Medcalf's pin-up work, like Elvgren's,
set standards for artistry and imagery for his contemporaries.
When Medcalf joined the staff of resident artists at Brown
and Bigelow on March 18, 1946, he hoped to get some pointers
from his two idols, Elvgren and Norman Rockwell, who were
both contributors to the firm. When he met both men at a
Christmas party that year, he was therefore stunned and
flattered when they asked him how he imparted such a finished
glow to his work.
Medcalf painted more than twenty years of beautiful pin-ups
for Brown and Bigelow, handling all the special-project
calendar commissions for their most important customers.
For his first assignment in 1947, for Kelly-Springfield's
Celebrity Tires, Medcalf painted a beautiful girl walking
her dog on an estate, with a sports car in the background.
Then, for Dorrnan Products (auto parts manufacturers), he
created a breathtaking picture of a girl and her dog having
a picnic in front of an automobile. While still handling
these special pin-up projects, Medcalf also went on to deliver
one winner after another to a new, more traditional Brown
and Bigelow series, The Baseball Hall of Fame.
In 1949, Medcalf did his first pin-up "novelty fold" specialty
item for the firm: a booklet that unfolded four times, each
time revealing a larger pin-up image, the last being an
oversized picture with an advertising message. Named one
of the company's top five pin-up artists in their 1951 business
Builder, Medcalf released his first pin-up hanger the next
year. Entitled Beautiful Morning, this depiction of a young
girl just waking up proved to be a best-seller. The versatile
Medcalf took on the responsibility for the company's American
Boy calendar series in 1953, and he also created many best-selling
evening-gown subjects for their glamour line.
Williarn Medealf was a Midwestern boy, born in Minneapolis.
All of his art education came from school near his hometown,
under teachers like Cameron Booth and Stan Fenelle.
In 1940 and 1941, he worked in the art department of the
United States Treasury's Bureau of Engraving and in 1942,
he joined the Navy as a gunners mate.
During his tenure at Brown and Bigelow, Medcalf worked
first at the company's headquarters, then out of his home
studio in a suburb of St Paul, often using his family and
neighbors as models. In a September 1950 article for a local
art school magazine, he said this about his work:
"I look for the things that make a girl appear feminine,
outside of her face and figure, that is, her pose, expression,
the way she fixes her hair the way she handles her eyes,
her buttons and bows"
"I play up the face and expression, making her look pleasant
and sweet, with sex appeal but without sophistication, like
someone's sweet sister"