I spent some time today looking at a magazine that was published in the US in the 1930s and 1940s under the name of Asia and Asia and the Americas.
The publication history of this magazine is long and complex, and the Wikipedia entry explains its origins and transformations.
In the 1930s it was published by Richard Walsh and his wife, author Pearl S. Buck, both of whom were very sympathetic of the efforts of Asian societies to claim their places in the modern world.
While the content of this magazine clearly deserves to be studied and analyzed, the one thing that immediately attracted my attention was the art on the cover of this magazine, particularly the cover art from the 1930s.
At that time an artist by the name of Frank McIntosh painted the covers for the magazine.
And his paintings are astonishingly beautiful.
Yes, of course these paintings exoticize Asia to some extent.
And the repeated appearance of women (particularly Balinese women) in these paintings of course serves to feminize Asia as well.
But there is something in the colors and lines and curves of the paintings that McIntosh created that is very Art Deco, and which therefore places them at the forefront of artistic style in the 1930s.
Indeed, I may be blinded by ethnocentric bias, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen Southeast Asia look as “cool” as it does in these images. . .
. . . even Southeast Asia as viewed from the perspective of a “Malayan night.”