and The Art of the Pin-up
ABPEAP: Who is...
The following artist biographies are taken fron the FAQ
(Frequently Ask Questions) list of the
(also known as ABPEAP) news group.
Who is list of prominent or well known artists of this century.
Alberto Vargas (1896-1982) was born in Arequipa, Peru, in 1896, the son of a successful photographer, and was educated in Switzerland. Arriving in New York in 1916, he was determined to stay in America and pursue what became an illustrious career.
His name has become synonymous with pin-up girls, but in the early 1940s, he was just a guy hired by Esquire magazine to imitate departed star George Petty, who bolted over pay. Vargas initially aped Petty's sleek women with their telephone posing and large-hat lounging; soon, however, his own distinctive, delicate watercolor style emerged. His wide-eyed wonder-women rivaled Betty Grable as the ultimate pin-up girl of World War II.
Vargas (who signed his Esquire work "Varga") had already achieved some notoriety for his Ziegfeld Follies and movie poster art. But Esquire made him famous, though he was paid poorly and, like Petty, eventually quit. Legal problems over ownership of his work even his own signature plagued him.
But late in his life, Vargas was given a second shot at fame and fortune by longtime fan Hugh Hefner. His regular Playboy slot in the 1960s and '70s elevated Vargas to a pinnacle eclipsing Petty.
One of the true giants of American illustration, Alberto Vargas has created an art style so sensuous, so exquisite, that for the past six decades his magnificent paintings of women have come to embody the fantasies of three generations of women and men around the world. His work also appeared in Harper's Bazaar, Theatre Magazine, and Tattler. He died in December 1982.
Gillette A. Elvgren (1914-1980) has joined the ranks of Petty and Vargas as one of the premiere American pin-up artists...the Norman Rockwell of cheese-cake. His heroines are often caught in humorous but distressing situations. His exquisite oils of gorgeous girls-next door, their skirts often blowing up to reveal lovely nylon-clad limbs -rival his mentor Haddon Sundblom's "Coca-Cola" Santas for sheer nostalgic pleasure.
Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Gillette A. Elvgren attended University High School. After graduation he began studying art at the Minneapolis Art Institute.
Some of Gil's fellow students were Coby Whitmore, Al Buell, Andrew Loomis, Ben Stahl and Robert Skemp; many of whom would later work for Coca Cola, as would Elvgren. He graduated from the Academy during the depression at the age of twenty-two. Gil joined the stable of artists at Stevens and Gross, Chicago's most prestigious advertising agency. He became a protege of the monumentally talented Haddon Sundblom, who was most famous for his Coca Cola Santas.
Working in Sundblom's shop (Stevens-Gross) with Al Buell and Andrew Loomis (among other noted illustrators), Elvgren contributed to various Coca-Cola ads himself. Sundblom who had studied at the American Academy of Fine Art taught his star pupil the lush brush stroke technique that makes Elvgren's girls such glowing wonders.
In 1937, Gil began painting calendar pin-ups for Louis F. Dow, one of America's leading publishing companies. These pin ups are easily recognizable because they are signed with a printed version of Elvgren's name, as opposed to his later cursive signature.
Dow paintings were often published first in one format, then painted over with different clothes and situations. These 'new' paintings were then republished and distributed to an unsuspecting public.
Around 1944, Gil was approached by Brown and Bigelow, a firm that still dominates the field in producing calendars and advertising specialties. They offered him $1000 per pin-up, which was substantially more than Dow was paying him. Elvgren signed on with B&B. Gil's Brown and Bigelow images all contain his cursive signature.
By the terms of Elvgren's contract with B&B, he would turn out twenty calendar girls each year, ranging from cowgirls of the golden west to sultry sirens of the Riviera.
Elvgren looked for models with vitality and personality, and chose young girls who were new to the modeling business. He felt the ideal pin-up was a fifteen-year-old face on a twenty-year-old body, so he combined the two.
An Elvgren model was never portrayed as a femme fatale. She is, rather, the girl next door whose charms are revealed in that fleeting instant when she's been caught unaware in what might be an embarrassing situation. Gusting winds and playful plants grab at her lovely, long legs. She is intruded upon as she takes a bath. Her skirts get caught in elevator doors, hung up on faucets, and entangled with dog leashes. The elements conspire in divesting her of her clothing.
Gil Elvgren's paintings lend credence to the phrase, "A picture is worth one thousand words." His 30" by 24" oils on stretched canvas are second in value only to originals by Vargas.
Hajime Sorayama was born the eldest son of a carpenter in 1947 in Ehime Prefecture, Japan. At school, he scored low in physical education and music, but received top grades in art. When he was in high school, he did pen-and-ink drawings of airplanes and ships. Sorayama entered Shikoku Gakuin university in 1965. After the publication of PINK JOURNAL in 1967, he left the school and entered the Chuo Art School. Graduating in 1969, he was hired at an advertising firm as a comprehensive illustrator. He began working independently as a free-lance illustrator in 1972. Sorayama drew his first robot in 1978.
His books and videos include SEXY ROBOTS (Genko-Sha, 1983), PINUP (Graphic-Sha, 1985), ILLUSTRATION VIDEO (Fuji Television, 1985), VENUS ODYSSEY (Tokuma Communications, 1985), POSTER BOOK SEXY ROBOT (Taco, Berlin, 1989), HAJIME SORAYAMA (Taco, 1989), and HYPER ILLUSTRATIONS (Bijutsu Shuppan-Sha, 1989), THE GYNOIDS (Treville 1993) NAGA (Sakuhin-sha 1997), TORTURE (Sakuhin-sha 1998.
(Excerpted from "Hyper Illustrations II")
D.L. "Rusty" Rust was born in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1932. He began drawing and painting at a very early age and has never had the desire to be anything but a serious artist. His early work was directly influenced by his grandfather, Emil Rust, Gil Elvgren, Bob Toombs, and Norman Rockwell. However, he feels there has been no one single influence in his wildlife art and insists that all wildlife artists have affected his style.
For many years, Rusty's paintings concentrated on circus and portrait subjects; but recently, wildlife subjects have intrigued him more and more. His portraits include such prominent individuals as Emmett Kelly Sr., Emmett Kelly Jr., Merle Evans (Ringling band leader), Norman Rockwell, and Molly Rockwell. In fact, D.L. Rust and Norman Rockwell used to correspond regularly and in one letter Rockwell emphasized that Rusty's artwork "is very good indeed."
Rust's paintings hang in the Ringling Museum of the Circus, Sarasota, Florida; the Norman Rockwell Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
He has illustrated books for Valkyrie Press, A.S. Barnes & Co., and World of Yesterday Publications; and has provided illustrations for Reader's Digest and other magazines. His artwork has also appeared on collector's plates, appointment books, wall calendars, porcelain mugs, playing cards and jigsaw puzzles.
Rusty's ability to capture nature lies between fantasy and reality. Realism is his style, but he wants to take the collector's imagination one step further. He is an artist sensitive to nature and its surroundings. The beauty of his artistic documentation is distinctly his own. Rusty takes us not just to a creative visual, but to a place and a story.
Rust has produced more than 14,000 paintings and has 2,000 originals registered by owners with the National Museum and Gallery Registration Association (an NMGRA record!).
Rusty is the father of five children and currently resides in Florida with his wife, Faith.
Rusty has an online Web page of his work at http//netmar.com/mall/shops/rust-art/rust-ndx.htm
Chris Achilleos was born in Famagusta, Cyprus in 1947, but moved to England with his family in 1960. He went to school in London, then on to Hornsey College of Art in 1965, where he studied technical and scientific drawing. Since 1969 he has become a foremost fantasy illustrator, mainly of book jackets featuring science fiction and "Sword and Sorcery" tales. He lives in London and is married with two children.
The father of the American pin-up, Armstrong (1889-1960) came to fame in the 1920s. His use of the pastel medium spawned such famous followers as Billy De Vorss, Earl Moran and Zoe Mozert. Though he did many covers for magazines and song sheets, it was Armstrong's dazzlingly smiling, flowingly maned, supplelimbed calendar girls for Brown & Bigelow that set the glamour-art standard.
Michigan-born Armstrong, who studied at the famed Chicago Art Institute, contributed covers to such periodicals as College Humor, Life and Shrine magazine; his advertising accounts included Oneida Silverware. A one-time pro boxer and devoted seaman, ruggedly handsome Armstrong was rarely seen without his yachting cap.
With a pastel palette of 3600 colors, Armstrong worked with models in his Manhattan studio, creating enormous originals (typical size 39" by 28"), surviving examples of which are today among the most valuable pin-ups.
Robust commercial artist George Petty (1894-1975) began a series of color cartoons for Esquire in the early 1930s, featuring gorgeous girls and their unlikely unhandsome suitors. Soon the beauties with their dazzling smiles and sleek-as-a-Buick curves held solo center stage, and the "Petty Girl" was born; in the early 1940s, when he bolted Esquire in a money dispute, Petty was replaced by (the also underpaid) Alberto Vargas.
The classy if risque venue of Esquire gave the pin-up respectability, and Petty's amazing airbrush technique put him at the forefront of commercial artists; soon world famous, Petty was plying his pin-up trade for advertisers (including this Tung-Sol Radio Tubes image, circa 1935). Post-Esquire, he did calendar girls for True magazine and, finally, a long running series for the evocatively named Rigid Tools.
In the 1950 Hollywood film "The Petty Girl", the rotund artist was portrayed by slim Robert Cummings. " The Petty Girl" herself was more accurately depicted by Joan Caulfield.
In 1940, Merlin Enabnit was hailed by Life magazine as England's answer to George Petty; the Merlin Girl was a big favorite of British "Tommys" (G.l.s) via regular appearances in Sketch magazine. Merlin's sleek, airbrushed damsels certainly do evoke Petty, although they have a bounce and personality of their own. Postcards, magazine covers and a campaign for White Owl cigars attempted to make Merlin a hit in the States, but his fame never approached Petty level.
Ironically, Merlin (a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts of England) was not British he was born near Des Moines, lowa, in 1903, and worked out of Chicago. His fame in America centered upon his portraits of United Nations luminaries, among others.
The artist was well-known enough for a "Merlin Enabnit's No. 1 Palette Knife" to be marketed nationally and he authored how-to books for Walter Foster on painting with a palette knife, portraiture, and use of color.
The most famous female pin-up artist, Mozert (1907-1993) is an exemplary disciple of the Rolf Armstrong pastel style. Often her own model, Mozert is noted for rejecting sexy-girl cliches in favor of depicting more real seeming young women, with recognizably individual features and personalities.
Her cover portraits of Hollywood starlets for such publications as Romantic Movie Stories and Screen Book were particularly popular, but she also contributed covers to such periodicals as American Weekly and True Confessions.
While the bulk of her work including such deliriously romantic nudes as "Moonglow" and "Sweet Dreams" was calendar-oriented (primarily for Brown & Bigelow), Mozert also made a mark as a movie poster artist, notably for Carole Lombard's True Confession, and the notorious Jane Russell / Howard Hughes sex and sagebrush saga, The Outlaw. Even her less sultry sirens exude both charm and sex appeal.
At first glance, Billy De Vorss might be dismissed as a shameless imitator of Rolf Armstrong, whose influence extended even to De Vorss' signature. Working frequently with live models, the self-trained De Vorss painted in pastels, like Armstrong, and his beauties (like Armstrong's) often displayed dazzling smiles and sleek limbs.
But De Vorss had his own special charm his works, while uneven, have a warmth and glow, his girls-next-door radiating a good-natured sexuality. Where Armstrong conveyed glamour, De Vorss conveys romance His idealized women seem to benefit from his lack of formal training. Perhaps it's no coincidence that his favorite model was his wife.
A native of St. Joseph, Missouri, De Vorss worked out of New York's Greenwich Village from the mid-'30s until his early 1950s return to the Midwest. His earliest calendar girls appeared under the Louis F. Dow imprint.
Little is known about Jules Erbit, but this master of pastels was one of the most prolific pin- up artists from the 1930s into the 1950s. His lovely women grace calendars, posters and prints, published by C. Moss, Brown & Bigelow, and others.
Bathing-suit beauties are rare among the works of Erbit, who specialized in more sedate, but nonetheless sensual images. Erbit typifies the glamour approach a characteristic Erbit pin-up features a lovely woman in a gown leaning against the rail of a ship, or lounging in a garden. It's a soft-focus, flowers-in-the-hair world.
The artist's Masterful use of pastels for his radiant beauties puts him securely in the camp Rolf Armstrong followers; but, unlike Billy De Vorss, Erbit has his own immediately distinctive style. Where Erbit most resembles Armstrong is in the size of the (few known surviving) originals massive works, they typically measure 14" by 31".
Bradshaw Crandell (1896-1966) was one of the most famous "pretty girl artists" of his day. The astonishingly beautiful blonde is typical of Crandell's ability to merge romance, glamour and sex appeal.
But Crandell rarely contributed a "pure" pin-up. His fame chiefly rests with his twelve years of cover girls (in the 1930s and '40s) for Cosmopolitan, where he succeeded famed cover-girl specialist Harrison Fisher. He provided covers for numerous other prestigious magazines, including Redbook, Judge, Saturday Evening Post and The Ladies' Home Journal. He also produced movie poster art for Twentieth Century Fox.
Occasionally he did a calendar or took an advertising assignment that fell more squarely in the realm of the pin-up, proving that had he wanted to go head to head with Petty, Vargas and the rest, he would have been high on every body's final list.
While he has achieved a laudable amount of latterday fame, Enoch Bolles remains largely a figure of mystery. He apparently ended his days in an insane asylum, where he "improved" on his wonderful canvases by adding such touches as jagged jewelry and hovering phalluses.
It's more pleasant to peruse Francis Smilby's wonderful book Stolen Sweets (1981, Playboy Press), and Robert A. Brown's two Spiry card sets (Kitchen Sink Press), all of which brim with wonderful images of exuberant Bolles girls.
Sleek, naughty, these flapper-style dolls, with their bee-stung lips and voluptuous figures, lounge in lingerie and other unlikely forms of sex-fantasy dress-up as - exemplified by this blonde in fur coat and bathing suit. Bolles was a genius, and his oils reveal an artistry second to none in the pin-up genre.
The bold, outrageously fetishistic pin-ups of Peter Driben "keyhole" glimpses of faintly S & M-oriented imagery leaning on loony lingerie, fish-net stockings and spike heels from the Irving Klaw collection keep threatening to make the artist a latter day star. It hasn't quite happened yet, though reports of Driben's oil originals going for Elvgren level prices indicate it may.
Driben's earliest pin-ups were pale Film Fun imitations of Enoch Bolles, but the artist came into his own as house cover artist for the Bob Harrison stable of girlie magazines. Driben's voluptuous, leggy dames in their eye-popping outfits have a sense of humor that keeps the dark side of fetishism at bay; their appearances on Beauty Parade, Eyeful, Flirt, Titter, Whisper and Wink make those magazines highly collectible even when Betty Page isn't a featured model.
Driben was painting portraits of Palm Beach socialites at the time of his death in the late 1970s.
Nebraska-born (1918) Ballantyne is a noteworthy member of the small "girl's club" among pin-up artists. Like Zoe Mozert, she captured a fresh, real sensuality in her subjects, and a palpable sense of fun. Like Mozert, she was (and probably still is) as attractive as a pin-up herself blonde, green-eyed, and frequently barefoot.
The vivid oils of advertising artist Ballantyne (Coppertone's little girl whose bathing suit is being tugged off by a playful puppy is hers) rival those of her one-time instructor Gil Elvgren. While this example clearly echoes Elvgren (whom she reportedly assisted and even ghosted), Ballantyne's women were often depicted in a looser, more natural fashion than the studiously coy poses of her male counterparts.
Though research hasn't yet confirmed it, Bill Medcalf is apparently another Sundblom shop graduate. Though not as prolific (or nearly as well-known) as Gil Elvgren, Medcalf is of all the would-be Elvgrens, including both Ekman and Ballantyne the master's nearest equal, turning out lushly rendered oil paintings of gorgeous All American girls.
Medcalf's work turns up on calendars, both in girl-next door tease situations and in the glamorous ball-gown genre. A St. Paul artist who worked for Brown & Bigelow, he seems to have primarily devoted himself to providing pin-up girls to top advertising accounts, including Sylvania ("Miss Sylvania") and Kelly Springfield Tires.
Otto is another of the Elvgren-style pin-up artists, creating beaming American beauties in lushly painted oils on canvas (for Gerlich-Barclaw, among others). Research has neither confirmed nor denied Otto as part of the Sundblom shop.
Despite hyper-realism typical of the Elvgren school, Otto varies considerably from the Elvgren pattern in several key ways. His paintings contain cartoonish elements, particularly in the expressions of his winsome girls (as well as his cartoonist-style signature). Additionally, his women are less coy than Elvgren's an Otto girl typically attired in short shorts or bathing suit, occasionally tugged along by a cute mutt or two stares unabashedly at the viewer.
Also, Otto eschews any suggestion of setting for a solid black background, and frequently uses Petty-style cartoon outline shorthand for a phone cord or dog leash or whatever to better focus the attention on the pretty subject at hand.
Evidence suggests Edward D'Ancona worked out of Chicago, and is probably yet another graduate of the influential Haddon Sundblom shop; he is rumored to be the son of an artist father.
His painterly style, the lush brush strokes, the warmth of his colors, the girl-next-door beauty of his subjects, suggest a close linkage to both Elvgren and Sundblom. A prolific contributor of calendar-girl art to numerous companies, D'Ancona's earliest works appear to have been for Louis F. Dow; these are stiff, even awkward pin-ups.
Later, an improved D'Ancona landed advertising accounts, including several soft drink firms who capitalized on his Sundblom-like style, so identified with Coca Cola. By the early 1950s, when he joined the ranks of Art Frahm and Jules Erbit in painting glamour girls in gowns, he could hold his own with the best. Like Otto, his girls were less coy than most, brazenly confronting the viewer with a direct gaze.
Born in 1920 in Kansas, Albert Leslie Buell paperback cover artist, magazine illustrator, and Coca Cola artist worked with Elvgren in the Sundblom shop in Chicago. His oils are among the best pin-ups in that medium, although existing originals (on board, not canvas) are much smaller than those of Elvgren, Ballantyne and Ekman.
Perhaps that explains a certain delicacy in his work; Buell's pretty girls really are "pretty." These girls-next-door are captured in such typically innocent pursuits as sewing, playing tennis, or riding a swing. Underclad as they are, Buell's girls have a wholesomeness, an ingenuousness, rare in the pin-up form.
Often his pin-ups have solid black backgrounds, a la Walt Otto; in other cases, he creates full settings, particularly in the pseudonymous paintings (signed "Al Leslie") he did when moonlighting from Brown & Bigelow at lesser companies. In these paintings Buell strayed into the area of embarrassed coy cuties, often accompanied by cute puppies who inadvertently caused skirts to be raised.
Chicago artist Harry Ekman worked side by side with fellow Sundblom shop veteran Gil Elvgren, developing a lush style in oils uncannily like that of his mentor. His girls have the same fresh, wholesome glow as Elvgren's, and are seen in such typical Elvgren-ish situations as bicycling, wading, and walking the dog.
Assisting his colleague in the 1960s, Ekman may even have "ghosted" certain Elvgren signed paintings. His own work appeared under both the Brown & Bigelow imprint and Shaw-Barton. Like Elvgren, Ekman specialized in calendars but also worked in advertising.
Edward Runci, like Medcalf, is an outstanding but unfortunately little-known or talked-about master of pin-ups in oil. His luxuriant brush strokes reveal a talent and skill comparable to Elvgren. Runci like many of the others studied with Sundblom.
According to noted pin-up authority Charles Martignette, Runci was a portrait artist in Hollywood when he was approached by a calendar company for pin-ups. Martignette notes that Runci girls frequently get caught in compromising situations climbing a fence to flee a bull, dress blowing up on a Ferris Wheel ride. Although he did few pinups (probably less than 100) he was one of the best. He went on to become internationally known throughout the remainder of his career for his other subjects which were often in print.
Runci's early 1950s girls are rosy-checked, voluptuous, often blonde Marilyn Monroe-types whose wholesome sensuality radiates off the canvas. He also dabbled in the glamour-gown sub-genre, creating startlingly life-like effects in the silky folds of garments.
Maxine his wife, also an accomplished artist and scuptor, did some pinips under the name of M. Stevens which were often to be confused with those of her husband Ed's. Later works of Maxine's were signed M. Runci. She also flourished in her career. Both Edward and Maxine died early in life.. A great loss to the art world.
(Additional information was provided by B.H.Spencer)
One of the handful of major female pin-up artists, Pearl Frush makes a logical third with Zoe Mozert, who excelled in pastels, and Joyce Ballantyne, who shone as a painter of oils. Frush's medium was watercolor, although it is not always apparent in the published versions of her works.
Fairly prolific in the 1940s and '50s, Chicago artist Frush produced fresh, beautiful, shapely pin-up girls who share with the women of Mozert and Ballantyne an individuality and reality the men in the field seldom achieved. Her originals are comparatively tiny (typically 19" by 14"), and reveal a delicate, flawless technique as beautiful as her subjects. She may be Vargas' only true rival in watercolor, and Petty's in airbrush.
She was not averse to Elvgren-style tease a Frush girl could purse her lips and look coyly at the viewer with the best of 'em but Frush more often presented her young women in a straightforward manner. By the mid-1950s she was capable of near photographic perfection.
Versatile Art Frahm yet another Chicago area artist and a likely Sundblom-shop graduate compares favorably with such master technicians in oil as Elvgren and Ballantyne. But his significance comes out of his defining roles in two seemingly opposite pin-up categories.
Many of his works were outstanding examples of the glamour genre, in which Frahm was a star as shining as those overlooking this lovely pink-gowned debutante. His perfectly coifed, daring decolletage dressed beauties glowed in the midst of romantic soft focus settings.
But Frahm whose commercial art ranged from magazine cover illustration to zany "hobo" calendar paintings also excelled in (and perhaps created) the campily sexist "ladies in distress" series for publisher A. Fox, in which a lovely girl is Iiterally caught with her panties down, her lacy undies slipping to her ankles while she's in the process of bowling, walking the dog or changing a tire. Oops!
Earl Moran (1893-1984) was a master of pastels, though he showed little if any influence of reigning Brown & Bigelow star Rolf Armstrong, whose domain he encroached upon in the '30s. Prolific Moran, lowa-born, a Chicago Art Institute attendee, was soon a superstar himself, creating lively, sexy girls whose relationship with the viewer was seldom a teasing one. Unlike Elvgren and others, Moran did not continually re-work one type of situation, and his pin-ups have more variety than any other major contributor to the field.
Breaking in via advertising work for Sears-Roebuck, Moran went on to magazine illustration (Life), movie posters (Something for the Boys, 1944) and even co-published an early "girlie" magazine, Beauty Parade, contributing covers (sometimes under his middle name non de plume, "Steffa").
His most enduring pin-ups feature his famous late '40s model, Marilyn Monroe. Later he turned to oils, including this gowned glamour girl and, working from the late '50s until his death, an outstanding series of sensual nudes.
Arnold Armitage is a British oil painter who specialized in wholesome country girls. Glowing blonde hair, apple cheeks, gently scooped neckline (suggesting but not stressing shapeliness), plus the rustic fence and flower garden at her lap, all add up to a romantic, bucolic fantasy.
The country girl sub-genre was frequently touched upon by Elvgren himself, but Art Frahm that split personality who specialized in idealized prom dates and girls with their underpants around their ankles joined Armitage in presenting wholesome, attractive country gals in less than overtly sexual poses and situations.
Armitage's girls appeared both in the USA and Great Britain. England's first major pin-up artist was Sketch magazine's Raphael Kirchner during World War 1, followed by the American Merlin Enabnit in World War 2. Lambert, Van Jones and Archie Dickens are other prominent British pin-up artiste whose work has seldom crossed the Atlantic.
However, it is noted that he was known by English and American audiences only by his last name.
One of the most successful and imitated of pin-up artists, Mac Pherson (born in Oklahoma in 1910) originated the famous "Artist's Sketchbook" series for Brown & Bigelow, in which a central, finished figure is augmented by preliminary-style side sketches. World War 2 interrupted his B & B service, and K.O. Munson became the first of his many successors. After the war, Mac signed with Shaw-Barton for a similar successful series.
"Winter Scene," circa 1950, is, typically, a pastel, and the cartoony snowman pencil sketch. Mac worked with live models, and men's magazine spreads of him painting lovely nudes, scattered about his modernistic Southern California studio, added to his legend.
The versatile Mac Pherson also has a considerable reputation as a Western artist. In addition, he has begun a new series of signed limited edition pin-up prints for Stabur Graphics.
In the early 1950s, Earl Mac Pherson was turning out not only a yearly 12-image calendar for Shaw-Barton, but numerous other pin-ups on playing cards, greeting cards, posters, matchbook covers, books, the entire panoply of pin-up merchandising. He took on Jerry Thompson as an assistant, and they worked together in California.
The hardy Mac Pherson somehow came down with polio and, for a time, Thompson approached the level of "ghost." When Mac fully recovered and got back into the pin-up swing, he sold Thompson's contract to another publisher, and from 1952 until at least 1958, T.N. Thompson's "Studio Sketches" was a top-selling rival calendar.
Thompson not only worked in Mac's sketchbook style (although eschewing pastels for oil), he used photo reference of Mintahoia D'Roney and other Mac Pherson models. His earlier calendars are quite good; later an overt cartooniness crept in as he moved away from Mac Pherson's influence.
When Earl Mac Pherson went into service, K.O. Munson was drafted from the Brown & Bigelow stable to take over the successful "Artist's Sketchbook" series. Sticking to the pastel medium, Munson replaced Mac Pherson's Petty smooth pin-ups with sharper, crisper lines, though the soft curves of his bright-eyed beauties were definitely appealing.
Soft-spoken sportsman Munson had been (and continued to be) a successful commercial artist; over the years his clients included Lucky Strike, Goodyear, Motorola, U.S. Rubber, Mars Candy and Sealy Mattress (an ad for the latter featured a fetching Munson beauty lounging on a cloud). Moving from Chicago to St. Paul in 1936, Munson was a top Brown & Bigelow pin-up artist throughout the 1940s.
He spent the '50s back in Chicago, where he opened his own studio, continuing to create pretty girl art for various companies. As painted pin-ups went out of vogue, he had the foresight to shift into shooting cheesecake photo layouts for such men's magazines as Modern Man and Figure.
When K.O. Munson left Brown & Bigelow, Freeman Elliot, veteran artist of pin-up style covers for Hearst's Pictorial Weekly, took over the famous "sketchbook" calendar series. Elliot's girls were gorgeous, impossibly long limbed creatures, often involved in whimsical situations painting the house in a bikini, answering the phone in a towel, cooking in nothing but a tiny apron.
Elliot's style was closer to Munson's than Mac Pherson's, and his girls have a glamour and glow rivaling Elvgren's. His "sketchbook" pages are nicely cluttered, side sketches in both pencil and color embellishing the comic situations, even telling a story of sorts.
What medium exactly Freeman is working in is uncertain; the handful of originals that have surfaced are oils on board. He also contributed several images to the 1953 Ballyhoo calendar, the other contributors to which were Esquire pin-up artists. Here his style had evolved into a lushly sensual one similar to Al Moore and Ernest Chiriaka.
Brown & Bigelow did several spin-offs of its Mac Pherson-originated "Artist's Sketchbook" series. Promo indicates Ted Withers worked out of Tinsel Town, turning out sketchbook calendars in the early '50s, supposedly featuring Hollywood starlets who were rarely identifiable, even if the blonde on this card is clearly Marilyn Monroe.
Withers' femmes were dreamy in face, figure and attitude; self-absorbed, they lounged nude or semi-nude (more explicitly than typical for the times), studying scripts in the altogether, or trying on a bikini bottom, or getting their hair brushed by some mostly off-stage attendee.
He apparently worked in gouache, although oil originals of his have turned up; his sketchbook pin-ups included Mac Pherson-like pencil "side sketches." In Marianne Ohl Phillips article on Zoe Mozert, the late great Zoe described Withers as "5' 10" and just delightful." According to Mozert, Withers was from New Zealand and did movie title card art for Columbia Pictures prior to his pin-up career.
Bill Randall's mid-'50s "Date Book" calendars for Brown & Bigelow were yet another of the publishing firm's spinoffs of the successful MacPherson created "Artist's Sketchbook" series. Randall's approach and style, however, were much closer to Freeman Elliot's than Mac Pherson's.
Randall apparently worked in gouache, giving his pinups a brighter and somewhat flatter (if not flat-chested) look. He mined the Elliot-style humorous situation for further comic effect, with loose "side sketches" replaced by finished cartoon embellishments. Randall girls resemble Elvgren's in face and form preparing a pancake breakfast topless, painting lawn furniture only to have their skimpy tops snap. Yet any embarrassment was tied to tease these girls were not easily abashed. They were in fact brazenly showing off to the viewer.
Prior to his "Date Book" series, Randall did attractive but more sedate pin-up-style covers for Hearst's Pictorial Weekly.
Willis, the final successor to Earl Mac Pherson in the Brown & Bigelow "Sketchbook" series, is perhaps the last major pin-up artist and the only one truly reflecting the sexual revolution. Primarily known for depicting brazenly sensual '60s women in semi-nude disarray, Willis has only a superficial similarity to Elvgren, the innocent girls next door of the latter having little to do with the wanton women of the former.
Oklahoma-born Willis had a distinguished career in magazine illustration. His clients included Collier's, Redbook, and The Saturday Evening Post, and his association with Esquire made him one of that magazine's earliest entries in its ultimately vain attempt to create a new Petty or Varga.
Collectors should be on the look-out for Willis' how-to art books for Walter Foster.
In the late 1940s, when Alberto Vargas left Esquire in a flap over money, the sophisticated men's magazine tried to find a replacement among the most talented commercial artists of the day. One of these was Joe De Mers, born in 1910 in San Diego, California, a fine artist who as early as 1933 had an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.
De Mers had a remarkable career production illustrator for Warner Brothers Studios, successful book publisher freelance commercial artist appearing in such top markets as The Saturday Evening Post, McCall's, Reader's Digest, and Ladies' Home Journal. At last report he had his own gallery on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
His startling use of abstract design with more realistic looking women is typical of modern, post-World War 2 magazine illustration. After contributing to a 1948 Esquire calendar, he was not chosen to be the new "Varga," but did a few pin-ups for Shaw-Barton, earning a minor but interesting position in the history of pin-up art.
Esquire's search for a Varga replacement included such gifted commercial artists of the late 1940s and early 1950s as Ward Bennett, Ren Wicks, Robert Patterson, Eddie Chan and Al Moore. The latter was close to being declared winner, but ultimately Ernest Chiriaka (born 1920) was as close to a new pin-up star as the magazine came. Chiriaka contributed solo pin-up calendars to Esquire from 1953 through 1957.
Chiriaka's women (they weren't really "girls") were sultry and glamorous, often exotically costumed, and sometimes completely un-costumed. These were steamy, sophisticated, not at all wholesome pin-ups. Like De Mers, Chiriaka denoted the post-war modern approach striking design juxtaposed with realistically rendered women. The use of gouache allowed for more gradations of skin tone, trading supple Elvgren smoothness for a palpably sensual earthiness.
In the 1940s and '50s, Chiriaka's other area of expertise oddly - enough, considering the modern elegance of his sex goddesses - was western pulp and paperback covers.
The late 1940s early '50s search by Esquire to replace Varga was not the first time the men's magazine had tried to supplant a superstar pin-up artist. Before landing Alberto Vargas, Esquire had tried to fill the Petty slot with one of America's top comic strip illustrators, Alex Raymond.
New York-born Raymond (1909-1956) was justly famed for his comic strips Secret Agent X-9, Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim (later he would add the detective feature Rip Kirby to this successful string). Certainly Raymond was rivaled only by Milton Caniff and Al Capp for creating "good girl art" in the comics; and his crisp romantic realism with his solid illustrative style, in the John La Gatta manner made him a perfect choice to enter the pin-up arena.
A handful of pin-ups for Esquire, and a lovely Look magazine cheerleader, represent the career in pin-ups that Raymond never quite had. Those in search of pretty Raymond girls, however, need only look to his famous comic strips for plentiful examples.
Heir apparent to Varga at Esquire was Al Moore, who shared the magazine's 1948 calendar with Ben-Hur Baz and other major commercial artists contending for the role. In 1949, 1950 and 1951, Moore was solo artist on the best selling, most prestigious pin-up calendar around. Why he was replaced is unknown another money dispute, possibly?
Petty or Varga-level fame eluded Moore, but his pin-ups are among the best of the late 1940s early '50s, bridging the glamour girls-next-door of Elvgren and the post-war, modern look of Chiriaka and others. Like Elvgren, Moore created voluptuous dream women; but his strong design sense linked him to Chiriaka, as did his use of gouache to give his girls graduated skin tones and a sensual, earthy quality.
Moore's women were wide-eyed wonders, usually blonde, curves spilling out of bikini tops, full bruised lips promising passion. These provocative yet All American temptresses preened for the viewer, very direct, seldom coy, promising the sexual revolution that was to come.
After Al Moore's three-year solo stint as Esquire calendar artist, the 1952 edition presented the next batch of contenders, including Robert Patterson, Ward Bennett, Ren Wicks and Chiriaka. Eddie Chan, veteran advertising artist and Hearst America,' Weekly cover artist, also contributed to the '52 calendar, and to the 1953 Ballyhoo calendar, showcasing charming, shapely, wide-eyed women.
Chan reflected the modern, post-war approach of Jon Whitcomb and Al Parker realistically drawn figures and strong design elements combining with gouache to provide a sharp-edged, flatter look. This plus pastel colored dress and props typified the illos in such magazines as Saturday Evening Post and Collier's.
The ultra-modern, even harsh style of ,Mike Ludlow brought the famed calendar series to a close in 1957, by which time Playboy's similar but photographic calendars had made Esquire's painted ladies an anachronism.
Sarnoff has had a remarkable career studied with Andrew Wyeth; worked for both the pulps and every major slick magazine from Saturday Evening Post to Cosmopolitan; handled top advertising accounts (creating the famous "Karo" babies campaign); painted portraits of such luminaries as Bob Hope and JFK. His work has been the subject of major exhibitions, and his lithos, prints and posters of sporting subjects and Western scenes have been popular sellers.
If that isn't enough, Sarnoff is responsible for the world-famed camp classics of anthropomorphic gambler dogs. His pool-playing dog picture, The Hustler, is said to be the best selling print in American art history.
Sarnoff was also one of the best pin-up artists around, his oils of lovely girls in negligees in the 1940s for Kemper-Thomas Company reflecting an Elvgren / Sundblom influence, with his later bathing beauties in gouache linking him to the Al Moore / Chiriaka style.
Chicago-area artist Deckard worked for Louis F Dow in the late 1940s and into the '50s, creating cuties who were often caught on the phone, sometimes with playful puppies nipping at well-turned ankles. The apparently self-taught, almost primitive Deckard turned out some truly awkward paintings, but even the worst of them has a wide-eyed naive charm.
Deckard was assumed to be a man until a small handful of originals turned up recently, revealing the artist's first name to be Ruth. Ruth Deckard joins Mozert, Ballantyne and Frush on the small but impressive list of ladies who painted pin-ups.
Olivia de Berardinis was born in California in 1948, and was raised on the eastern seaboard. In 1966, she attended the School of Visual Arts in New York, though her studio is now located in Los Angeles. Olivia's technical virtuosity includes works in pencil, gouache, pastel, acrylic, oils, and watercolors, utilizing brush and airbrush.
A world-renowned artist her works are exhibited in galleries around the world and have been featured on the television series Beauty and the Beast and on the covers of magazines such as Heavy Metal. She is also a contributor to Playboy Magazine.