Let them Eat Cheesecake: Pin-up Artist Gil Elvgren

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Pin up Artist Gil Elvgren

Since the prehistoric era, men have been creating tantalizing reproductions of the female form in artwork. In the Stone Age, sculptures of voluptuous women abound, and the ancient Roman city of Pompeii is infamous for hosting highly eroticized frescoes throughout its buildings and structures. Renaissance Europe gave birth to images like Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, a pictorial rendition of the goddess representing her sensuality in a partially nude portrait.

The 20th century delivered a new kind of celebration of female figures, with the popularized pin-up or “cheesecake” artwork. As the name suggests, these paintings featured glamour girls in suggestive poses that showcased their luscious limbs and were meant to be “pinned-up” where they could be thoroughly admired.

Gil Elvgren (1914-1980), whose work has become even more sought after since the 1996 publication of the image-filled book, The Great American Pin-up, which sought to showcase great cheesecake artists like Elvgren while explaining the origins of the genre.

Designated the “NTaking Off, Gil Elvgrenorman Rockwell of pin-ups,” Elvgren’s highly realistic paintings of girl-next-door types depict beautiful women caught in humorous situations in which they find their clothing being removed in seemingly innocent ways. Hailing from St. Paul, Minnesota, Elvgren studied at the Minneapolis Art Institute and the American Academy of Art in Chicago before going on to work at one of Chicago’s most reputable advertising agencies at the time, Stevens & Gross. By 1947, Gil Elvgren was producing calendar paintings for big-name companies like Louis F. Dow and Brown & Bigelow, and ultimately was featured on magazine covers for Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, and the Saturday Evening Post.

Gil Elvgren paintings are unmistakable, depicting classic beauties from the age of Hollywood glam with pin-curled hair and sultry red lips pursed in shocked expressions. Whether revealing her garter belt and fully-fashioned seamed stockings due to an unexpected breeze, or posing cutely in her prettiest negligee, Elvgren’s pin-ups are sure to titillate.


Kenny Ackerman is an Art Dealer in New York, specializing in Fine Art Paintings from 19th-21st century Europe and America. To buy or sell original paintings by artists we represent, contact Ackerman’s Fine Art here.

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2 Comments on “Let them Eat Cheesecake: Pin-up Artist Gil Elvgren”

  1. Kevin Estis

    If I could paint, I’d want to paint the way Gil Elvgren does. His work sparkles & dazzles & is very alluring.

    1. Katherine

      We love his work too. He is a great storyteller with his paintings. He was one of the great illustrators and beloved by many collectors.

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