Since the dawn of time the nude has been a reoccurring subject in the arts. Whether inscribed on a ceramic urn in Ancient Greece or immortalized in a Renaissance painting the human form has always interested and excited us as a species.
At the beginning of the 20th century a new sex icon emerged, the erotic nude of the French postcards. Her coy expressions and provocative poses captured the eyes of many a fellow and she set even the most civilized gentleman's blood aflame with her scandalous temptations.
While the photographic nudes of the French Postcards were burning holes in soldier's pockets in Paris, on the other side of the Alps the paintings of the Austrian painter Raphael Kirchner were tempting imaginations with their erotic realism.
As we trace the evolution of the pinup let us take a minute to delve into the glittery world of the Ziegfeld Follies. The notorious cabaret, brain child of larger than life impresario Florenz Ziegfeld, played a significant role in Americans' concept of the ideal woman.
Ziegfeld was famous for his particular review of perfection and concurrent system of classification, judging girls in the specific categories of face, hair type, body type, hands, legs and profile, along with their stage talents.
A. C. Johnston
Cheney, as his friends called him, began his artistic career as an illustrator, studying painting at the National Academy of Design in New York City and working under the guidance of his mentor Charles Dana Gibson of Gibson Girl fame.
Paris has long been the trend setting epicenter of western society. For centuries it has attracted and nurtured the creative minds of artists and thinkers whose various influences on culture, fashion and art persist to this day.
One of the most influential elements in the evolution of pinup culture was film. What would the pinup be without the advent of the movies? In the 1920s and 30s the American film industry successfully created and distributed a fantasy that burrowed into the hearts and imaginations of the nation.
1930s Pulp Pinup
The scandalous fun of the roaring 20s came to a screeching halt when the stock market crashed in 1929. As live entertainment lost its elite financial backing, new forms of diversion rose to fulfill the destitute population's need for distraction.
By the 1930s the pinup had emerged as an American icon, appearing on the cover of pulp magazines, dime-store novels and saucy calendars across the country. Two of the earliest artists who set the standard for decades to come were Enoch Bolles and George Quaintance.
It is safe to say that pinup art celebrated its heyday in the 30s-40s. Evolving from risque erotic photography, the pinup was infused with the humor of pulp novels along with the sensationalism of the Hollywood starlet and before long it had developed into a specific genre of its own.
Pinup Nose Art
The sensual female form has been an important cultural symbol for centuries. Mythical women and goddesses have adorned vessels as protective emblems since the days of the Vikings and in the 1920s enraptured nudes were frequently used as mascots and hood ornaments for automobiles like the Rolls Royce.
After World War II, the pinup went commercial. Now you could see an attractive girl selling cigarettes or airline tickets with a wink and a smile. Part of the allure and appeal of the pinup model was her girl-next-door sensibilities – women wanted to be her, while men wanted to do wild things with her and still be able to take her home to mom.
In the 1940s a "Varga Girl" was the definition of a pinup; sexy, yet sweet, desirable yet demure. Alberto Vargas loved painting women in all their curvy glory and his pinups are now considered American masterpieces and the epitome of classic glamour.
Mozert was born Alice Adelaide Moser in 1907. An attractive girl herself, she modeled to raise money to pay for art school. In 1925 Mozert had the opportunity to study with Thornton Oakley and Howard Pyle at the Philadelphia School of Industrial Art. Here she honed her craft before moving to New York City in 1932 to begin her career as an artist.
American illustrator Gil Elvgren is often referred to as the “Cheesecake King” and when you look at his work it’s easy to see why – it’s hard to not want to take a bite out of all his deliciously sweet and sassy pinup girls.
Pinup art was a booming business in the 1950s and talented sketch artist Earl MacPherson cashed in on the craze early by releasing a series of successful calendars and books showing the process of capturing a pretty pinup on paper.
What do dropped drawers and celery have in common? No, this is not a trick question. Both are common features in artist Art Frahm's playful pinup paintings. You don't often hear celery and sexy in the same sentence, but Frahm was able to incorporate this green veggie into some of his most iconic "lady in distress" paintings from the 1940s and 1950s.
Sure, a sultry siren drawing can get a guy's engine purring, but there's something about looking at a real photograph that gets the blood pumping and hearts racing. In the 1940s and 1950s photographic pinups were swiftly gaining in popularity.
As the 1950s came to a close, a new pinup started to emerge – the screen siren. Now men were drooling over the curvaceous women they saw in their favorite films and buying their posters so they could stare at them long after the lights in the theater came back on.
Yeager knew she was destined for a life of glamour. When her family moved to Florida in the 1940s, she took the opportunity to enroll in a modeling course and started competing in beauty pageants.
From Pinup to Porn
The sexual revolution of the 1960s was an exciting time. Women were now able to flaunt their sexuality and experiment without having to worry about the ramifications of society. Free love reigned and men and women were able to express themselves in a completely new way.
As artists renditions of beautiful babes were being replaced by photographic pinups, one magazine that helped fuel the careers of many a modern icon was Sports Illustrated. Where artists like Elvgren and Frahm left off, SI carried on the tradition of glorifying the girl next door.
It's no secret that sex sells. Just ask modern-day pinup artist Olivia De Berardinis. As a struggling artist in New York City back in the mid-1970s, she quickly realized painting pinups and drawing erotica for different magazines would pay the bills.
In the 1970s people were constantly trying to shock and push the envelope on screen and in magazines. The sweet innocence of pinup illustrations had long fallen out of favor for the more direct "let it all hang out" photographs of Playboy and the Page Three girls.
Fine Art Pinup
The 1960s were a time of experimentation and the art world was no exception. Artists such as Andy Warhol were turning conventional items into influential pieces of art. These “Pop Artists” were pushing the boundaries of what people considered art.
The 1980's left behind many pop culture gems: Indiana Jones films, Wall Street yuppies, Michael Jackson, and the iconic artwork of Patrick Nagel. Although you may not recognize his name right away, Nagel’s paintings of women, which were made up of simple lines and stark black and white contrasts – are some of the most vibrant art pieces of that era.
Music is a powerful art form. It brings people together, makes a statement, and can define entire generations. The rockabilly music movement of the mid-1950s changed the musical landscape forever and birthed a subculture that is still going strong all around the world today.
In 2005, Brooklyn, New York, Dr. Sketchy’s Anti Art School - the brainchild of artist Molly Crabapple and A.V. Phibes - was born. Bringing together artists, burlesque, and performance artists in one space, these unique events allow everyone’s creative juices to flow.