There are three main types of background for these postcards: the painted backdrop, the white backdrop, and the outdoor setting.
The Painted Backdrop
The painted backdrop comes from a long tradition of studio portraiture, beginning in the earliest years of commercial photography. By the 1920s the use of painted backdrops for commercial portraiture appears to have been in decline (though this is an area begging for study), although they were robustly employed for these postcards throughout the period.
Painted backdrops ranged from vague patterns of shadow and light:
to romantic, painterly outdoor views:
to geometric, Art Deco designs in the early 1930s:
Common backdrop tropes include patterns of foliage:
Skies, often with stars and/or moons:
and water (also often with moons):
Despite these recurrent themes, the re-use of exact backdrops is rare. Thus far I have found only two examples– this cloud-and-moon backdrop, used for two similar photoshoots:
and this fireplace backdrop, which I have found three times so far:
The backdrop was sometimes integrated into the overall scene– in most of the fireplace compositions, for instance, lighting is designed to imitate the light of the “fireplace.” Winter backdrops, too, usually come along with winter clothing:
However, the reverse can also be true. It is not uncommon to see a backdrop painted with an outdoor scene paired with figures posed on clearly indoor furniture:
Painted backdrops were used regularly through the period of these postcards, from the early 1920s to the mid 1930s.
Next: The White Backdrop