Gil Elvgren

Gil Elvgren has joined the ranks of George Petty and Alberto Vargas as one of the premiere American pin-up artists - the Norman Rockwell of cheese-cake. His heroines are often caught in humorous but distressing situations. His exquisite oils of gorgeous girls-next door their skirts often blowing up to reveal lovely nylon-clad limbs rival his mentor Haddon Sundblom's "Coca-Cola" Santas for sheer nostalgic pleasure. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Gillette A. Elvgren attended University High School. After graduation he began studying art at the Minneapolis Art Institute.

Some of Gil's fellow students were Coby Whitmore, Al Buell, Andrew Loomis, Ben Stahl and Robert Skemp (many of whom would later work for Coca Cola) as would Elvgren. He graduated from the Academy during the depression at the age of twenty-two. Gil joined the stable of artists at Stevens and Gross, Chicago's most prestigious advertising agency. He became a protege of the monumentally talented Haddon Sundblom, who was most famous for his Coca Cola Santas. Working in Sundblom's shop (Stevens-Gross) with Al Buell and Andrew Loomis (among other noted illustrators), Elvgren contributed to various Coca-Cola ads himself. Sundblom who had studied at the American Academy of Fine Art taught his star pupil the lush brush stroke technique that makes Elvgren's girls such glowing wonders.

Elvgren looked for models with vitality and personality, and chose young girls who were new to the modeling business. He felt the ideal pin-up was a fifteen-year-old face on a twenty-year-old body, so he combined the two. An Elvgren model was never portrayed as a femme fatale. She is, rather, the girl next door whose charms are revealed in that fleeting instant when she's been caught unaware in what might be an embarrassing situation. Gusting winds and playful plants grab at her lovely, long legs. She is intruded upon as she takes a bath. Her skirts get caught in elevator doors, hung up on taps, and entangled with dog leashes. The elements conspire in divesting her of her clothing.

Gil Elvgren's paintings lend credence to the phrase, "A picture is worth one thousand words." His 30" by 24" oils on stretched canvas are second in value only to originals by Vargas.

Here's an example of how Elvgren's racier pictures were sometimes subtly 'censored'. Occasionally his early Dow pin-ups works were 'repainted' (Many times by Vaughan Alden Bass) and put into circulation slightly altered. Also, Elvgren provided inspiration for WW II aircraft nose-art.

See also the excellent: The Art and Life of Gil Elvgren by Charles G. Martignette!

Complete List of Elvgren Titles

Additional Gallery