Most well known for his work with a young Marilyn Monroe, he was considered the most important artist of the ‘Big Three’, ( along with Zoe Mozert and Rolf Armstrong ), at publishing giant Brown and Bigelow in the 1940’s and 1950’s.
Born an Iowa farm boy in 1893, Moran’s early work showed promise, and attracted the attention of art instructor John Stitch, teacher of illustrator W.H.D. Koerner, and he soon recommended young Earl for admission to the Chicago Art Institute.
There, he took lessons from Walter Biggs, while also working at a Chicago fashion engraving company.
After two years at the Art Institute, Earl headed for Manhattan and enrolled in the Art Students League, where he worked with famous artists like Vincent Dumond and Robert Henri, and took lessons with Norman Rockwell’s teacher Thomas Fogarty.
Heading back to Chicago in the spring of 1931, he opened a studio in a low rent warehouse, and worked hard to develop a following with his illustrations and photography.
Two contacts he made bore fruit almost immediately – illustrations of bathing beauties that he had sent to the top publishing companies in the area had reached calendar companies Thomas D. Murphy and Brown and Bigelow — and both bought some of his work.
Soon after, Brown and Bigelow offered Moran an exclusive contract to produce artworks for all kinds of commercial advertising applications ( including calendars, of course ), and the young man found himself to be one of the most in-demand artists at B&B.
His first work for Brown and Bigelow was called ” Golden Hours “–
This piece turned out to be so popular, it was used as the cover art for a large box of chocolates.
(Over the years, several chocolate manufacturers were to avail themselves of Moran’s talents. )
In the artwork, from 1932,
(first published in 1933),
… you can see all the hallmarks of what would made Earl Moran’s art so popular.
Subtle shading and shrewd use of color and contrast — project a strong sense of vitality and sensuality.
His rendering of body language and facial expression are highly detailed, while the whole form seems to stand out from the typically ( for Moran ) Spartan but colorful background.
In this aspect , Moran emulated one of his favorite European poster artists, Leonetto Cappiello, ( whose work can be seen in my post: “https://muscleheaded.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/the-poster-art-of-leonetto-cappiello/ “), whose backgrounds were almost always washed out, or painted in bold, solid colors.
he was now producing hundreds of illustrations for B&B–
…. his work even got coverage in a spread in ‘ Life ‘ Magazine.
and soon he moved again — to a studio on Fifth Avenue, in 1941.
This was also the year publisher Bob Harrison asked Earl to assist him in starting a new men’s magazine, called ” Beauty Parade ” …
— and these covers are icons of Moran’s work, even today.
Along with ‘ Beauty Parade ‘ and his work for Brown and Bigelow, Moran was contributing work to several other men’s magazines, like ‘ Wink ‘, ‘ Giggles ‘ and ‘ Flirt ‘.
Earl stayed quite busy during the war,
….including doing work with Zoe Mozert on Mutascope cards, using her as a model,
… and several of his most popular works date from this period.
After the war, and a rather messy divorce, Moran moved to Hollywood,
and there he got various commissions painting celebrities like Betty Grable for magazine covers.
His parties became legendary.
Earl was soon painting a new model, a young woman named Norma Jean Dougherty.
producing some wonderful, not to mention famous, artworks….
Marilyn liked to say that Moran always made her legs look better than they really were, while Moran said about Marilyn that:
” her body was as expressive as her face, which made all the poses good “.
Moran continued to work for Brown and Bigelow until 1957,
when he retired from pin-up art, to produce fine art nudes for a large art gallery, which he did until his eyesight failed, in 1982.
Earl Moran died in Santa Monica in January, 1984.
The legacy of art that Moran leaves as one of the “Big Three”, and as ‘Marilyn’s portrait artist’, is quite large and often times quite valuable —
….. a pastel of Marilyn by Earl Moran done around 1950 recently sold for more than $83,000.
If you like Pin Ups,
check out my other posts on these famous Pin Up Artists :