Like many things, the history of pinup art has simple beginnings. There was a demand for something and someone realized a way to meet that demand. Specifically, women for looking for new ways to express themselves to others, sometimes through the things they were wearing or the poses they were making or the images they were broadcasting. Putting images on posters was kind of the only way to share them back in the time before television, and repeatedly printing singular images was (and still is) faster than painting them, so the pinup industry was born.
That’s not to say pinup art can’t be painted too. One of the greatest pinup artists of all time, a man named Gil Elvgren, actually painted more than 500 different images of eye-catching pinup dolls all by himself. Pinup art and its history make for some interesting reading, as we hope to show you. After the Great Depression came to a close thanks to WWI and before the looming threat of WWII was even in people’s minds, artists were experimenting with different formats for their imagery. There were calendars, but also trading (or swapping) cards, magazines and of course, pinups.
What began as a way to show off the fashions of the time became a way of life for the most popular pinup models of the time. Many of these worked with Elvgren, helping him to create a sort of identity for pinup models. Even today, modern pinup models look back to the early days of the artform to spot classic, popular poses that they can make their own. Some of these have an interesting history of their own as well. For instance, Betty Grable’s famous peekaboo pose where she is looking back over her shoulder at viewers is from 1943 and models are still working that angle today.
Pin up girls became a part of the American identity during WWII, when US pilots began painting the beauties on the sides of their bombers and other aircraft. The 1950s would see the next huge pinup talent in Bettie Page, who is often titled the “Queen of Pinup” by those who find themselves taken in by her provocative style and daring (for the time, at least) poses. Page actually did a spread for Playboy magazine in 1955, during the height of her popularity and fame. Her regular history of posing for pin up and fetish images along with coverage in major magazines made Page an international star.Read More