The Klimt Barbie

Do me a favor, please. Without a lot of deep thought, finish this sentence:

“Barbie is ………”

Possible answers:

  • A fashion doll
  • A doll for little girls to play with
  • A politically correct doll – as in the hundreds of inspirational roles she plays, Lawyer Barbie, Scientist Barbie, Teacher Barbie, Doctor Barbie, Fire-fighter Barbie etc.etc.
  • A politically In-correct doll (especially her unrealistic breast to waist to hip proportions.)
  • A piece of history – There are now three generations who have grown up with Barbie. And she ‘stands’ in multiple museums.
  • A financial juggernaut – The number one selling doll of all time.

And I’m sure there are probably dozens more thoughts that come to your mind when trying to complete the sentence.

Today I’d like to offer one more:

“Barbie is… Art.”

klimt barbie

Barbie® Doll Inspired by Gustav Klimt from the Museum CollectionGustav_Klimt_Adele Bloch-Bauer IThis is the painting that inspired Mattel’s Museum Barbie. It is known as Portrait of Adele BlochBauer I.

OK, raise your hands… how many of you know who Gustav Klimt was? Or Adele Bloch-Bauer?

And the question I would really love to know the answer to: Out of the thousands and thousands of paintings made in the last thousand years of western art, why this one to inspire a Barbie?

If someone knows, I’d love to hear the answer, but until then, I’m just as happy to enjoy this beautiful Barbie for exactly what she is: A work of art.

Thank-you Tom Tierney

Tom Tierney © Dover Publications

Tom Tierney © Dover Publications

In our many years in the doll business, we have often heard stories – or memories – of ‘my first dolls.’

For many, their first dolls were paper dolls. And the most famous paper doll artist of our times is Tom Tierney.

Tom Tierney died in July of 2014 at the age of 85. He had been creating paper dolls for over forty years, mostly for Dover Publications.

If you had store bought paper dolls, the odds are you had some of Tom’s. A search on Amazon reveals 732 ‘results’ for Tom’s Doll books. There are over 1600 results on Ebay (mid August 2014).

I’m a huge fan of Tom as an artist. His research was meticulous, and his drawing as well.

Paper dolls started the same way fashion dolls did… as a way to get the word out on fashions of the day. Paper dolls ‘dressed’ in Paris could be easily carried to America to show what the best dressed were wearing.

Today’s paper dolls are ‘lessons;’ in period costume, in literature, in fashion, in history, in geography, in culture.

One of my favorite Tom Tierney books is Brides From Around The World.

Brides BookIt contains four ‘dolls’ and 28 wedding gowns from around the world. Each gown is not only accurately drawn, but described in detail.

Here’s a typical example of what children can learn from a Tom Tierney paper doll book: Plate #4 Indian Sari: “An Indian wedding is typically a riot of color. The bride’s apparel generally consists of three items: The choli (blouse) the ghagra (skirt) and the sari (shawl.)”

Tom didn’t invent Paper Dolls – they were around as early as the 18th century. And Tom didn’t re-invent paper dolls, there has been a continuous stream of paper doll artists ever since then. But what Tom did do, is when the popularity  of paper dolls had become the merest glow of the remaining coals, Tom blew the flame of popularity back into the field – in my eyes his greatest legacy. Thank you Tom Tierney.

Barbie Dolls as Hair Decor?

You and I are already in agreement that we love dolls… I own the Pattycake Doll Company, which is an e-tail doll store, and I blog about dolls. And since you’re one of my readers of The Doll Blog, I think we can safely assume you love dolls too.

So I think we’ll also be in agreement that this is interesting:

The Japanese celebrate the 2nd Monday in January as ‘Coming of Age’ day, when everyone who has turned twenty in the last year celebrates having reached the ‘age of Majority’ or adulthood.

For the women, it’s a ‘dress-up, get your hair and make-up done’ kind of day. The dress-up part is by wearing ‘Furisode’ Kimonos. Furisode Kimonos are expensive ‘formal’ Kimonos worn by single women.

And for some women, the get your hair done part is accomplished by wrapping your hair around a Barbie Doll. This totally blows me away.

Barbie Doll as Hair Decor

Barbie Doll as Hair Decor

And frustrates me, because, as much as I have grilled my Japanese pen-pals about this, I can only get partial answers. Like how common is it? Common enough that two different pen-pals sent me pictures of two different women with Barbie in their hair. Why do they do it? “Because it’s pretty” came the answer. Why Barbie? No answer.

Woman wearing Barbie Doll in hair

Coming of Age in Japan, with Hair Decor by Mattel!

Interesting? Very! Understandable?… well, I’m still working on that!

Book Review -The Lonely Doll by Dare Wright

The Lonely Doll Book Cover

The cover of the book ‘The Lonely Doll,’ Story and Photographs by Dale Wright

I think that all true doll lovers should have at least one of the ‘Lonely Doll’ books in their collection. Featuring Edith, a doll from author / illustrator Dare Wright’s childhood, and two Teddy Bears as the main characters, The Lonely Doll was special because of the way the author/ illustrator used stage like settings, professional lighting and photography, artistic and carefully posed characterizations and a deceptively simple story line to make each page of this NY Times Bestseller a visual and literary treat.

The Lonely Doll and Little Bear

The Lonely Doll and Little Bear from the page “I Hate Rain”

There is a ton of information about both her books (there are at least ten Lonely Doll books that I’m aware of) and Dare on the internet; we just wanted to give you a good enough idea to pique your interest, so that you can decide for yourself if you interested in either the books, or the author herself.

To summarize the plot, Edith (the doll) is lonely, for she has no one to play with. Every day when she says her prayers she wishes for friends. One day Mr. Bear and Little Bear show up at her house to play. What follows, is a series of ‘play dates,’ each  one set up and meticulously photographed by a world class photographer. Of course there is the happy ending… Edith is never lonely again.

PS: The beloved childhood doll Dare uses throughout the book is a flirty-eyed doll. By carefully reversing the negatives – i.e. ‘printing them backwards,’  – and the clever use of mirrors in some of the illustrations, Dare was able to create the illusion that the doll’s eyes were ‘looking’ in different directions, and therefore give the doll a more lifelike expression.

Dolls as Art – Kazuyo Oshima

In my next life, I want to come back as a Doll Artist.

I got to be both a ‘Doll Store Owner’ and a ‘Blogger About Dolls’ in this life, so I’m not feeling sorry for myself, but still, every time I come across a beautiful Art Doll, I do have to admit that I get a tad jealous.

A couple of my favorite ‘Dolls as Art’ were made by a Japanese doll artist working in France named Kazuyo Oshima.

Kazuyo Oshima "Summer Rain"

Kazuyo Oshima “Summer Rain” at The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

This a doll, folks. Silk and cotton, needle and thread. Beautiful.