Saturday, February 16, 2013

Gil Elvgren, Ol' School Pin-Ups...

Shuffling along at a recent rod show, got the ol' time machine door kicked in on me again. While checking out a chopped '33 Ford coupe, I noticed a "Pin-up" painted on the cowl done the old school way, by hand.  That got me thinkin' about back in the day "Pin-up" drawings. You know the type you see on old calendars.

One of the most noteworthy classical American illustrators that did hundreds of "Pin-up" paintings was Gil Elvgren. The medium that Gil worked in was oil on canvas, painting women such as the girl next door whose girlish charms are innocently revealed in that fleeting instant when she was caught unaware in what might be an embarrassing situation. As you look through some of his automotive related paintings, you'll see how he used that moment in time.

Pin-up perched on a Mercedes-Benz. Image © Gil Elvgren 

Taking you back, if you walked into an old auto repair shop, you would no doubt catch Gil's work nailed to a wall or in a bathroom, because he was best known for his pin-up paintings for "Brown & Bigelow" the greatest calendar publishing company of all time. Spending most of his career in advertising he also produced paintings for "General Electric" and  "Coca-Cola" which depicted typical people doing everyday things. From the mid 1930's through 1972, Gil produced over five hundred paintings of beautiful girls and women and were fully developed finished works of art. However, in addition, during the 1940's and 1950's he illustrated stories in magazines such as Saturday Evening Post and Good House Keeping. He continually worked to surpass his latest work, always improving composition, color, technique, and his ideas.

It can be safely stated without argument, that Gil was and continues to be the best pin-up artist  the world has ever known. As the years passed his influence on dozens of younger artists that studied his work or had the opportunity to apprentice with him can be seen their pin-up work. He was a twentieth century master. Gil Elvgren  (March 15, 1914-February 29, 1980).

Ditzler calendar. Image © Gil Elvgren

Ditzler calendar. Image © Gil Elvgren

Pin-up perched on a Mercedes-Benz. Image © Gil Elvgren

Pin-up for Mercedes-Benz. Image © Gil Elvgren      

No, no, no parking ticket. Image Gil © Elvgren

NAPA Auto Parts calendar. Image © Elvgren

Notice Gil's signature on the car body. Image © Gil Elvgren

What better way to get a flat changed on a Cadillac. Image © Gil Elvgren

NAPA Auto Parts calendar. Image © Elvgren
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  1. Kurt emailed: Hi John,

    I really enjoyed the piece on Gil Elvgren. Brings back fond memories…..he was a talented guy!



  2. That's cool, I didn't know Mercedes had pin up art.
    oh yeah, and hubba hubba.

  3. Love Elvgren's work! Nicely done, John!

  4. I love this page as well John... couple of Gil Elvgrens I have never seen before... xo