Seductive Pin-up Girls of American Artist Fritz Willis
15 november 2021 
29 min. read

Seductive Pin-up Girls of American Artist Fritz Willis

Pin-up is an art style that emerged in the 1890s, although the term 'pin-up' was for the first time used in 1941. The practice of pinning posters up the walls was connected with the expansion of newspapers and journals, especially women's magazines advertising cosmetics. Gibson girl, invented by Charles Dana Gibson in the USA, was the ancestor of a pin-up girl, seductively looking from the pages of the Life magazine. 

Eastern Cousins

Gibson girls and their pin-up sisters have distant Eastern cousins, Japanese beauties depicted by Utamaro, Shigenobu, Hokusai, and, of course, Keisai Eisen, who worked majorly in the bijinga genre. Ukiyo-e masters shaped the cultural landscape as much as their European and American colleagues by showing the picture of an ideal woman. Pin-up beauties like Dita von Teese or Rose McGowan have their admirers today. Fritz Willlis (1907-1979) was one of the great pin-up artists. He managed to create his own distinctive approach working in a recognizable pin-up manner. 

fritz willis Ice Follies Souvenir Program Cove

Fig. 1. Ice Follies Souvenir Program Cover, 1963 (blogspot.com)

 Fritz Willis Gibson Girl

Fig. 2. Gibson Girl (Wikipedia.org)

Fritz willis pin up Utamaro

Fig. 3. Left: Fritz Willis (blogspot.com); Right: Utamaro

100 Girls With The One Face

Willis was born in Oklahoma City and studied at the Vesper George Art School in Boston. Then he moved to Hollywood to work for Warner Brothers as a production designer. Willis' career as a pin-up artist began in 1946 when Esquire announced a new feature entitled the Esquire Gallery of Glamour and invited Willis to make the first illustration. Since that time, Willis had been contributing to Esquire. He produced illustrations for pin-up calendars together with Ben-Hur Baz, Joe De Mers, and J. Frederick Smith. In the works of Willis, there are more nudity and intimacy than in traditional pin-up pictures. 

Pin-Up Copulation

While usually pin-up girls are depicted in awkward situations with this 'oops!' expression on their doll faces (e. g., when the wind lifts their skirts), Willis portrays them in bedrooms or the setting of his studio. Girls are not embarrassed but relaxed. Interestingly, many of them have the face of Willis' wife, Pat. The artist's oeuvre The Afternoon Delight (which probably is a sequel of the sketch Reclining Nude Eating Grapes) is a rare example of pin-up copulation that can be classified as "pin-up shunga." The illustration for October in the Esquire calendar for 1948 (Floral Offering) depicts not a girl's front side, but her naked back, which slightly reminds us of shunga again as these body parts were regarded as sexually attractive in Japan, so geishas and courtesans exposed their necks.

Fritz Willis Esquire calendar for 1948

Fig. 4. Esquire calendar for 1948, October (codex99.com)

Afternoon Delight  Fritz Willis

Fig. 5. Afternoon Delight (blogspot.com)

Fritz Willis Reclining Nude Eating Grapes

Fig. 6. Reclining Nude Eating Grapes (nevsepic.com.ua)

Calendar for October Fritz Willis

Fig. 7. Calendar for October 1965 (nevsepic.com.ua)

Pygmalion Effect

The depictions of a reclining nude in the artist's studio contain interesting, intentional or unintentional, recursion: the nude beauty looks at the sketch while being a sketch herself. Even the studio background remains unfinished. Willis often portrays his beauties juxtaposing them to the pencil drawings, which resembles Lovelies portfolio by Ferrier and Roye. He also depicts a bowl with brushes standing next to nudes, so art and reality interlace inside the picture. Pencil contours and colorful body curves produce a contrast that attracts our attention. 

Face of His Wife

Pin-up beauties seem to step out of their drawn surrounding. They seem to come alive like Galatea, the sculpture of ancient artist Pygmalion. According to the myth, Pygmalion, who remained celibate to devote himself to sculpting, fell in love with his creation. He was scared of his desire and prayed to Aphrodite to give him a spouse as beautiful as his statue. Aphrodite brought the sculpture to life, and Pygmalion married her. The story turns out to be even funnier in the case of Willis if we keep in mind that many Willis girls have the face of his wife. 

fritz willis pin up

Fig. 8. thepinupfiles.com

 pin up fritz willis

Fig. 9. blogspot.com

pin up art fritz willis

Fig. 10. nevsepic.com.ua

Fritz Willis pin up art

Fig. 11. blogspot.com

pin up calendar fritz willis

Fig. 12. staticflickr.com

red-haired pin up

Fig. 13. blogspot.com

nude pin up nude pin up

Fig. 14. blogspot.com

fritz williams Pygmalion

Fig. 15. blogspot.com

nude pin up from the back fritz willis

Fig. 16. blogspot.com

the afternoon delight Fritz Willis

Fig. 17. blogspot.com

Fritz Willis Esquire

Fig. 18. blogspot.com

reclining nude Fritz Willis

Fig. 19. blogspot.com

reclining nude Fritz Willis

Fig. 20. blogspot.com

Esquire Gallery of Glamour Fritz Willis

Fig. 21. blogspot.com

Esquire Gallery of Glamour

Fig. 22. blogspot.com

reading pin up fritz willis

Fig. 23. staticflickr.com

pin up bride fritz willis

Fig. 24. staticflickr.com

pin up drinking wine fritz willis

Fig. 25. blogspot.com

pin up beauty Fritz Willis

Fig. 26. blogspot.com

pin up art Fritz Willis

Fig. 27. blogspot.com

pin up in a chair

Fig. 28. blogspot.com

pin up art

Fig. 29. blogspot.com

esquire pin up

Fig. 30. blogspot.com

Fritz Willis reclining nude art

Fig. 31. staticflickr.com

pygmalion Galatea Fritz Willis

Fig. 32. staticflickr.com

Fritz Willis pin up calendar

Fig. 33. blogspot.com

Fritz Willis pin up calendar art

Fig. 34. nevsepic.com.ua

Fritz Willis Calendar

Fig. 35. nevsepic.com.ua

Sources: thepinupfiles.com; codex99.com; artnet.com; risunoc.com

Click HERE for the seductive pin ups of the French sculptor and painter Alain Aslan....!!

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About the author
Darya is a philologist who lives and works in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. She is specialized in Russian literature.
grey8Wolf
By

grey8Wolf

on 25 Nov 2021

Very interesting! I have a book about his painting techniques, but I didn’t know that he painted couples also.

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