Who are the people who go in for body painting, and does it really exist? Bodies are not the easiest or the most obvious things to paint. And yet as party decoration, and a more exciting way of modelling clothes and jewellery, painted bodies seem to be definitely fashionable.
Though the recent vogue was first adopted by the hippies (where better to put your flowers than painted on your body?) the artist and designer Alan Aldridge is credited with having started the trend in London. In 1964, when he was named Art Director of Penguin Books, he designed a: publicity poster using his wife painted in bright colours as a model, with the caption: “We can’t offer you girls, but we can offer you Penguins.”
“We got a pretty fantastic response,”-says Alan Aldridge. “And then I started doing it commercially in a big way. Too much in fact. The break came when I painted a girl all over but I had to get her drunk on brandy for the occasion.”
Since then sporadic parties have featured painted bodies. Public relations director David Wynne-Morgan had the idea of launching a book, The Exhibitionist, by using cheerfully painted models. The book had a painted girl on the cover, and models at the publicity party sported the title in luminous paint across their backs. Later, guests were encouraged to join in the game, and splattered their dates with paint.
At one of his last collections fashion designer Ungaro showed his models with vivid designs painted around their eyes; and it has now become fairly common in the model world to wear a sparkling snake wound round your leg, or a flower imprinted on yourforehead. Full body painting is a more esoteric art. Jim O’Connor, a graduate of the Royal. College of Art, is one of the artists who took it up ; he recently painted a body in the new landscape style now popular for fabrics: his back view of a girl showed a house rising above a fence, and. clouds floating off behind some trees.
As usual, the advertising world has been quick to catch on. A poster for Ultra’s Bermuda colour television set shows a girl lying on her stomach, naked except for a rough map of Bermuda sketched over her back. The caption invitingly reads: “Win two weeks in Bermuda”.
Another person to use body painting was Andrew Grima, the Jermyn Street jeweller, who commissioned an Italian artist, Alberto Villar, to paint a naked model in wild colours; afterwards she was scattered with jewels. Though the result was exotic, Grima has not repeated the experirnent: “It was a bit too poppish for us; the paint did not show up the jewellery to its best advantage.”
Several London shops now cater for this new trend. Joan Price, of the Face Place, 26 Cale Street, SW3 is prepared to body paint for 2 gns. She recommends two makes of paint which are non-irritant and do not smear or stain clothes. They can be used together, and are put on with special cosmetic brushes: Colour Me Cloud 9 Body Paints, which cost 5s 6d for a 2in bottle (any four for £1), or the complete set for £2 17s 6d from Cloud 9 Cosmetics, 14 Boltons Close, Woking, Surrey. Their colours range from jade green to deep purple and glistening copper to a pearlised white, which is said to be good for highlighting. The second recommended wake is Innova-tion by Coty, who have produced four subtle see-through shades, which, though not originally intended for body wear, are very suitable for staining wide areas of skin. These cost 10s 6d and can be bought from all Coty stockists.
Next year the Face Place are bringing out a range of body stencils in a variety of patterns. Until then you can make do with Alice Pollock’s Paint Box for the face, from Quorum in the King’s Road, which comes in 12 colours at £3 19s 6d.
I was so sad to hear of the death of Alan Aldridge the other day. One of the most influential artists and illustrators of his generation, his work has always been a huge inspiration to me. There seems to be no better time to share this article from 1969, in which he is credited with starting the whole body-painting phenomenon which defined the late 1960s and shown doing his thing on the ever-lovely Jane Birkin.
And in case that wasn’t enough for you, also featured are Veronica Carlson, Marsha Hunt, Imogen Hassall, Peter Blake, John Astrop and Ralph Steadman.
Photographed by John Marmaras. Text by Caroline Moorehead.
Scanned by Miss Peelpants from The Telegraph Magazine, December 1969.