HOW an Artists’ Model Keeps Her Beauty (Aug, 1930)
HOW an Artists’ Model Keeps Her Beauty
The Self-Told Story of a Famous Representative of the Profession Whose Life Is in Many Ways a Model for Other Women
By Grace Bowen
THE life of an artists’ model! I am going to tell you the truth about it.
I suppose that most people get their ideas of artists’ models from highly imaginative moving-picture stories in which the artists are likely to be more or less fantastic people living a gay social life, and the models are man-hunting vamps who divide their time between night-life in the cabarets and intimate “teas” in luxurious studios.
If that happens to be your own notion of artists and studios, then my little story will probably be an eye-opener. What seems curious to me is not that people get such an impression from what they see and hear, but that dramatists, story writers and even newspaper feature writers, who ought to know better, and who really do know better, should write the kind of silly stories that tend to give the public such an impression.
The fact is that artists are not “different.” They are just ordinary people, who work hard and dress and look like business men. And artists’ models are just hardworking girls who happened to get into modeling partly because they are interested in things artistic and beautiful.
If my story is of especial interest it is not because [ am different from other models but because I am very much like the other young women in my profession.
It is a business in which night life, far from being part of the program, is completely out. Models must keep fit. They must keep their beauty. Business women, office workers, school teachers and others may go in for right life, but not artists’ models. We must keep our beauty and in this story I am going to tell you how I do it.
Hard work. Exercise. Clean living. But that does not mean that I do not have a good time. The truth is that I am a very happy girl. I am happy because I enjoy good health and because I love my work. I believe that one gets out of life only what one puts into it. In my business I meet wonderful people, artists, musicians, writers—all creating beauty in one form or another, and so life is deeply satisfying. It is easy to surround myself with beautiful dreams. I expect always to be happy because I have laid solid foundations— I have a wholesome outlook on life and beautiful ideals.
As a child, I used to dream of the big city and the famous folks who lived there, and to plan for myself a glorious future. My ambitions assumed definite shape as I grew older, until finally I packed up and left for New York.
I had been told that I was beautiful. I was sure that I would secure a fine position as soon as I arrived in New York. But I found that I was only one of thousands of young girls there for the very same reason that I was—they all wanted fame and fortune. I decided that I would have to take any work at all. So I accepted a position in a department store.
I found many temptations in the big city, but I made up my mind that I was one girl that it would not break. Finally I got a chance to be a mannequin in one of the most exclusive salons in New York, and I was very happy. Often when artists would come to the store from the different fashion magazines, they would want me to pose in the gowns for them, and many of them told me that I should be an artists’ model. But 1 did not take them seriously.
Soon, however, I drifted to Broadway and obtained work with one of the biggest producers. My part was that of a draped model in two scenes. But stage life was very hard, and as I was neither a singer nor dancer, I realized that I was simply in the show to be looked at, and I knew that that would not lead to much of a career. However, the fact that artists had sketched me in the fashion salons and that I had been a model on the stage, encouraged me to think that I would make a good artists’ model.
I FIRST saw F. R. Gruger, the well-known illustrator. He engaged me for the next day and then sent me to other artists whom he was sure would be glad to use my services. Among these were Henry Raleigh, John La Gatta and James Montgomery Flagg. In a little less than three years I have posed for nearly two hundred of the most prominent artists and sculptors. I have been given sketches of myself by many of these artist and I prize them above all my other possessions.
I have posed for thousands of pictures. I have been a Spanish dancer, Southern miss, the young heroine in love, a Western cowgirl, horse-woman, young mother, debutante, flapper, fashion plate, coquette, bride and princess. I have posed for advertisements of hair, hands, skin, teeth, eyelashes, finger-nails, and figure.
I have had my picture on many magazine rovers and in the illustrations for stories inside of them. My pictures have been in subways, street cars, elevated cars, billboards, on posters and candy boxes and many fashion illustrations. I have also posed for mural decorations for large buildings, and for statues, fountains, lights and decorative pieces for the academies and art galleries.
Sometimes I pose for three artists in one day and barely have time between appointments to eat luncheon. It is sometimes necessary to pose on Sundays for a picture that must be finished by Monday. Last Sunday I posed for five figure studies. This is unusual for, as a rule, an artist does not work so fast. We did not stop for luncheon until 5.30 P.M. One needs a strong constitution for such work.
Posing for sculptors is even more strenuous because there are many sides to do on a statue, whereas an artist paints only the one view. It is also more difficult to hold the pose, for sculptors usually want active poses. Not infrequently I am required to stand on one foot with arms outstretched and the body bent either forward or backward. But it is worth all the hard work to see yourself immortalized in bronze.
IT IS not at all unusual for me to stand in one position for at least an hour without moving a single muscle. Only recently I posed for a painting called “Autumn.” The pose was kneeling with all my weight on my ankles. I held it until my legs and feet were absolutely numb and then when I wanted to rest, the artist and his wife had to lift me from the model stand, because I simply could not rise. I realized, however, that a beautiful picture was being created, so that helped me to keep on.
Sometimes when I am going to a studio to pose for the evening, I meet the crowds on their way to the theater or the opera. A little catch comes in my throat and I sort of feel that I would like to play too.
Put only for a moment. T then realize that T am doing big things now, and must work instead of play if I would succeed. After all, only hard work can bring contentment. Sometimes I go to a studio expecting to finish about 10.30 P.M., but at that time the picture is not finished and the artist will plead with me to help a while longer. Sometimes it will be one or two o’clock before I can go home.
I have posed in the nude in studios which were extremely cold, and if 1 were not in perfect condition I could not do it. I have gone from a warm studio where I posed fully clothed to a cold one where the pose was a nude. And naturally, as I often pose for as many as three or four artists in one day, it is necessary for me to be out in all kinds of weather.
So you see, posing is strenuous work. To work so hard and regularly, a girl must have a strong mind and body and must lead a sane, moderate life. She could not stay up most of the night and then expect to look fresh and beautiful enough the next morning to be an inspiration to an artist. A model must live even more regularly than girls in other professions because her very existence depends upon her looks and her ability to suggest perfect womanhood.
As I must stand for as many as eight and nine hours at a time, I wear shoes that are large for me, as this keeps my feet from swelling.
I am 5 feet 8 inches tall; weigh 135 pounds; chest (normal) 33; chest (expanded) 36; waist 24; hips 36; shoulders 36; arm 10-1/2; thigh 22; calf 13-1/2; ankle 8; neck 13-1/2. I have long blonde hair, blue-gray eyes and fair complexion.
The ideal measurements from the artist’s or sculptor’s point of view are:
1. Your forehead and nose should be the same length.
2. The distance from the bridge of your nose to its end should be the same as the distance from the end of your nose to your chin.
3. Your whole body should be from seven and a half to eight times as long as your head.
4. The distance from the top of your head to your natural waistline should he equal to three times the length of your head.
5. The distance from your waistline to your knee should equal three times the length of your head.
6. From your knee to your heel should equal twice the length of your head.
7. Your shoulders and hips should he the same width.
8. Your head should correspond in general contour to your body (slender, rotund, etc.).
I have never worn a brassiere or corset. I feel no need of either because I let natural exercise keep my figure in trim and I do not believe in squeezing the figure in order to obtain a certain contour.
This constriction is both harmful and against all the laws of nature. Proper breathing is vital to good health and one cannot breathe properly when the figure is restricted.
About two years ago a New York newspaper held a beauty contest in which professional girls as well as amateurs were eligible. This is unusual, as a professional is nearly always barred from participation in beauty contests.
Some of the artists for whom I was posing suggested that I enter the contest and I sent in my picture. Imagine my pleasure when the contest was over and I emerged the proud winner. This honor carried with it a three months’ course in dancing. I accepted this offer, as I realized dancing would be a splendid exercise for me. It helped me to take poses that before I was unable to take.
AFTER the course was ended, I continued my dancing routine, which consists of splits, back-bends, stretching, high kicks, somersaults both forward and backward, rolling over and work on the trapeze, besides many dancing steps and some tap dancing. Dancing is one of the best of all exercises for keeping fit. It builds strong muscles and bones.
I do not smoke. I do not drink. I live moderately and simply. I walk several miles each day, always to and from the studios when time permits. At least thirty minutes before breakfast I drink a glass of hot water. Breakfast consists of a dish of bran, milk, toast and either raw or cooked fruits. I do not drink coffee at any time. I drink milk with all my meals and through the day—probably three or four pints in all. I also drink that much water. For luncheon I always try to have at least one hot dish, soup or stew, a salad and a light dessert, and milk. I always include lettuce in both luncheon and dinner, and I eat plenty of greens. As I am exceedingly active, I have always eaten heartily, but have never weighed over one hundred and thirty-five pounds. I would not advocate as much food for one less active.
I USUALLY have a course dinner. A fruit or oyster cocktail, fish or meat, two cooked vegetables, a salad, dessert and milk. Always a piece of fresh fruit ends my dinner. Frequently I eliminate the meat, substituting vegetables. I eat as regularly as my work will permit. I used to rush through my meals, but I have learned that one must eat slowly to get the full benefit of food. Most of my meals are prepared in my own kitchenette.
My working hours are very irregular, consequently I get to bed at irregular hours, but no matter what time I retire, I get eight hours’ sleep. As my work is strenuous, I feel that I need this much rest. More than this, however, makes me dull. In winter I sleep in a very cold room with windows opened at both top and bottom. A hot bath in the morning, followed by a cold shower and a brisk alcohol rub-down is my routine. After the day’s work another shower is refreshing, but I never bathe immediately before retiring, as this keeps me awake. Unless I have retired late, I get up around nine o’clock and after exercising for fifteen minutes, take a twenty-minute walk. Then I return and rest a few minutes before breakfast. Many women ask me for my beauty aids. Shampoo your hair with warm water and pure Castile soap. Rinse thoroughly and to the last two quarts of cool water add half a lemon. Dry with warm towels and never allow the hair to stay damp overnight, nor comb it while it is wet. I never use curling irons, but let my hair fall in its natural waves. Each night I brush it briskly for fifteen minutes and once a month trim off about an inch. I use no bleaches, washes or dyes of any kind, having learned from artists that natural beauty is the only beauty. One cannot improve on nature’s color schemes. Of course, one can use to the best advantage what nature has given her, but she cannot improve her looks by changing her type. A brunette will bleach her hair red or blonde and may think it an improvement, but an artist detects sham at a glance, and he will tell you that each woman is a distinct type because of her coloring. A brunette with a fair complexion does not possess the same coloring as a blonde. Therefore she will look best with her hair its natural shade. The minute a girl dyes or bleaches her hair she robs it of the natural lights it once reflected.
I MANICURE my own finger-nails, and use no polishes but merely file and shape them and keep the cuticle well pushed back. At night I rub the nails with olive oil, which keeps them from cracking or becoming brittle. I wash my face quite often during the day with pure soap and warm weather and rub afterward with ice, followed by a dash of witch hazel to close the pores. I bathe my eyes at night and in the morning with warm boric acid. To promote the growth of my eyebrows and lashes I rub vaseline well into the roots.
Tennis, swimming, horseback riding and driving my car are my favorite exercises. But I am now also studying voice. My vocal lessons afford beneficial exercises.
A singer, you know, must possess good lungs and is nearly always healthy. Singing teaches proper breathing, and this is essential to good health.
For recreation I go to the movies. Mystery dramas or sea stories especially interest me, and I might easily become a movie fan if time permitted. Night clubs have no place in my life. They are crowded stuffy places, and the atmosphere is depressing.
My ambition is to travel. I want to see each country and to study it—not just a hurried tour, but residence for a time in different parts of the world. Especially I want to go to France and pose for the famous artists there. I desire deeply to be able to sing and play the piano beautifully.
Last, but most important of all, I want to make the man I love happy and to go through the years with him. My happiness will be complete in beholding this man living again in our children.