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Saturday, 22 September 2012

Vintage Pinup Artist, Gil Elvgren

If you have been browsing my blog, you will have seen that I had a Vintage Vic stall, at the Deal Braderie craft fair last week. Whilst there, I spotted a wonderful piece of art. A canvas upon which an artist had painted  a copy of a Gil Elvgren pinup girl. It was beautiful, but someone else got to it before me. :-(

As I work with vintage cards, illustrations and ephemera, I have come across this name often, so I decided to find out more about this man and his amazing pinup art.

Gil Elvgren (March 15, 1914, Minnesota – February 29, 1980, Florida), born Gillette Elvgren, was an Americanpainter of pin-up girlsadvertising and illustration. Elvgren was one of the most important pin-up and glamour artists of the twentieth century.

He attended University High School. After graduation he began studying art at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. He subsequently moved to Chicago to study at theAmerican Academy of Art. He graduated from the Academy during the depression at the age of twenty-two. Elvgren joined the stable of artists at Stevens and Gross, Chicago's most prestigious advertising agency.

In 1937, Gil began painting calendar pin-ups for Louis F. Dow, one of America's leading publishing companies, during which time he created about 60 works. Around 1944, Gil was approached by Brown and Bigelow, ( also home to the wonderful Hilda, by Duane Bryers) a firm that still dominates the field in producing calendars and advertising specialties. He was associated with Brown and Bigelow from 1945 to 1972.[5]

Elvgren was a commercial success. He lived in various locations, and was active from the 1930s to 1970s. His clients ranged from Brown and Bigelow and Coca-Cola to General Electric and Sealy Mattress Company. In addition, during the 1940s and 1950s he illustrated stories for a host of magazines, such as The Saturday Evening Post and Good.
(Taken from wikipedia)

Elvgren's Coca-Cola subjects portrayed the American dream of a secure, comfortable lifestyle, but his well-known illustrations for magazine stories often captured timeless scenes that reflected the hopes, fears and joys of their readers. These publishing assignments were commissioned during the 1940s and 1950s by a host of mainstream American magazines, including McCall's, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and Woman's Home Companion.
(Taken from

The discovery of Elvgren’s collection of over 350 nude photographic slides was a fascinating find that forms a more complete picture of his artistic process. Elvgren’s paintbrush could capture the exact angle of a hip or line of a leg seemingly effortlessly. He understood intrinsically how women moved. It is thus perhaps not such a surprise to realise that he worked from nude photography as well as his more formal, clothed, studio set-ups. As Elvgren himself once commented, ‘Working from photographs is funny. Once in a while you hit one which has everything you want, but most of the time it’s like life in a mannequin factory. A leg here, an arm there, a little from this one, something else from another. Finally you have a picture.”
(Taken from

(Above pictures taken from

One of the most fascinating features of the Elvgren collection is the glimpse this one box of slides gives into the still relatively unknown subculture of amateur camera clubs and underground nude photography that existed at a time when even topless modeling was taboo and full nudity was classed as illegal pornography.
(Taken from

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