Pre-Pop Pinups

Though the formula of the commercial pinup or “cheesecake” illustration was established in the 1930s and 40s by craftsmen like Alberto Vargas and George Petty, representations of idealized female forms are as old as art itself.  And there were a crucial few decades preceding the genre’s classic era when its templates of pose and composition were developed by painters whose work seemed to lie on an increasingly porous border between high and popular culture.

In the gallery presented here, we can see an evolution of technique, design – and, of course, of visual eroticism, as standards of taste and sexual morality shifted across the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries.  What all the artists have in common, though, is a breathtaking skill at rendering anatomy, just as their art itself shares a deep appreciation (or, some will say, objectification) of the women depicted.  In our own age, pinups and their predecessors may not enjoy the critical or social favour they originally had – even then, they had their detractors – yet their fine draftsmanship and sumptuous beauty may still transfix the more tolerant, more innocent eye.


                     Evening Mood, 1882                                             Adolphe-William Bouguereau, 1825-1905

Pierre-Auguste_Renoir,_French_-_The_Large_Bathers_-_Google_Art_Project                              The Bathers, 1887                                                                                                  Pierre-August Renoir, 1841-1919

waterhouse mermaid

                           A Mermaid, 1900                                  John William Waterhouse, 1849-1917

Klimt Goldfish

      Goldfish, 1901-02               Gustav Klimt, 1863-1918

Godward Girl In Yellow Drapery

                                               Girl In Yellow Drapery, 1901

                                          John William Godward, 1861-1922

Falero Faust

                               Faust’s Vision, 1878

                             Luis Falero, 1851-1896


                           Dance, 1898                                                  Alphonse Mucha, 1860-1939

Parrish Stars

                                Stars, 1926                                          Maxfield Parrish, 1870-1966

Flint book of poems

                             A Book of Poems, 1962                                                     William Russell Flint, 1880-1969


                         Pinup, circa 1940                                Alberto Vargas, 1896-1982


                  June 1947 calendar page                            George Petty, 1894-1975