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Selling Ford during WWII
The present lot is a painting completed by Gil Elvgren in 1944 for the advertising agency, J. Walter Thompson Company. The painting, an original presentation board, features a crystal ball and inside a proud man driving a car next to a beautiful woman waving. The illustration was for one of the agency’s earliest and most successful advertising campaigns for Ford Motor Company—There’s a Ford in your Future. The campaign slogan was devised as a way to address the shortage of automobiles as resources were allocated to the war efforts. Through use of the crystal ball, the campaign cleverly looked into the future to a time of peace when all American families could own a car.
The campaign lasted a couple of years and the creative did change over time. The earliest incarnation of the advertisement simply included a crystal ball with the Ford logo in the center. This was followed up just a couple months later with Elvgren’s happy and proud couple alongside the words, “Sure you’ll be proud of it!” The advertisements were a success and marked the beginning of a 67 year partnership between J. Walter Thompson Company and Ford.
Gillette (Gil) Elvgren was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1914. After high school he studied architecture at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts before shifting his focus to art. He relocated to Chicago and enrolled at the American Academy of Art graduating in 1936. Around the same time he began painting pin-ups for the publisher Louis F. Dow, and many of his works were reproduced on military aircraft during World War II. Shortly after graduating, Elvgren found steady work as an artist for the prestigious advertising agency, Stevens and Gross working with Haddon Sundblom who would become his mentor and good friend. In 1944 Elvgren started working exclusively for Brown & Bigelow producing imagery for advertising and calendars, a partnership that would last nearly 30 years.
From working with important clients such as Coca-Cola and General Electric, to illustrating stories in publications such as Good Housekeeping, Redbook and The Saturday Evening Post, Elvgren established himself as one of the greatest in the field. A fine painter and excellent draftsman, his work portrayed the American dream through depictions of the comfort and convenience of the modern American lifestyle. Featuring idyllic family imagery to glamour girls and pin-ups, his work was widely distributed and popular both within the United States and with American soldiers abroad. Today, his work is being defined outside of its commercial value and Elvgren stands out as one of the most important pin-up artists of the 20th century.
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