Alberto Vargas was born in Arequipa, Peru, in 1896, the
son of a successful photographer, and was educated in Switzerland.
Arriving in New York in 1916, he was determined to stay
in America and pursue what became an illustrious career.
His name has become synonymous with pin-up girls, but in
the early 1940s, He was just a guy hired by Esquire
magazine to imitate departed star George
Petty, who bolted over pay. Vargas initially aped Petty's
sleek women with their telephone posing and large-hat lounging.
Soon, however, his own distinctive, delicate watercolor
style emerged. His wide-eyed wonder-women rivaled Betty
Grable as the ultimate pin-up girl of World War Two.
Vargas (who signed his Esquire work "Varga") had already
achieved some notoriety for his Ziegfeld
Follies and movie poster art. But Esquire made
him famous, though he was paid poorly and, like Petty, eventually
quit. Legal problems over ownership of his work even his
own signature plagued him.
But late in his life, Vargas was given a second shot at
fame and fortune by longtime fan Hugh Hefner. His regular
Playboy slot in the 1960s and '70s elevated Vargas
to a pinnacle eclipsing Petty.
One of the true giants of American illustration, Alberto
Vargas has created an art style so senuous, so exquiste,
that for the past six decades his magificent paintings of
women have come to embody the fantasies of three generations
of women and men around the world. His work also appeared
in Harper's Bazaar, Theatre Magazine, and
(See an example of Vargas WW II aircraft nose-art)