Larry Flynt, obviously thinking hard about what he could publish to keep ahead of Penthouse, decided to push another boundary by featuring a pregnant woman in his April edition.

Pregnant and naked for April's Hustler

Club pushed the increasing masturbation theme  by having their cover girl and centrefold, Alison, shown with her hands drifting between her legs.  Club had had some catching up to do but now they were approaching Penthouse in explicitness.

Inside the magazine Alison went even further, being depicted with a finger actually between her labia.  This was a much more explcit pose than Guccione's magazine had shown so far.

Oui was still gradually seperating itself from sister magazine Playboy in terms of explicitness.  Whilst the original remit for Oui had been to be a Penthouse-chasing, sexier version of Playboy, latterly the goalposts were moving so rapidly that it was not only less explicit than Penthouse it was less explicit than Playboy.

As Playboy retreated from more explicit pussy pictures immediately after Hefner had declared an end to the Pubic Wars at the end of 1975, Oui took up the slack with (often barely) visible labia increasingly on show in 1976.

Oui also mirrored the new fascination for depicting pussy from the rear, which was increasingly and inevitably bringing the anus into focus.  This picture of Jeanette from Oui's April 1976 issue gives us a still rare glimpse of her arsehole.  Her set was by Las Vegas based photographer Robert Scott Hooper who would shortly find fame with his discovery of future Playmate Debra Jo Fondren; famous for her 52 inch long hair.

One of the drivers for more explicit magazines was the increasing access that the public had to hardcore films in the US.  That month Oui featured a feature on the new erotic films coming out of France.  In these small pictures from that feature we not only get a group sex scene but a photo of a young lady enetrtaining herself with a dildo: a first for any of the major magazines.

 The dotty Miss Cameron

May's Playboy cover featured an artistic pointilliste pastiche featuring Miss January 1974, Nancy Cameron. She was photographed by Bill Arsenault and posed in front of George Seurat's painting: Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte (1884) in a clever design by Tom Staebler.

Self-portrait by Suze Randall

Inside, the most interesting pictorial featured a series of self portraits by the April issue's British cover photographer, Suze Randall. Randall had started out as a fashion model and actress before taking up photography. She would be a staff photographer for Playboy between 1975 and 1977 before moving on to Hustler and later Penthouse; her work getting more and more hardcore as she progressed. She was 30 when she posed herself for Playboy.  Miss Randall's picture, above, illustrates how Playboy was dealing with those now problematic labia. With a mixture of clever lighting and clever retouching they were simply made to disappear; to create a happy band of advertisers.

Sonny on the cover

Penthouse wasn't worried at all by such poses and, indeed, in the following month's issue displayed Miss May, Sonny Smith, showing another pussy from the rear, albeit with some heavy soft focus.

Sonny shows more than just her tan lines

Sonny wasn't showing anything as much as the girl in that month's boy/girl set, however.  Penthouse's "love-sets" were appearing more regularly now and in the May issue photographer Earl Miller, in a pictorial called Easy Riders, portrayed a young lady actually touching her male companion's balls while his fingers crept towards her clearly visible anus.

Naughty touching for May

With the lady displaying her anus and labia and scenes of implied fellatio and cunnilingus it was the strongest of Penthouse's boy/girl love sets and much more explicit than that months other love set; a boy/girl/girl one.

May's Hustler had a rather early Penthouse style cover and, inside, also featured a young lady with a bubble perm although she was not in the same class as Penthouse's Pet as regards looks.

Hustler's girl Grace also posed in the same bottom from the rear pose, as had Sonny in Penthouse, but to much more explicit effect.

Gallery, meanwhile, had hit upon a magazine defining idea. Why pay expensive models when you could get readers to send in pictures of their wives and girlfriends for nothing? Originally touted in their May issue as a one-off competition, later the idea, as we shall see, really took off.

Gallery girls go for it

Inside, Gallery lay someway between Penthouse and Playboy as regards explicitness. The May issue featured a soft-ish lesbian set called The Initiation (something to do with an all girl college) which, nevertheless, got their girls to flash their bits.   However, the Gallery girls were not quite as explicit as Penthouse.  Although one girl's mouth is getting very close inded to the other's bush they didn't risk the sort of rug munching shot that Penthouse had in  December 1975.

Oui featured the undisputed queen of softcore, Sylvia Kristel, on their May issue cover.  Inside their centrefold girl, Kim Browne, was adopting the newly popular bottom thrusting position as well.

Kim thrusts it out

Also in that issue was a long pictorial called The Rooftops of Rome.  This featured a whole host of different girls bathed in the warm light of the eternal city. 

Oui held that the rooftop gardens of Rome made an ideal place for some private sunbathing or, perhaps. diddling yourself, as in the case of this young lady.

More diddling from Club in May with their cover girl's hand firmly squeezing her crotch.

Inside one of their young ladies was shown in the novel new pose of stroking herself but with her bottom in the air.

June saw Playboy's annual Playmate of the Year issue, which often saw that month's Playmate overshadowed by her more illustrious sister. 1976's offering had originally been photographed for the August 1975 magazine by the previous issue's self portraitist, Suze Randall. It was staff photographer Richard Fegley, however, who took on the onerous duty of photographing Lillian Müller for her POTY pictorial.

Given how very careful the magazine had been with their Playmates to make sure they didn't display anything that might annoy the advertisers, Fegley's full page picture of Lillian showing of her plump pudenda was something of a surprise.

Caution: Hot pussy!

Fegley had shot another pictorial in that issue as well, featuring young ladies purporting to be workmen, in suitably abbreviated dress. Fegley's title page pictures showed a girl doing a bit of oxy-acetelene cutting which obviously necessitated her spreading her legs as wide as possible in order to brace herself for the hot and difficult job in hand. No evidence of a re-toucher's brush on her nether regions here, either.

Gallery carried on pushing its girl next door competition and entries flooded in.  The style of most of the photographs aped those in the magazines, of course, although at this point they were largely of the tasteful early seventies Penthouse type.

Gradually, however, the entrants would start to spread their legs in the way that was happening in some of the other magazines.  No doubt as they hoped, some of the girls would go on to modelling careers on the basis of their GND pictorials.

Oui had a non-controversial month with the only alarming element being the garish colour scheme of June's cover.

They had dialled back on the labia to almost, but not quite, invisibility, as seen in this picture of centrefold girl Letitia.

Genesis June 1976

Meanwhile, Genesis was starting to mix its softer Playboy and Oui style pictorials with rather more aggressive ones which owed more to Hustler than Penthouse.

 Francesca for Genesis in June 1976

Over at Hustler itself Larry Flynt continued to aim low and hit the target.  His Hustler Honey for June 1976 was headlined on her pictorial spread as "Pat, the fucking ultimate".

Pat's centrefold had her puffing away on a cigarette, her large breasts covered in droplets of sweat and her important bits brightly lit by a reflector. 

Bob Guccione, having largely seen off Playboy's challemge in the Pubic Wars now had to compete not only with Hustler but also magazines like Genesis, which up until this point had been more modest.  So in June he presented his most explicit Pet of the Month pictorial so far.

June's Penthouse featured the candidates for that year's Pet of the Year and it was no doubt no coincidence that many of the shots chosen to represent them were the bolder labia revealing ones from their previous pictorials.  Three of the girls were also show flashing their fur on the cover; still a very rare occurrence.

Non Pet of the Month Chelsea Eriksen had a number of genital revealing spread legs shots and none more revealing than this thigh stretching number.  This was nothing compared with what June's Pet of the Month would get up to, however, in what would be Penthouse's break-out pictorial for 1976.

Gore Vidal, Malcolm McDowell and Anna Grimwood in Rome

June's Penthouse Pet of the Month was an English girl, Anna Grimwood. Bob Guccione had had her flown to Rome for her pictorial shoot, where he was working on his epic film Caligula. A number of other Penthouse Pets and models from the pages of the magazine at this time also appeared in the film. One of the pictures in her pictorial shows her with Caligula's screenwriter Gore Vidal and star Malcolm McDowell.

Anna in her only scene in Caligula

Anna appears in one brief scene in Caligula as she runs, accompanied by another girl in an identical outfit, towards the camera, bouncing delightfully. This appears to be her only appearance and Agent Triple P has been unable to spot her rather distinctive features in any other scenes of the various cuts of the movie but then the editing is often so jumpy that it makes Star Wars look like Lawrence of Arabia.

By June 1976, Vidal, who had been a regular contributer to Penthouse, and Guccione had had a terminal argument over the direction the film was taking. Vidal actually then went on to leave the film before shooting began in August. So, given that Anna is photographed with Vidal here she must have been one of the first Pets to fly to Rome either stayed on in Rome as moost of the other Pets who appeared in the Tinto Brass directed film arrived in September 1976, after Vidal had left the production, and those who appeared in the Guccione directed hardcore new scenes were flown over in January 1977.

Anna gives us a bed spread

Twenty-eight year old Anna was born in Suffolk, England and Guccione actually photographed her pictorial in Gore Vidal's Rome apartment. The resultant pictorial was easily the most explicit that had appeared in Penthouse to date. Guccione caught Anna's pale, soft, pliant body so well that you can almost feel her flesh yielding to your fingertips.

As Penthouse gradually migrated its operation across the Atlantic and the vast majority of Pets became American it would be rare for a body like Anna's to be featured again. The American girls of the late seventies and early eighties were tauter and tended to have bold tan lines.

As we have seen, the rear-view, spread legs pose was the new yardstick of naughtiness but Anna took it to a new level with her pussy-stroking, arsehole-flashing photograph. In fact only her takes no prisoners centrefold could possibly top it.  Not just labia flashing here, you can see right into Anna's vaginal entrance.

The final magazine we will look at for the period April to June 1976 is Paul Raymond's Club.  This magazine, used, essentially, the same pictorials as May's Men Only in the UK.

June's Club is worthy of more detailed examination as it demonstrates how, in just a few months it had risen to the challenge of its more explicit competitors. More interestingly, this issue enccapsulates nearly all of the recent trends seen in men's magazines at this point.

We start off with cover girl Dana (in fact, Joannie Allum), her hand in her see-through knickers and her fingers either side of a perkily erect nipple.  Self fondling, very much first done by Bob Guccione in Penthouse, was still an area of caution for many magazines and in the UK was less likely to appear.

This picture of Club's June centrefold girl, Lilith Leon, for example, did not appear in May's Men Only in the UK.  Obviously this finger on the button shot was deemed too strong for Britain at the time.

Another picture of Lilith which was denied to UK readers was this one.  It shows something which was only just starting to appear and that was the depiction of an open vaginal entrance.  The second half of 1976 would increasingly see girls not just flashing their bits but flashing excited bits.

Girl/girl sets had been appearing for some time but three girl sets were very new.  Club's Love All Sauna or Later pictorial by Fred Enke had three girls in the sauna, including one with an unusual bald pussy.

Boy/girl sets had also been appearing for some time but what was only just being depicted was implied fellatio as in this set from June's Club by Clive McLean.

Finally, we come, appropriately, to the new formerly forbidden zone, just winking its way into some pictorials.  Allan Sass's photo of Esty clearly shows her neat anus.

We will see how all these themes develop in the second half of the year.  The following month, July 1976, would see America celebrating its bicentennial and many of the mens' magazines had their own visual celebrations.