Alone among the pin-up artists in being entirely self-taught, Billy
DeVorss sold his first three published pin-ups to the Louis F. Dow
Calendar Company in St. Paul about 1933. Until that time, he had
been working as a teller in a bank in St. Joseph, Missouri. There
he had met the stunning woman, Glenna, who became his wife and first
official model. Encouraged to develop his talent by Gene Sayles,
the manager of Brown & Bigelow's Kansas City branch office,
DeVorss soon received his first commission from the company.
To celebrate, DeVorss and his wife moved to New York and set up
a penthouse studio in the Beaux Arts Building, at Eighteen East
Tenth Street. Signing up with the prestigious American Artists group,
DeVorss spent the next several years working for calendar-publishing
houses such as Brown & Bigelow, Joseph C. Hoover, and Louis
F. Dow. Most of his pastel originals were large (40 x 30 inches)
and bore his highly distinctive Art Deco-inspired signature.
Covers for Beauty Parade and the King Features Syndicate as well
as calendar commissions from the Osborne and Goes companies followed
in the early 1940s. In 1949, the artist illustrated a highly successful
campaign for Botany Woolen's robes with depictions of handsome men
lounging at home with their own DeVorss pin-up girls.
DeVorss used an incredible variety of pastel colors for his work,
and he applied them directly onto the board, blending them dry with
his fingers. His occasional oil paintings bear the rich, painterly
brushstrokes of the Sundblom School.
Like Rolf Armstrong, DeVorss always
worked from live models for the final painting; he did, however,
employ photographs for preliminary stages. His vibrant pin-ups,
inspired by New York's theaters and nightclubs, display a fine sense
of composition, a flowing, graceful line, and a daring blend of
In 1951, Billy and Glenna DeVorss returned to St. Joseph, their
first home. After some time there, they settled in Scottsdale, Arizona,
where DeVorss died in 1985.