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.
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.
Fig. 1. Ice Follies Souvenir Program Cover, 1963 (blogspot.com)
Fig. 2. Gibson Girl (Wikipedia.org)
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.
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.
Fig. 4. Esquire calendar for 1948, October (codex99.com)
Fig. 5. Afternoon Delight (blogspot.com)
Fig. 6. Reclining Nude Eating Grapes (nevsepic.com.ua)
Fig. 7. Calendar for October 1965 (nevsepic.com.ua)
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.
Fig. 8. thepinupfiles.com
Fig. 9. blogspot.com
Fig. 10. nevsepic.com.ua
Fig. 11. blogspot.com
Fig. 12. staticflickr.com
Fig. 13. blogspot.com
Fig. 14. blogspot.com
Fig. 15. blogspot.com
Fig. 16. blogspot.com
Fig. 17. blogspot.com
Fig. 18. blogspot.com
Fig. 19. blogspot.com
Fig. 20. blogspot.com
Fig. 21. blogspot.com
Fig. 22. blogspot.com
Fig. 23. staticflickr.com
Fig. 24. staticflickr.com
Fig. 25. blogspot.com
Fig. 26. blogspot.com
Fig. 27. blogspot.com
Fig. 28. blogspot.com
Fig. 29. blogspot.com
Fig. 30. blogspot.com
Fig. 31. staticflickr.com
Fig. 32. staticflickr.com
Fig. 33. blogspot.com
Fig. 34. nevsepic.com.ua
Fig. 35. nevsepic.com.ua
Sources: thepinupfiles.com; codex99.com; artnet.com; risunoc.com
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