Gillette Elvgren was a commercial artist
known, more than anything else, for his pin-up girls
, most of which were produced for the calendar company Brown & Bigelow
. He also produced paintings of men and families, in addition to his much sought after pin-ups, for companies like Coca-Cola
, Napa Auto Parts
, and Sylvania
. Besides being a talented painter
, he was a skilled photographer
Elvgren's prolific career began in 1933, when he began attending the American Academy of Art
in Chicago, and lasted approximately 40 years, during which he produced around 500 paintings. He became an overnight success
at the age of 22, when he painted the Dionne Quintuplets
for two Brown & Bigelow calendars.
Though Elvgren painted a few glamour girls
and a few nudes, the majority of his pin-up paintings showed women getting their skirts caught or blown up, or flashing
their unseen audience while crossing their legs. The girls in his paintings were nothing approaching femme fatale
s - they were girls next door
, young housewives, students, and sometimes sailors. All of them shared a fresh face, glowing cheeks, a sincere smile, bright eyes.
While Elvgren painted their costumes and the other parts of the composition in the foreground with near-photorealistic detail, he often left the details of their features to the imagination. Most of his paintings show women whose legs and arms are no more defined than a Barbie
doll's. They have no obvious lower eyelids, often the same nose, often the same eyebrows. Thus, his subjects appear a little out of focus
, as though viewed through a romantic and forgiving lense. The subtle traits of their bodies are left secret making them at once less pornographic and more accessible - they are obviously ideals
, not so much women to lust after as women to swoon over.
Elvgren was respected by his peers, other working artists
, throughout most of his career. They saw not only the quality in his finished products, but the time and effort he devoted to continually improving. It is relatively recently
that Elvgren, and other pin-up and commercial artists, are gaining deserved recognition as fine artists