Artist profile: Nell Brinkley – Golden Eyes

Artist profile: Nell Brinkley – Golden Eyes

Every month, I profile an artist who inspires my own art,
in several segments.

 
Golden Eyes is one of several characters Nell Brinkley created to grace the covers of American Weekly. “‘Golden Eyes’ and Her Hero ‘Bill'” was a cover serial, which is what it sounds like – a story told in segments that appeared on the covers of the newspaper supplement.

This first image is a picture of Golden Eyes that appeared in The Seattle Sunday Times as an advertisement for Liberty Bonds. It demonstrates Brinkley’s solid command of line and movement, as well as emotive posture and facial expression. It also shows Uncle Sam, Golden Eyes’ dog, and a cherub/Cupid figure that Brinkley inserted into many of her works.

"Golden Eyes" asks Have you bought your Liberty Bond yet? (1918)
“Golden Eyes” asks Have you bought your Liberty Bond yet? (1918)

“‘Golden Eyes’ and Her Hero ‘Bill'” and its sequel “‘Golden Eyes’ and Her Hero ‘Bill’ Over There” tells the story of a young lady and her fellow, who is a soldier sent overseas during World War I. Golden Eyes decides to become a Red Cross nurse to follow Bill to France, taking Uncle Sam with her. You can read the twenty pages of both serials at The Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library.

"Golden Eyes" and her Hero "Bill" No. 1, "Devices" (American Weekly, Mar 31, 1918)
“Golden Eyes” and Her Hero “Bill” No. 1, “Devices” (American Weekly, Mar 31, 1918)

Golden Eyes and Her Hero Bill No. 5, "Her Escort 'Love' - Sails to 'Bill'" (American Weekly, Apr 28, 1918)
“Golden Eyes” and Her Hero “Bill” No. 5, “Her Escort ‘Love’ – Sails to ‘Bill'” (American Weekly, Apr 28, 1918)

"'Golden Eyes' and her Hero 'Bill'" No. 6 "An Allied Drive" (American Weekly, May 5, 1918)
“Golden Eyes” and her Hero “Bill” No. 6, “An Allied Drive” (American Weekly, May 5, 1918)

"'Golden Eyes' and her Hero 'Bill' Over There", No. 3 (American Weekly, Oct 6, 1918) with text removed
“Golden Eyes” and her Hero “Bill” Over There, No. 3 (American Weekly, Oct 6, 1918) with text removed

In No. 3, a shell has hit Golden Eyes’ ambulance (she is an ambulance driver) and she wanders, lost and wounded in the shoulder. Stumbling across a German patrol, she thinks quickly and gives Uncle Sam her Red Cross band in the hopes he will run to Bill.

Uncle Sam returns just in time to save Golden Eyes from a rape attempt, concealing a message from Bill that help is on the way. Bill and his regiment arrive just as the German soldier is about to shoot Golden Eyes in the trenches.

"'Golden Eyes' and her Hero 'Bill' Over There", No. 12 (American Weekly, Jan 5, 1919)
“Golden Eyes” and her Hero “Bill” Over There, No. 12 (American Weekly, Jan 5, 1919)

After her rescue, Golden Eyes spends some time in Paris, helping French war orphans, receives a medal, and returns to being a nurse. In No. 10, she and Uncle Sam overhear Germans planning a raid on Bill’s trench. Although the Allies beat back the Germans, Bill is wounded and Golden Eyes drags him back to safety. Interestingly, this part of the tale (No. 13) is told by Uncle Sam, the dog.

Golden Eyes’ story ends with marriage to Bill and raising their baby in France while Bill participates in reconstruction efforts.

Brinkley’s language is ridiculously propagandist and patriotic, but probably not more than anything else written at the time. Although the serial ends with a fairytale marriage and happily-ever-after, it features some pretty rough aspects – attempted rape, captivity, execution averted at the last minute, dead soldiers on the battlefield.

The most interesting line, in my opinion, is from “Over There” No. 7:

Had “Bill” seen her, this strange girl who was his and yet not his, curving like a vampire above her fallen foe, he would scarcely have known her smile—a smile of fear, triumph and hate!

It’s an interesting blend of propaganda, drama, and realism; and Golden Eyes certainly plays the central role in her own story.

Other parts in the Nell Brinkley artist profile series
Introduction
Girls who toil
Serial girls
Glamorous girls

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One thought on “Artist profile: Nell Brinkley – Golden Eyes

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