A bit of history

From 1830 until today
When the first photographs were produced in France in the 1830s, the first erotic pictures also came into being. They were so called academic works or pictures that were sold for horrendous amounts of money on the black market.

As photo techniques improved, the production of erotic photos rose and their price quickly diminished. But this business remained illegal and photographers, models and distributors where prosecuted since the mid-19th century.

Despite this however, more and more erotic and pornographic photographs were produced and part of them was even sent to England or the United States.

In 1880, the reproduction of photos became easier and erotic magazines rapidly spread on the market.

The first “pin-up girls” began appearing under the name of Gibson Girl and Christy Girl (as the name of their illustrators Charles Dana Gibson and Howard Chandler Christy).

The public, both men and women were fond of this new ‘art’, representing an emancipated woman who was both sophisticated and attractive.

In the 1930s, pin-ups girls became increasingly popular and were regularly used in pulp magazines and dirty comic books.

Different kinds of pin-ups were created, such as the “Varga Girls” who were airbrushed by Alberto Vargas for Esquire magazine, or the first “pin-up boys” created by female illustrators Joyce Ballantyne, Pearl Frush or Zoe Mozert. But the term pin-up was only attested in the 1940s, describing these illustrations “pinned-up” on a wall.

During World War II, the pin-ups were extremely popular, not only with the general public, but especially with soldiers and G.Is.

The pin-ups were even adapted and painted as nose art on many World War II bomber and fighter aircraft. Most pictures and illustrations were published in the weekly magazine Yank, the Army Weekly.

Still growing in popularity, the “Golden Age” of pin-ups began in the 1950s, mostly in the US. If anyone is responsible for the explosion of vibrant beautiful illustrations, it is Gil Elvgren.

At that time, pin-ups were represented on magazines, newspapers, posters, calendars and stickers that could be collected, an essential part of their success.

Truck drivers also loved these female illustrations. They placed the pin-up illustrations made from auto body parts, on their vehicles’ radiator grilles. Nowadays, these parts are very popular amongst collectors.

In the 1970s, there were other fertile markets for the pin-up art. Many well-known brands used the pin-ups to promote their soda, coffee or cigarettes.

However, once erotic magazines, such as Playboy or Penthouse took over the market, with more realistic photos of complete nudity, they quickly surpassed the pin-up popularity.

We had to wait until 2010 for a true 50s revival! Fashion, furniture, household appliances, decoration and many other modern goods are yet again inspired by the colors and shapes of this past time.

This is when fashion, press and artists bring the pin-up style up-to-date.

The pin-up cannot escape this hype! Artists and fashion designers take on this movement by updating the atmosphere and design of the 50s as well as its famous pin-up girls. Dita von Teese for example is one of the artists who have well understood the trend, making the principles of this period an integral part of their image.

Pin-ups were artwork depicting idealized versions of what some thought a particularly beautiful or attractive woman should look like, having influenced a whole decade and several generations. Today, she is more modern that ever and will certainly continue to be a true emblem of charm and glamour.

Interview in the book “The art of Pin-up” – author Dian Hanson – co-author Louis K. Meisel & Sarahjane Blum – Editions Taschen

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