Pin-Ups or Pop Art
The Paintings of Gil Elvgren
It is his edge that brings him into the realm of fine art. American pin-up artists, most notably Elvgren, have been called “the original Pop artists, speaking to the cultural moment.”
In the early 1970s, Brown & Bigelow (B&B), a publishing company specializing in promotional products, sold off much of the original art used to illustrate its calendars, scratch pads, matchbooks, and other ephemeral products. B&B had initially found success employing popular artists such as Norman Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish, but subsequently became best known for publishing "pin-up" calendars by artists such as Rolf Armstrong, Gil Elvgren, Earl Moran, and Zoë Mozert. With their depictions of glamorous models, movie stars, bathing beauties, and always fashionable but often provocatively dressed women, the pin-up artists captured the zeitgeist of the 1940s and 1950s. When tastes changed in the 1960s, this style of work fell out of favor and was replaced by more graphic and largely photographic imagery. Unaware of the future value of the original illustrations, B&B sold off hundreds of oil paintings and pastels from the company archives. By chance, I was living in St. Paul, Minnesota, the home of Brown & Bigelow, and was offered the opportunity to purchase a collection of work by Gil Elvgren. Enlisting the financial assistance of a college friend, Al Ravitz, we went ahead and gambled on these beautiful paintings.