Thursday, 19 June 2008
The Bananas and the Books
Like Louise Brooks, Josephine Baker was a talented and beautiful Jazz Age American performer who found herself much more comfortable in Europe. In Paris she was a jazz singer and dancer, famed for her performances wearing a skirt of bananas and not much else.
Here she was captured in lithography by the talented graphic designer Paul Colin, who, like Georges Simenon, became her lover.
I was inspired to write about her here by seeing that same lithograph used as the cover for John Fuller's forthcoming book of poems, Song & Dance...
..which reminded me that Baker was also on the hardcover of Umberto Eco's recent illustrated novel, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana.
Baker has been on a lot of other book covers. Book designers have undoubtedly been aided by the profusion of eye-catching portraits of Baker. Many of these images are on autobiographies and biographies, of course...
..while others are studies of her milieu.
You can see from some of the covers above that, as with Louise Brooks, Baker was still easily recognised even when reduced to a few major distinctive features (the hair and the grin).