The Great American Pin-ups


Well-known member
This will be the last look at my older paintings for a while. I'll be seriously tied up with school for the rest of this week and don't have time to organize these old photographs and edit them (some files are huge!).

One of the criticisms frequently leveled at paintings of the female nude (or near nude) is that like fashion photography they present an unrealistic and often unattainable ideal. I might argue that we need to be able to differentiate Art from Reality. Art quite often is based in fantasy and ideals. But I would also note that whereas the fashion industry promotes a single ideal body the history of Art shows artists embracing a wide spectrum of ideals.

For years, until I accidently broke the glass, we had a framed print of Peter Paul Rubens' Three Graces hung on our bedroom door:


Besides Rubens, Titian, Degas, Renoir, Maillol, and many other artists employed a more voluptuous figure that would be deemed obese by many within the film, fashion, and beauty industries. I had painted a few more Rubenesque figures over the years... closer to myself and my wife. As I began this painting I was thinking of the recent so-called "plus-size" models who had begun to challenge accepted notions of what qualified as "beauty" withing the fashion and beauty industries.


The drawing for this painting came together rapidly... without a great deal of erasures. To emphasize the mass and strength of these women I pushed the figures to the edge of the paper as if they were about to bust out beyond the physical limits of the picture plane.


Originally, I thought of the woman on the left as sitting on some sort of platform... as I had done with my earlier painting, "New Fallen Snow". However, when I drew the halo... which need to fill the entire space left-to-right due to the distance between the two women, it ended up looking as if the seated figure were actually sitting on the halo.


I liked the idea as a sort of formalist game that reminded me of something of Richard Lindner, the German painter who often blurred the line between sculptural foreground figures and the flat geometric patterns of the background:

As I began this painting, I was thinking of my usual palette of colors. I primed the ground an earthy red tone and quickly established the black & white checkerboards.


At this time, however, I was looking at a lot of Pop Art beyond Lindner. I was intrigued with Warhol's neon colors... especially as we had the DayGlo paint company right down the street.

I was also looking a good deal at Tom Wesselmann's series, The Great American Nude:


I was also looking a good deal at the book, The Great American Pin-up by Charles G. Martignette, who had amassed the largest collection of American illustrations, and Louis K. Meisel, who had acquired a huge collection of classic Pin-ups, Pop Art, and Photorealism. His gallery remains in business today. Not only was I intrigued by the imagery and the colors I was seeing from these more populist sources, but I also loved the title: The Great American Pin-ups. It spoke of models who were well-fed, beautiful, confident, and powerful.

Two of my studio partners lost their minds as I began to add the color to this painting. :oops: :rolleyes: :LOL:



Undoubtedly, this is the closest to Pop and Op that my paintings have ever come.


I initially played with more complexity within the halo... but the painting seemed to call for a greater simplicity.


I was looking a good deal at the drawings by Rubens and Boucher for their manner of emphasizing the roundness of their forms through the use of cross-hatching.


The manner in which the toe of the figure on the left and the knee of the figure on the right bust out of the picture plane might normally be deemed an awkward tangent... but I felt the two balanced each other out and further emphasized the size and power of the figures... busting out of the frame...


...not completely unlike the manner in which Michelangelo's Jonah almost busts forth from the architectural frame on the Sistine. Admittedly, the great Italian's painting is far more dynamic. Give me time.

Since I was toying with elements of Pop and Populist Art as well as Pop Culture, I decided to return to a face based on my earlier images of Snow White:


In some ways... primarily due to the color... this painting sits somewhat uncomfortably next to the others of my oeuvre. It absolutely screams... for better or worse.

I think it is an exceptional work.
thank you for presenting it to us and so, with the quotes, indications and ideas on art, historical and contemporary moments that you mentioned and described in the post.
The reason the fashion industry tends to idealize a very slender figure is that the camera adds weight.

I doubt very much that extremely thin models--Twiggy or Kate Moss--are anyone's ideal standard of (body) beauty today. Audrey Hepburn was very slender, but not skinny. Jean Shrimpton and Patty Boyd, to my eye the most beautiful models of the 60s, were very slender, but not skinny. Suzy Parker, the premier model of the 50s, perhaps most closely approaches the classic pin up both in face and body. She can hardly have been said to be overly thin. My father, who was the art director of a pattern company back then, worked with her on occasion and was of course besotted. My mom, who was very good looking, as he was and alas I'm not especially, just shrugged it off as inevitable.

Suzy Parker

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Personally I find the Rubenesque body very unattractive and see little resemblance in it to today's "plus-size" models. What I consider the ideal female body isn't a matter of attainment. It appears certain women are just born with it, just as certain men--just as alas, I'm not among them--appear to have been born ripped. In high school I found these guys very annoying. They didn't even have to work at it.

People aren't created equal. This is as true of physique as intelligence.
Last edited: