Gil Elvgren has joined the ranks of George
Petty and Alberto Vargas as one of
the premiere American pin-up artists - the Norman
Rockwell of cheese-cake. His heroines are often caught in humorous
but distressing situations. His exquisite oils of gorgeous girls-next
door their skirts often blowing up to reveal lovely nylon-clad limbs
rival his mentor Haddon Sundblom's "Coca-Cola"
Santas for sheer nostalgic pleasure. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota,
Gillette A. Elvgren attended University High School. After graduation
he began studying art at the Minneapolis Art Institute.
Some of Gil's fellow students were Coby Whitmore, Al
Buell, Andrew Loomis, Ben Stahl and Robert Skemp (many of whom
would later work for Coca Cola) as would Elvgren. He graduated from
the Academy during the depression at the age of twenty-two. Gil
joined the stable of artists at Stevens and Gross, Chicago's most
prestigious advertising agency. He became a protege of the monumentally
talented Haddon Sundblom, who was most famous for his Coca Cola
Santas. Working in Sundblom's shop (Stevens-Gross) with Al Buell
and Andrew Loomis (among other noted illustrators), Elvgren contributed
to various Coca-Cola ads himself.
Sundblom who had studied at the American Academy of Fine Art taught
his star pupil the lush brush stroke technique that makes Elvgren's
girls such glowing wonders.
Elvgren looked for models with vitality and personality, and chose
young girls who were new to the modeling business. He felt the ideal
pin-up was a fifteen-year-old face on a twenty-year-old body, so
he combined the two. An Elvgren model was never portrayed as a femme
fatale. She is, rather, the girl next door whose charms are revealed
in that fleeting instant when she's been caught unaware in what
might be an embarrassing situation. Gusting winds and playful plants
grab at her lovely, long legs. She is intruded upon as she takes
a bath. Her skirts get caught in elevator doors, hung up on taps,
and entangled with dog leashes. The elements conspire in divesting
her of her clothing.
Gil Elvgren's paintings lend credence to the phrase, "A picture
is worth one thousand words." His 30" by 24" oils on stretched canvas
are second in value only to originals by Vargas.
Here's an example of how Elvgren's racier pictures
were sometimes subtly 'censored'.
Occasionally his early Dow pin-ups works were 'repainted'
(Many times by Vaughan Alden Bass) and put
into circulation slightly altered. Also, Elvgren provided inspiration
for WW II aircraft nose-art.