One of the greatest pin-up artists and illustrators of the twentieth century, American artist Gilette (Gil) Elvgren was an immensely popular postwar painter of the quintessential girl-next-door. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Elvgren studied at the Minneapolis Art Institute and the American Academy of Art in Chicago. After graduation, he parlayed his skills into a job at one of Chicago’s most prestigious advertising agencies at the time, Stevens & Gross. While there he became the protégé of the talented Haddon Sundblom, an artist most famous for his popular Coca-Cola Santas. In 1947, Gil Elvgren began painting pin-ups for calendars for Louis F. Dow, a leading publishing company, but spent the vast majority of his career working for Brown & Bigelow, a firm that still produces calendars today.
Under Sundblom’s tutelage at Stevens & Gross, Gil Elvgren developed his lush brush stroke and figural style. Working with rich oil colors, Elvgren was a classic illustrator who mastered the portrayal of the “pretty girl” type championed by other artists such as Charles Dana Gibson and Andrew Loomis. His heroines are less femme fatale and more charming All-American girl, often caught in semi-embarrassing situations in which the elements conspire to divest her of her clothing in an innocent yet intentionally provocative way. In addition to his ad work and calendar girls, Elvgren also painted covers for many magazines including Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, and the Saturday Evening Post.
Known as the “Norman Rockwell of pin-ups,” Gil Elvgren joins the ranks of George Petty and Alberto Vargas as the artist most loved and respected by pin-up collectors and fans worldwide. A recent resurgence of interest in Elvgren’s work has brought newly printed calendars and record auction prices for the artist.