She’s beautiful. Her gorgeous smile, cute outfit, and cheery disposition makes you feel good. It’s cold, it’s damp, and you are sitting in a bunker, waiting to go out to fight nameless and faceless men, and she’s all you’ve got. She reminds you of home. She’s wholesome, she’s good. She’s the pinup of the early 20th Century.
Welcome to part two of the History of the Pinup. We are going to be travelling through time, beginning where we left off – at the start of the 20th Century, and ending at the close of the Second World War in 1945.
The first couple of decades of the 1900’s saw a dramatic change in the design and character of the pinup. The Gibson girls of the 1800’s proved that beautiful women could be used to sell products not only to other women, but to men. And the advent of the First World War in 1914 saw the government beginning to harness the power of the pinup to get men to sign up and fight.
You can see from the US Navy Poster (by Howard Chandler Christy) that women were used to encourage men to sign up, often depicted wearing army uniforms and placed next to incredibly blatant government propaganda slogans.
The 20’s saw the rise of female empowerment. The rise of the Flapper brought a whole new meaning to what it meant to be a woman. She drank, she drove, and she danced and dressed provocatively. She flouted social conventions and acted on impulse. What was worse – she listened to jazz.
You can see these changes in the photos below. Compared to the Gibson Girl Pinups, or even the burlesque artists photos of the 1800’s – these women are a lot more daring in their outfits and poses, and are displaying a lot more sensuality and sexual allure. This is also seen in the silent actresses of the era, with the femme fatale entering the Hollywood screens.
During World War 2, the power of the pinup was utilised by the government even further. This is where the traditional pinup that we know and love finally makes her appearance. The rosy cheeks, ruby lips and perfect figures were used as a morale booster for the men in the barracks, with these incredible women being used to present an “All-American” view of the women that were waiting for the soldiers on their return home.
Actresses, models and singers were also considered pinups. With one of the most famous pinup girls of the second world war being Betty Grable – with her sweet charm and traditional good looks.
Two of the most popular artists of the era were Gil Elvgren and Alberto Vargas. Elvgren girls featured bright backgrounds, with the women often in humorous and innocent situations that accentuated the beautiful features of the women whilst bringing out the personality of the characters.
In comparison, Vargas girls were often featured on a plain background, with very thinly veiled erotic undertones. Vargas was often requested to paint “mascot” girls, of which he is reputed never to have turned down.
Another incredible artist to note in this particular era of pinup art, is the incredible Zoe Mozert. Zoe was one of only a few female pinup artists in a male dominated field. She was reputed to use herself as a model, often capturing poses using a camera or in a mirror whilst working in order to compose her paintings.
In the next instalment, we will be looking at the pinups of the latter 20th Century, from the wholesome 50’s and swinging 60’s, to the more modern works of the 1980’s and 90’s.
What do you think of the pinups of the early 20th Century so far? How do you think these artists have affected the work we see today? Let me know in the comments below – it’s be great to hear from you!