Depiction of the female form as witnessed in gentlemen’s magazines from the middle of the nineteenth century has become rather passé in recent years. Despite the influence on modern graphic aesthetic, ‘Cheesecake’ has been largely ignored within scholarly journals. The author attempts to inform the reader by providing a brief social history and evolution of the ‘pin up’, and their illustrators. Despite the rise of pornography and the controversial debate over its effects on equality within contemporary society there remains little evidence to support the artist rendered nude has contributed. For many males seeing girls with little on was not the demeaning assault on the opposite sex, so often depicted within the anti pornographic debate, but instead the only sex education available to them. Taken within an historical context the popularity of the pin up has coincided with global economic peaks and troughs including two world wars.
Technology made available to millions of ordinary young men, forcibly parted from their sweethearts, intimate glimpses of the girls they had left behind. Most consoled themselves with the image of the Varga Girl and many died with her image as their only intimate experience of the female form. The author has restricted this inquiry to artist rendered depiction of young women with the main thrust of the paper directed at Girlie Magazines, Adult Comics and Pulp Fiction dust covers. Other medium have been briefly included but only where they relate directly to the above. Cheesecake had its golden age between the 1920s and 1950s spanning Art Deco to Modern Art. The former featured the female figure as a glamour icon and illustrators took this theme and crossed it over to pin up (Martignette 1996, p. 38). For the benefit of the reader the following definitions may be helpful.
"Pin ups were intended to stimulate the voyeur, as an aperitif would prepare the digestive juices for a rich meal."
The term ‘pin-up’ became synonymous with ‘girlie’ illustrations as and from the beginning of the twentieth century. The origins of the term are unknown but many historians attribute the honour to servicemen during WWII who avidly collected magazines and cut out their favourite pictures to display in lockers, mess rooms and on tanks and aeroplanes. Betty Grable was considered the Queen of the pin ups in the 40s and made a film entitled ‘Pin-up girl’. (Gabor 1996. p.21). According to this author (p.23) a ‘pin up’ is a sexually evocative image reproduced in multiple copies in which either the expression or the attitude of the subject invites the viewer to participate vicariously in or fantasise about a personal involvement with the subject. From 1944 onwards many photographic models became known as ‘pin-up’ models, the popularity of the format meant it could be enjoyed more freely for its own sake and as a valid pictorial form. Aesthetic standards improved and the once tardy picture became an acknowledged high art form.
‘Cheesecake’ was a young woman depicted displaying female comeliness and shapeliness and appeared in magazines. adverts, posters, and cards (Bishop & Osthelder, 2001 p 392). According to Gabor (1996, p.27) the origins of ‘cheescake’ came from an exclamation from a newspaper editor at seeing a ‘leggie’ publicity picture of Elivira Amazar (Russian diva) in 1915. The conventional image relies on the notions of teasing and allure, frequently with underlying humour. The classic ‘cheesecake’ shows a curvy woman with her sumptuous breasts exposed (or nearly exposed), posing coquettishly in a predictable stylised setting. (Gabor 1996).
According to Koetzle and Scheid (1994 p.13) what was classified as pornography in earlier times adorns the covers of today’s magazines. Something considered taboo in one culture might raise few eyebrows in another. Hence it is impossible to link modern cheesecake to images of the past by way of explaining the phenomena, instead, archaic antecedents preceded the modern pin up but may have little relevance to explain them. The first poster featuring a naked lady appeared in the 15th century. (1491), a wood cut to advertise a Belgian edition of Jean d’ Arras’s Histoire de la Belle Melusine. The readership was almost exclusively the clergy and subsequently would not be seen by a wider community (Gabor, 1996 p. 14). It took until the 18th century before William Hogarth (1697-1764) made popular images of ordinary people in contemporary society. This included the seamier side of life and presented Western Society of women as sexual beings.
Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) continued the theme into the next century and produced engraved caricatures of London’s ‘lowlife’ as well as the decadence of the upper classes. Later, James Gillary (1757-1815) treated sexual subjects with broad humour. Gabor (1996, p.33) credits the invention of the high speed printing press (1850) for the increased incidence of exploitative images as more of the general public were accessed to reading. The word magazine appeared for the first time with the introduction of Gentleman’s Magazine (1731). According to Holland, (1998) this contained a collection of newspaper articles, original writing with some verse. Aimed at the upper and middle classes these publications thrived throughout the 19th century. Almost ¾ of the adult population in the UK were literate due to The Education Act in 1870 and ambitious publishers were eager to capitalise on leisure and recreation. Penny Dreadfuls (UK) and Dime Novels (US) were directed at adult readership, whereas the pulps (25c), were for consumption by pre-pubescent boys.
From this a new culture grew and according to Gabour (1996) the pin–up phenomenon was an American innovation. In European publications women had been presented as ornate accessories whereas in the new world woman were seen as sexual objects (Gabor 1996 p.36). This was not without a sense of irony, and the same author noted the young American males may have felt they were missing out on the indulgences of the Belle Époque.
Until the invention of the camera all artists illustrated. A maxim of the pin-up artist was “Pose, clothes and expression.” Rather than depict the nude, emphasis was placed more on human vulnerability. The human spirit rising about the indignance of serendipity. The origins of the pin up can be traced to the works of Charles Dana Gibson, Howard Chandler Christy and in the early works of Roy Armstrong and Albert Vargas. Between 1930–1960 the pin up girl permeated every part of life. Hollywood greats like Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth may have filled the film screens and movie magazines but was the pin up girls that decorated the walls, wallets and lockers.
Aubrey Beardsley (1872 –1898) was a remarkable English illustrator who developed a perverse and playfully theatrical style partly inspired by Greek vase painting. The artist captured the decadent theme of evil by emasculating woman. These figures were often grotesque but with venomous elegance. Beardsley described these drawings as ‘naughty’ and may have unconsciously given form to the ‘vamp.’
In contrast Charles Dana Gibson was an illustrator for popular magazines which were very influential in Victorian times. The artist inspired Americans through the turn of the 20th century with hopes and ideals expressed though his pen-and-ink drawings in Life Magazine. The Gibson Girl first appeared in from 1887 (Martignette 1996 p.35) and her outstanding characteristic was her dignified self-confidence and her sense of privacy. She was a feisty female uninhibited by males. The antithesis of Victorian conservatism and role model for suffrage. She was tall, spirited and independent, yet altogether feminine. She wore stiff shirtwaist, her soft hair piled into a chignon, topped by a big plumed hat. Her flowing skirt was hiked up in back with just a hint of a bustle. She was poised and patrician. Though always well bred, there often lurked a flash of mischief in her eyes. She was spunky and sentimental, down-to-earth and aristocratic at the same time. And she appeared in drawings that captured with bold craftsmanship such timeless themes as love, money, self-deception, and social climbing. For almost a quarter of a century she became a role model for young modern women and was idolised by millions. (Gabor 1996 p.47). ‘Gibson-mania’ prevailed at the turn of the century and merchandising was on the level of Mickey Mouse or Star Wars. Large size books, china plates and saucers, ashtrays, tablecloths, pillow covers, chair covers, souvenir spoons, screens, fans, umbrella stands all bore the image of Gibson's creations. There was even wallpaper for bachelor apartments, with the lovely Gibson faces in endless array. A popular hobby of pyrography saw people burning the Gibson Girl into leather and wood; and the image was traced and stitched into handkerchiefs. There were plays, songs, and even a movie based on his creation. The greatest honour and most lasting memento of the Gibson Girl was the when the Coca Cola Company patented their bottle containers in the shape of the Gibson Girl. Amid this adulation, the well-bred young ladies of the time came (with their chaperones) to Gibson's studio to pose; later, many of them claimed to have been the "original" Gibson Girl.
A common belief is pin ups first appeared on French Post Cards as an early as 1870s but this is unlikely (Gabor, 1996). The picture post cards, as we understand them, were invented by a French bookseller called Leon Besnardeau and the first pin-ups did not appear until 1895 or 1900. The earliest postcards were bathing beauties, which became popular in England. At first these were artistic depictions of women bathing created by artists. Later with photography the models posed against hand painted beach background. The best-known post card artist was Austrian born Raphael Kirchner (1875-1917). His artistic treatment of women was so unique that his provocative women were referred to as Kirchner Girls. In 1901 he came to Paris and created several series of suggestive postcards.
In erotic pictures no accessory was too outré as long as it served to project sexual arousal. (Koetzle &Scheid, 1994 p.14). Curtains, drapes, carpets and small items of furniture all served to recreate the atmosphere of the boudoir but what was considered most shockingly precocious were images of women smoking. Liberal attitudes were sweeping through all phases of society during the Belle Époque (Martignette, 1996 p 36) and Kirchner included many when he depicted his models clothed or coyly showing their charms. The post card reached its zenith by the First World War and the Kirchner Girl was by far the most popular. US soldiers returning home took the cards with them with two main results. According to Martignette (1996, p 36), straight line fashions shown in Italian postcards, were introduced to the US and became the impetus for the “flapper style” which prevailed throughout the 20s also nostalgia meant the images started to be reproduced in cheesecake calenders. The end of the post card era came in 1925.
The National Police Gazette was established in 1845 (US). The popular broadsheet featured both sports and crime and from 1878 onwards sex pictures and sex advertising appeared regularly. Front covers always flagrantly displayed the main stories and when this involved prostitutes they appeared voluptuous and well fed. According to the editors the function of the National Police Gazette was to protect the innocent with moral editorials to guide the reader, thus was juxtaposed with sensational revelations equivalent to what might be found in the National Enquirer (US) or Sunday Sport (UK).
The 1870s presented a changing morality in the US with the influence of burlesque and its preoccupation with exposing parts of woman’s bodies having a massive influence on young Americans. The exploitation of the female figure steadily increased and these images were eagerly replicated in the emerging adult’s magazine. (Gabor, 1996.p 40). From 1878, the New Police Gazette was printed on pink paper and distributed to saloons and cheap hotels. It became the barbershop bible until 1922, when hair bopping became vogue and the barber’s clientele changed to accommodate the female fad. (Gabour, 1997. p. 36). By 1890 the rag featured the stars of Burlesques, especially the leggy lovelies of the girls in tights genre. These acts became incredibly popular at this time and the magazine offered pull out supplements of quality photographs, suitable for display. After the Great War the magazine’s circulation plummeted. By this time newspapers had developed were reporting crime and sports more efficiently. To continue to attract readership, editorial emphasis in the 20s highlighted sensationalism and sex. A more enlightened post war society where everything goes were less impressed with the cheap salaciousness of the magazine and the Police Gazette went bankrupt by the next decade. Playful girlie magazines and confession magazines proliferated at this time and all featured colourful front covers (Gabor, 1996. p.37) Gabor (1996) argues these popular rags were partly responsible for the forging the male view; women were happy go lucky sexual objects.
A decade later these journals were writing about a more serious side to women’s sexuality. This also corresponds to the Cinema Noire period of Hollywood. Female characters became more complex and were often depicted as sinister. Most media study experts believe this was as a reaction to women entering the work force, which triggered a misogynistic backlash. By depicting the lighter aspects of the female character in the pin-up may ironically have been a deliberate attempt to promote gender harmony. Certainly more female illustrators started to show their influence at this time.
As pulp fiction took hold more and more dust covers depicted lurid paintings, showing heroines in bondage or mortal danger (Martingnette & Meisel, 1996 p 17). Many of the stories were quite innocuous but the front cover, according to Holland (1993, p.), was given the femme fatale treatment. These were aimed to sell the book and had little to do with the story within. Once the thirties accepted the pin up, publishers moved more to include photographs. (Gabor, 1996 p, 76). Cheap paper made from wood pulp i.e. paperbacks sold in large numbers and between the Wars every niche interest was catered for (Holland, 1993). Rationing during the war years temporarily halted growth but when paper was eventually deregulated, cheap girlie magazines proliferated in the 50s. (Holland, 1993 p.13). Interest in American style crime and Nazi torture meant sex, sadism and drug peddling were topics avidly read about . Many of the Science Fiction and Western paperbacks were spiced up with covers highlighting the promise of smut (Holland 1993 p. 65). The dust covers genre showed alluring ladies dressed in the briefest wisps of lace, often depicted in the bedroom guaranteed to make the heart pound. Low brow stories had sex workers posing for business, the popular gangster cover had buxom dames game for a challenge or frail flowers about to be traumatized (Holland 1993 p. 76).
The domesticated role which had women at home, mother, cook and chief domestic manager may have meant young male American felt they were missing out on the indulgences of La Belle and needed something to spice up their lives. Along with sports, drinking, and gambling, the dance halls helped fill the gap. Burlesque came from England and spicy magazines achieved enormous circulations.
Art Mags and Mutoscope Cards
"Alice Boughton-Dawn" by Alice Boughton - Camera Work, No 26, 1909. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
In the evolution of the pin-up , one main assumption was paramount and that was young men preferred to be teased by semi-nude poses than to become instantly acquainted with a woman’s innermost gynaecological organs (Turczyn, 2003). Predating the more graphic pornography of the mid to late 50s were art magazines devoted to the female form. These were sold under the guise of artistic magazines or health publications. The first nude photography magazine was “Camera Works” and was founded in 1902 by Albert Stieglitz. Not all the pictures were nudes but when featured all pubic hairs were airbrushed out which gave the image a surreal quality. From a marketing perspective males were more comfortable buying magazines of artistic expression, but certainly the models were professional and the quality of photography better than most of the later girlie magazines. Frontal nudity was restricted until the laws changed comparatively recently (in the 60s & 70s). Until then skin rags featuring frontal nudity were either illegal or their publishers would use the protective umbrella of ‘art photography to gain as large an audience as possible (Gabor, 1006 p. 65). To avoid the censor’s attention text and captions stressed drawing, painting or photographic techniques but the pictures the subjects the styles and the lack of artistry or creativity in the photography made it evident that serious study of the material for artistic purposes was most unlikely.
As part of the same movement from mid 30s until the 50s ‘Mutoscope cards’ or art cards were sold from arcade vending machines. These sold in their millions (Martignette, 1996 p 33).
Skin rags: Gentlemen’s Fair
The Covent Garden Magazine was first erotic periodical in UK and emerged in 1773. The Pearl or Journal of Faceriae and voluptuous reading ran from 1879 to 1886 and contained 36 obscene coloured lithographs. In 1783, The Rambler’s Magazine (alternative title: The annals of gallantry, glee, pleasure and the bon ton: Calculated for the entertainment of the polite world) was another popular read. One of the more respected publishers and celebrated eroticist of the nineteenth century was Mary Wilson who produced a wide variety of material but it was not clear whether these were exclusively for men. It took until the First World War before the pin up appeared in specialised magazines. Until then they were featured in popular reading of general interest.
The US was by far the greatest consumer and producer of art magazines, girlie mags and Hollywood fan mags. France came second but well behind North America. French girls had a special allure in the minds of young Americans and they appeared to regard French women as more exotic and sexually sophisticated than their own women. This may have had something to do with the famous French prostitutes in New Orleans. The leading magazine during WWI was Captain Willy’s Whiz Bang, published by Fawcett Publications (NY) priced 25 cents. In 1926 it had a circulation of 425,000. The first girly magazines were intended to be respectable empathically and not pornographic.
The Esquire Monthly was published from 1933. It was directed at the fashionable elite male and included in the first issue a pin-up drawn by George Petty (Curtis 1997 p, 83). In the ensuing years the Petty Girl rivaled the Gibson Girl for popularity (Austin, 1997 p. 33). She was always accompanied with a humorous caption and the artist’s themes dealt with marital infidelity, promiscuity, money, and flirtation, to appeal to high-class sophistication and humour. One reason why the paint medium was chosen was to celebrate the femininity of American women (Martignett, 1996, p. 33.) Many of the pin-ups were two-three page foldouts. The Petty girl last appeared in Esquire in December 1941 and was replaced by the Varga Girl (drawn by Albeto Vargas).
She started to feature from October 1940 and continued until 1946. No longer in cartoon form the drawings were accompanied by humorous verse. Both the Petty Girl and Varga Girl were sex objects, vivid yet unreal, functioning in their own world, and representing the fantasies of men. In accord with the times Varga Girl was patriotic and a film favourite with the enlisted men. Both beauties appeared as ‘nose art” (Martignette 1996 p.43) on planes and tanks as lucky talismen (Gabor 1996 p. 77).
By World War II there were many more girlie mags for the troops including the Reveille (UK). By far the modest famous pin–up during the second world war was Betty Grable and her million dollar legs. The image first appeared in Times overseas edition (1942) but also was reproduced in Yank, the official GI magazine. She was a` lucky talisman for the men at war. In the late 1940s Alberto Vargas left Esquire and the sophisticated men's magazine tried to find a replacement among the most talented commercial artists of the day. These included such gifted commercial artists as Ward Bennett, Ren Wicks, Robert Patterson, Eddie Chan and Al Moore. However none of their creations reached the pinnacle of the Petty and Varga Girls. By 1958 Esquire had shown its last pin-up collage and Playboy had taken over the mantle. (Gabor, 1996 p.77).
Playboy first appeared in 1953 and was a man’s magazine dedicated to the indoor, sophisticated, city dweller. Hugh Hefner, Playboy’s founder, was keen to re-energise the essence of the pin–up days of Esquire with a magazine dedicated to sensuous pleasure. In the first edition, December 1953, Playboy featured articles by Norman Holland and Bob Norman among others including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The ‘Sweatheart of the month’ was Marilyn Monroe (photographed by Tom Kelley) (Playboy magazine archive –1953, 2003).
The photo pin-up became progressively bolder yet despite featuring some of the most beautiful women in the world these images were contrived into was an idealised forms with clever ‘touch ups’ and removal of skin blemishes and image editing. In truth the images were no different from the pin up images of Petty and Varga. The term lifelike would be appropriate and the same description may be attributed to computer generated images of, today’s Gibson Girl, Ms Lara Croft.
Playboy continued with the popular genre of young vulnerable women in the same tradition of early years. e.g. ‘The Adventures of Little Annie Fanny’. History records there was much criticism from the feminist movement at the time, and the ‘Playmates’ was considered to represent the worst features of male chauvinism. The drawings of Alberto Vargas began to appear in Playboy during the 60s and 70s.The unprecedented popularity of Playboy brought many imitators, the majority of which were inferior quality but several had stand out graphic design and photography.
In the UK, Penthouse started in 1965 and was followed by Mayfair (1966), and Men Only (1971). Penthouse was aimed at a more mature readership and contained more risqué pin-ups. Penthouse Pets were less servile and had the independent spirit of the Gibson Girl with an appeal to the young. The magazine was the first to included pubic hair (April edition 1970). When Hustler (US) stripped away the need for pseudo-sophisticated content and romanticised photography, the cheesecake days were numbered. From the 70s onwards the popularity for graphic beauties faded as the need for more photographic exhibits took hold and the traditional pin-up became passé. (Turczyn, C The Gallery of forgotten girlie magazines).
After the Second World War material started to become more raunchy. Between 1942 and 1958, Robert Harrison published a range of cheesecake and humorous photostories. His maxim was ‘girl’s gags and giggles’ (Riemschneider, 2001). Harrison’s crop of girlie magazines included; Beauty Parade: The World’s loveliest girls (1942-1956); Eyeful: Glorifying the American Girl (1943-1955); Titter : Americas Merriest Magazine (1943-1955); Wink: A whirl of girls (1944-1955); and Flirt: A fresh magazine (1947-1955). The successful publisher did not approve of nudity and had his girls caught in slapstick situations with apt captions to match the situation. Only the covers of the magazines were drawn whereas the contents were photographs in black and white. The models were most scantily clad. The eye-catching dust covers were painted by many well known artists including Peter Driben, Earl Morgan, and Billy De Voss. Being formally trained their fresh, tasteful pin up illustrations satisfied all aesthetic standards.
Wink followed the formula developed for Beauty Parade but did contain two innovations to set it apart from its rivals, The first was a strong fetish element added to the photo stories. Wink contained girls in chains, whip wielding "wild sirens" and spanking stories. The magazine also ran a reprint of John Willie's "Sweet Gwendoline" comic strip, a double page bondage saga concerning the exploits of Sweet Gwendoline and the dastardly Sir d'Arcy.
For a quarter of a century in the UK, Jane, a comic pin up, appeared in the Daily Mirror (London) (1932 –1959). Many of her comic adventures found her involved in bondage.
Eric Stanton was a pioneer in erotic art and founding father of fetish art. Rated alongside, John Willie, both artists featured in magazines produced by publisher Irving Klaw in the 50s. The latter was a photographer whereas Eric Stanton was a graduate of the New York, School of Visual Arts. From 1958 to 1966, he shared a studio with his friend Steve Ditko (creator of Spiderman). They collaborated and Stanton drew the outlines of the comic adventures in India ink and Ditko hand-coloured them. Most of his works were for private commissions but his fame came via mail-order picture stories featuring elaborate, imaginative drawings of plump breasts, tight buns, stiletto heels all incorporated into soft contemporary bondage. According to Hanson (2001), the artist recognised the feminist struggle evoked a strong sexual arousal in men, harbouring guilt for female submission. Among active feminists he was acknowledged as a male feminist in his popular dominance fantasies. By the late sixties and seventies Stanton’s work was featured in transvestite magazines.
From the 50s photographers like Elmer Batters had specialised in leg art. The traditional Cheesecake had featured complete body studies but from the late 60s onwards more fetishistic images appeared in the plethora of magazines catering for niche interests. Publications such as Black Silk Stockings, Leg-O-Rama, Nylon Double Take, Sheer Delight, Tip Top and Thigh High all featured Batters’ works. The artist had been very much influenced by Elvgreen’s art of World War II. As a photographer he wanted to create the same allure for legs as had been previously centred on breasts. His favourite subject was Caruska. She had an amply proportioned figure with a cherub type face and according to the artist “ legs from the tip of her toes to the tops of her hose.” Her calves were well formed her feet highly arched with, flexible toes and curved heels. Whilst the eighties witnessed the end of the Cheesecake tease era to be replaced by more explicit pornography there was a bondage-cross over to fashion in the new youth culture of Punk.
Inspired by mail order catalogues and fetish magazines of the 40s and 50s, the English painter Alan Jones ironically took the Cheesecake fetishist theme into high art during the Pop Art Movement of the 60s and 70s. Like Stanton he was interested in gender qualities and this became a constant theme throughout his works, often iconically represented by the symbolism of legs, high-heeled shoes and colours. (The pocket library of art: Alan Jones London: Brockhampton Press 1997).
Bettie Page (1923 – 2008)
“She (Betty Page) had a saucy innocence that is both contemporary and provocative, and also nostalgic."
One of the most famous ‘pin up girls’ was a lady called, Bettie Page, the Queen of Curves. Her combination of girl-next-door freshness and dangerous sensuality made Bettie more than just another nudie model. Her killer curves (36-32-35), sweet smile, sparkling blue grey eyes, and unique jet black hairstyle (due to her high forehead) set the scene for the sexual revolution. Daringly (for the time) she appeared in bondage pose and her images not just satisfied her eager fans but also creatively influenced many of today’s artists, designers, writers and filmmakers. As part of her contract, Bettie was required to do several bondage or fetish shots for all of her shoots.
For the setups she made her own daring outfits and when bondage was required the ropes and chains were done by her friend Paula. Bettie has reported she enjoyed all of the modeling she did, including the bondage scenes (as well as spanking, wrestling, whipping, dressing up in a leather pony costume, etc.), and did not feel exploited. It seems the Dark Angel was not a real-life bondage queen, and had great fun posing for the pictures. She was a model to many of the creative photographers of the fifties. Her image appeared everywhere. Bettie Page did have a Hollywood screen test, but refused the casting couch, rejecting overtures from studio executives including Howard Hughes. As a result she never appeared in legitimate movies but did guest on TV shows such as "The Jackie Gleason Show," which was Seinfeld of its time. Her modeling career lasted from 1950 to 1957, after which she completely disappeared. In 1992, the TV programme Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous found her, living with her brother. After modeling Bettie became a Christian and studied the bible at various bible colleges. Despite the moneys paid for her photographs, she never earned a penny more than the standard $10 an hour, modeling fee. While she was still alive she refused to have her picture taken, wanting to remain, on film anyway, forever young. Bettie was always flattered although a little mystified at having influenced so many others. Celebrity lookalikes include Demi Moore, Lucy Lawless (TV's "Xena: Warrior Princess.") and even Madonna. In the eighties her character appeared in the Dave Stevens comic "The Rocketeer".
Calenders and Posters
Brown and Bigelow of Saint Paul, Minnesota (USA) became the first and largest calendar company in the world (Reed 1996, p. 16). The company started in 1896 (Martignette, 1996 p 34) and set the glamour art standard for the industry. The first girlie calendar was Colette (1903), taken from a painting by the Italian, Angelo Asti. Sales were sufficient to encourage the company to start a series of pin-up style calendars in 1904. The company was keen to avoid stark nudity and the studies showed provocative but clothed girls in topical, allegorical, or exotic settings. Rolf Armstrong was engaged to draw some of these beauties. In the 20s the artist had become well know as an artist for magazine covers and song sheets with his girls with dazzlingly smiles, flowingly hair and supple limbs.
The first nude pin up calendar appeared in 1913, the year the Great War ended. September Morn was inspired by an oil painting by Paul Chabas (1869-1937), entitled Matinee Septembre. It had become a cause cėlèbre when the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice objected to its suggestiveness. The image was pirated, reproduced on calendars and sold in its millions (Gabor 1996 p.22; p.177).
By the 40s, Brown and Bigelow were making one image girlie calendars or ‘hangers’ (Martignette, 1996 p. 33), exclusively for a retail market and producing sexier pin-ups aimed at the GI market. Many of these were drawn by Gil Elvgren whose heroines were often caught in humorous but distressing situations. An Elvgren model was never portrayed as a femme fatale rather the girl next door whose charms were revealed in that fleeting instant when she's been caught unaware in what might be an embarrassing situation. The elements conspired in divesting her of her clothing. The artist’s exquisite oils and lush brush stroke, technique made his gorgeous girls appear as glowing wonders. In 1937, Gil began painting calendar pin-ups for Louis F. Dow, another one of America's leading publishing companies. These pin ups were easily recognizable because they were signed with a printed version of Elvgren's name, as opposed to his later cursive signature. When contracted to Brown and Bigelow, he turned out twenty calendar girls each year, ranging from cowgirls of the golden west to sultry sirens of the Riviera. 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.
Alberto Vargas (1896-1982) worked for Esquire magazine and produced the Varga Calender (1941). After Al Moore's three-year solo stint as Esquire calendar artist, the 1952 edition presented the next batch of contenders, including Robert Patterson, Ward Bennett, Ren Wicks and Chiriaka. The ultra-modern, even harsh style of, Mike Ludlow brought the famed calendar series to a close in 1957, by which time Playboy's similar but photographic calendars had made Esquire's painted ladies an anachronism. Even by 1951 photographic pin-ups had became more popular with perhaps the most famous, Marilyn Monroe (1951), published by John Baumgarth Co. (g.p.177). Despite this Brown & Bigelow continued to produce artist rendered pin-ups until 1970s.
Throughout the 60s the art reflected the sexual revolution with a much bolder style. Fritz Willis was the last major pin-up artist and was recognised for depicting brazenly sensual '60s women in semi-nude disarray.
In 1964, Pirelli introduced the Pirelli Calendar as a limited edition trade calendar. The calendar was only given as a corporate gift to a restricted number of important Pirelli customers and celebrity VIPs. Publication was discontinued after the 1974 world recession but was resurrected 10 years later and has been published regularly ever since.
By the middle of the nineteenth century posters were used to advertise events.
Parisian, Jules Cheret (1836-1932) was a dominant figure and used Japanese woodcut techniques to produce brightly coloured figures of sensuous and careful carousal. His subjects displayed delicate limbs and torsos, beneath gossamer garments.
Toulouse Lautrec (1864-1901) was inspired and produced more sensual figures but with less ecstatic allure of his mentor. In the early movement the most popular poster subject was Loie Fuller, an American actress, who starred at the Folies Bergere in Paris (1893). (Gabor, 1996 p. 201) The peak of pin-up poster popularity spanned 1914 to 1960. During the war years, posters took on vitriolic roles and glamorised war but paper shortages meant the poster had less impact. Throughout 20s and 30s posters emphasised less sex appeal with more on good looks, health and cheerfulness as the Western World slavishly followed the body beautiful. The introduction of television had an immense impact and posters they were relegated to ‘lobby art’. (Gabor 1996, p.203). Post 60s, improved printing combined with digitally enhanced photography has given new life to the art form, which appeals to the young.
As more fetish type girlie magazines sold in their millions more concerns were expressed as to the effects of obscene publication on social order in 1954 a New York psychiatrist, Fredric Wertham, published a sustained attack on the comic book industry. He convinced many the violent and sadistic contents of comic books would lead to the breakdown of common order and the destruction of ‘Christian civilisation’(Finnane, 1998 p. 49). His works were widely (and wildly) cited to bolster the fight against comics across the western world. From this time onwards the graphic depiction of torture was illegal in comic books. In Australia the ensuing legislation was aimed not just at comics but other forms of mass media including detective novels, romance magazines and the growing number of male-orientated sex magazines (Finnane, 1998 p. 50). According to Shiell (1998) strong censorship laws were such a disincentive there were no examples of Australian cheesecake magazines.
Unger (1998 p 69-79) described the works of Kath O’Brien, Australian penman and her creation Wanda the war girl (1942). In the fashion of Jane, she was young, shapely and glamorous and partook in crime and mystery type adventures.
In 1949 Moira Bertram was another Australian artist who used legs, thighs and a glimpse of silk stockings to feminize her villains (Unger, 1998 p.77).
Kitchen D 1992 Spicy Naughty `30s Pulp Covers /Trading Cards Original Box Set Kitchen Sink Press (1992)
Smilby, F. 1981 Stolen Sweets: The cover girls of yesteryear, their elegance, charm, and sex appeal Playboy Press
Simons G.L. 1983 The Ilustrated Book of Sexual records Putnam Pub Group
Cover Gallery: 1950s and '60s Men's Magazines I'm Learning To Share!
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