Long before there was an It Girl, there was the Brinkley Girl. Her kohl-darkened eyes, mischievous mouth, lacy dresses, and bountiful curls adorned countless pages and stages. Songs were written about her, plays were written about her, Flo Ziegfeld based dance routines on her. She was a sensation. And a cartoon. The creator, Nell Brinkley, was just as independent and irrepressible as her creation. An accomplished illustrator by age 16, she dropped out of school and moved to New York City at the behest of William Randolph Hearst. Brinkleys effervescent cartoons of everyday working girls captured the publics imagination, beautiful women of every racial and economic background adorned her panels, and suddenly suffrage had a young face. During WWI, Brinkley interviewed women who had left home to become defense workers, only to be denied the right to rent apartments without their men. She did profiles of them and women like First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt for Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, and Harpers. For three decades Brinkley was unstoppable, but then photography took over. If not for comics historian Trina Robbins, the Queen of Comics might have faded from view altogether. As curator of the ongoing The Brinkley Girls exhibit, which runs through Aug. 23, Robbins presents more than 30 pieces from her collection. Tonight, she unveils her book of the same name, which features art spanning Brinkleys career.
Thu., May 21, 7 p.m., 2009