The Pin Up Art of Gil Elvgren

0Gil Elvgren (1914-1980) was a prolific painter and illustrator of what most people would call “Pin-Ups”.

In the art illustration genre of vintage pin-ups,

Elvgren’s work is by far the most popular among collectors and enthusiasts, today.

One reason might be that he had a keen eye for feminine beauty,

….. and had the talent of expressing both that beauty and a certain flirtatious, but still innocent, sexuality via his canvases.


A graduate of the American Academy of Art, Elvgren had been drawing since he was eight, and originally had pursued a degree in architecture, but caught the ‘bug’ for illustration while at the University of Minnesota.

Well known artist Bill Mosby was Elvgren’s instructor at art school, and he described his former student thus:

” He is a fine painter; as a draftsman there are few who can equal him. He has amazing hands. They don’t look like the hands of an artist. He’s built like a football player and a pencil is almost buried in that paw of his, but the touch he has and the subtle variations he is capable of can only be compared to the sensitive skill of a great surgeon. “

He was influenced by, and drew inspiration from, several important illustrators and artists of the early twentieth century: Haddon Sundblom, Harrison Fisher, Charles Dana Gibson, Howard Chandler Christy, J.C. Leyendecker, and Howard Pyle.

Interestingly enough, Elvgren shared many of these same influences with his friend Norman Rockwell, as well as their realistic style of drawing- and they even worked together at Brown and Bigelow in the 1940’s.

In the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s, Elvgren’s pin-up work could be seen in magazines, books, calendars,

……………… and, of course, on the lockers of U.S. servicemen worldwide.


Advertisers loved the risqué-but-still-wholesome look of his work, and his pinups were widely used in merchandise like matchbooks, pens, playing cards, and other ephemera –

But Elvgren didn’t just draw pin ups….

He also illustrated stories for general interest magazines like “Good Housekeeping”, “Cosmopolitan”, “McCalls”, “Womans Home Companion”  and the “Saturday Evening Post”.

And he did commissions for some of the largest corporate sponsors of advertising art, like Coca-Cola, General Electric, Sealy, Sylvania, Schlitz, Four Roses Whiskey, and Orange Crush.


He was also very well thought of as a professional photographer, and art teacher-

He was a pioneer in 35mm stereo color photography- having been introduced to it, around 1950, by motion picture great Harold Lloyd.

Many of the most famous women in Hollywood couldn’t resist making the long trip down to his studio in Siesta Key, Florida, to be immortalized by Elvgren’s brush –


……….. including Myrna Loy, Donna Reed, Kim Novak, and Barbara Hale.

Still, of the all the gorgeous work he did, his pin-ups remain the most well known today.


Much of the appeal is how he expresses humor, and the connection between it and the sweet sexiness of his subject.

He also liked to include animals in his work..
….. they gave his models a chance to relax, and that quality really comes across.


His favorite medium was oil on canvas, which helps gives his work a depth and richness of color that is a unique part of the Elvgren Magic— so smooth that it came to be called “Mayonnaise Painting“.

Asked what feature of a model was the most interesting to him, he replied:

A gal with highly mobile facial features capable of a wide range of expressions is the real jewel. The face is the personality.


His brilliant and prolific career ended with his death in 1980, but his legacy lives on, not only in his own work, but in the work of those he directly influenced —-

Artists like Al Buell, Joyce Ballantyne, Harry Ekman, and Mayo Olmstead.


An interesting note…..

since Elvgren used real models for his work,

and for those who wonder how much reality was expressed…..

here’s the actual pose shot for the above piece …..


….. that’s one lucky bear.

For more information on the life and art of Gil Elvgren, read:

The Art & Life of Gil Elvgren  – by Charles G. Martignette


If you like Pin Ups,
check out my other posts on these famous Pin Up Artists :

Enoch Bolles
Henry Clive

Wilson Hammell
George Petty
Gil Elvgren
Zoe Mozert
Earl Moran


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38 thoughts on “The Pin Up Art of Gil Elvgren

  1. Yes, that really is a terrific piece. And that bear, being dead notwithstanding, was luckier than the average bear. :-D

  2. Mustang.Koji says:

    When girls were girls and men were men… Yes, the bear was lucky but so was Mr. Elvgren. The babe on the car with the flat really caught my eye. ☺

  3. […] Ballantyne Enoch Bolles Henry Clive Wilson Hammell George Petty Gil Elvgren Zoe Mozert Earl […]

  4. I’m glad you liked them– his work is very easy on the eyes. Cheers! :-)

  5. These are so pretty. I love vintage pin-ups..

  6. I hope you like them… the ones on Zoe Mozert and George Petty are my favorites, I think.

    Cheers, and thanks!

  7. Miss Lizzy says:

    Love it. I’m going to have to check out the rest soon

  8. Thank you for the repost — I appreciate it, and I’m glad you enjoyed it! :-)

  9. Miss Lizzy says:

    Reblogged this on Miss Lizzy and commented:
    I love Vintage pin ups.

  10. […] Bolles Henry Clive Wilson Hammell George Petty Gil Elvgren Zoe Mozert Earl Moran Joyce Ballantyne Lloyd Rognan Raphael […]

  11. I gotta say, you got taste, brother. :-D

  12. […] Bolles Henry Clive Wilson Hammell George Petty Gil Elvgren Zoe Mozert Earl […]

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  14. thank you so much.. I appreciate your kind feedback !

  15. Love how you go in depth on every topic. Love to learn…spent some time today Black Friday Shopping and saw a calendar with Gil’s art….recognized it immediately as i had just read your post complete with the excellent examples of his work and models. Thanks for an informative posts on hot topics -Ret

  16. […] Bolles Henry Clive Wilson Hammell George Petty Gil Elvgren Zoe Mozert Earl […]

  17. […] Bolles Wilson Hammell George Petty Gil Elvgren Zoe Mozert Earl […]

  18. […] Bolles Wilson Hammell George Petty Gil Elvgren Zoe Mozert Earl […]

  19. […] Bolles Wilson Hammell George Petty Gil Elvgren Zoe Mozert Earl […]

  20. […] Bolles Wilson Hammell George Petty Gil Elvgren Zoe Mozert Earl […]

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  23. oh yes, indeed. His work always makes me smile. Thanks for reading — I appreciate your comment! :-)

  24. Patrice says:

    I remember his style. To me, a sexy innocence that was appreciated and enjoyed by both men and women

  25. Thanks for dropping in and commenting ! Cheers!

  26. I love pinup art! Thanks for this great post and for helping me get to know Gil Elvgren as an artist.

  27. yes, it certainly is easy on the eyes. Thanks for dropping by!

  28. ampbreia says:

    I love that style of artwork! All of the faces and colors are so luminescent and lively.

  29. yes, he really was a terrific artist, and his work is wonderful and easy to look at. I’m glad you enjoyed it !!

  30. gpcox says:

    The work is absolutely fantastic, isn’t it!?! It also brings back so many memories to so many people.

  31. Gil Elvgren really did some beautiful work alright, and I’m glad you liked em !!!

  32. This brings back memories as I can remember these pieces when they were painted. AJM

  33. I don’t blame you …he really had an ability to put a certain je ne sais quoi into his canvases. Still, a real woman is always much more beautiful. thank you for your comment !!

  34. kerbey says:

    I actually have a big book of his art (and I am a straight woman and married). I just love the artwork and the style and the beauty. I wouldn’t mind looking like any of them!

  35. […] For MUCH MORE CLICK HERE The Pin Up Art of Gil Elvgren | muscleheaded. […]

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