Pin-up artists

Flea market pin-ups

Yesterday we hit the Hollis Flea Market and I discovered these two beautiful ladies… One by Vargas and one by Alex Raymond.

Vargas calendar page and Alex Raymond pin-up

Vargas calendar page and Alex Raymond pin-up

I hadn’t heard of Alex Raymond before, but soon learned that he was well-known as a comic book artist; mainly for his work on Flash Gordon in the 1930s. The Vargas page has a bit of spotting on the paper and there’s a small hole in the Raymond piece, but they’ll still look lovely framed. I’m running out of room in my office!


Pin-up artists: Harry Ekman

For Christmas, my mother-in-law got me a wonderful collection of pin-up prints. While some of them were familiar artists and images, others were new to me. Harry Ekman, for instance. While the two Ekman images in the collection seem familiar, I didn’t recognize the name. Fortunately, the prints each have a bit of biographical information about the artist on the back.

Born in Chicago in 1923, Ekman apprenticed under Gil Elvgren and Haddon Sundblom (the man who created the iconic Coca-Cola Santa Claus) at Brown and Bigelow. The company produced calendars, playing cards, matchbooks, and other specialty advertising materials which often featured pin-up girls. Eventually Sundblom formed a studio with Ekman, where Ekman created pin-ups for the Shaw-Barton calendar company. In the 1960s, he seems to have moved away from advertising and pin-up art to focus on portrait work. He died in 1999 in New Jersey.

circe 1956, oil on canvas. Copyright 2013 TASCHEN GmbH.

circa 1956, oil on canvas. Copyright 2013 TASCHEN GmbH.

I love this model’s outfit, her eyebrows, and the shadows Ekman uses.

1959, oil on canvas. Copyright 2013 TASHEN GmbH.

1959, oil on canvas. Copyright 2013 TASCHEN GmbH.

While the dog’s paws in this image seem off to me, the model’s body language is great. Don’t let the fact both of these images featured models with pursed lips fool you into thinking all Ekman’s work looked the same. He was capable of painting beautiful smiles and a gamut of other facial expressions. You can see more of his work here: Like Elvgren, his work seems to feature a blend of (mostly) wholesome girls next door in outdoor adventures (bike-riding, beach-going, dog-walking…) in contrast with alluring boudoir beauties in more flirtatious poses.

Unfortunately, there’s very little information about Ekman available either online or in the pin-up books in my collection. I’ve definitely become a fan, however, and plan to keep looking for more about him and his work.

Vargas calender page

A few weeks ago, my cousin Becky sent me this wonderful calendar page she found:

Varga calendar page

A page from a vintage calendar

It’s one of the illustrations Vargas created for Esquire, probably in 1945 or ’46. I love her hair and her tiki costume. I’m partial to redheads; Vargas frequently used a redheaded model named Jeanne Dean. I have a series of Petty calendar pages on display in my office; Vargas replaced Petty as the main artist for Esquire because publisher David Smart realized he could exploit Vargas for far less than he was paying Petty. I have no idea how the two artists felt about one another.

My three Petty girls - blonde, brunette, and redhead.

My three Petty girls – blonde, brunette, and redhead.

Wouldn’t my Vargas girl look nice with some friends? I certainly think so. Maybe I could even find another Vargas girl to make the display symmetrical. Any excuse to find more pin-ups!

Pin-up artists: Peter Driben

Black Dahlia’s post on Elvgren and his nautical pinups inspired me to write about my favorite pin-up artist, Peter Driben. Driben illustrated a number of pulp magazines from the ’30s to the ’50s, including Whisper, Wink, Beauty Parade, Pictorial Movie Fun,  and Titter. His work also appeared in advertising campaigns for Philco radios and movie promotional materials, most notably for The Maltese Falcon.

Wink cover

Wink cover.

The two things I love most about Driben: 1. his girls have CURVES. These dames have some big old hips, and that’s gorgeous. 2. His range. Blondes, brunettes, redheads, sultry, silly, serious, scared…all in his repertoire.

Peter Driben Eyeful cover

One of Driben’s covers for Eyeful.

I have a book called 1000 Pin-Up Girls,  published by Taschen, which features many of Driben’s magazine covers. (It’s also got great illustrations from Billy DeVorss and Earl Steffa Moran, not to mention wonderful photos).

Learn more and see more images at

Beauty Parade cover

A lovely blonde on the cover of Beauty Parade. One of my favorites, perhaps because of her half-done hair.

Beauty Parade brunette

Eyeful cover