Calendar Girls

I’m a bit late for a calendar post, but then again I always buy my calendars after January 1st–sometimes well after January 1st.  While I’m not likely to engage in consistent sale-shopping or coupon-clipping, for some reason I get great pleasure from buying my annual calendars after they have gone on sale.  We usually purchase a “North Shore Folk Art” calendar from J & J Graphics at the Peabody Essex Museum shop for our refrigerator, and sometimes I even wait until they have their big January sale (this year it’s on the weekend of the 20th-22nd, definitely worth a visit if you’re in our area).  I’ll post January right here so I know what the date is until I get my own.

Upstairs in my office I generally pick something a bit more girly, whimsical, botanical, historical..whatever catches my eye.  Right now I’m liking this ethereal calendar from Irena Sophia, already on sale on Etsy!  I like the September and October girls–and Miss foxy February.

Calendars are an important form of ephemera that I haven’t featured on the blog yet, so why not now?  At the same time, they are among the timeliest and most artistic of genres.  And like all the pieces of paper we’ve examined over the last year–postcards, trade cards, book plates–they emerged as a mass-produced product in the later nineteenth century, coincidentally with the development of chromolithography.  I love the calendars from the “Penfield era”, from about 1890 to 1920, when the distinctive designs of illustrator Edward Penfield (1866-1925) graced the covers of magazines and the pages of the new poster calendars much more than those that came later with their Vargas-inspired pin-ups.  My “calendar girls” kept their clothes on!

Penfield calendars for 1897 and 1906 from the Library of Congress, above, and the work of some of his predecessors below (so you can see what an impression he made on turn-of-the-century graphic design):  an 1876 advertisement calendar for cigars and champagne, and two calendars by Boston-era publishers, also from the Library of Congress.

Calendars from Penfield’s fellow art nouveau illustrators  Louis Rhead (for Prang) and A.B. Wenzell for 1897 and 1899 are below, along with another rather less-artistic 1907 Boston calendar, for the beloved Necco wafers, all from the New York Public Library.

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