You’ve probably figured out by now–
…. that one of my favorite things in the world is a good pin up.
And if not, well….
One of my favorite things in the world is a good pin up .
This here Muscleheaded Blog,
that you have perhaps,
so fortuitously come upon, has featured many beautiful works–
…. by mainly American bred pin-up masters like:
Gil Elvgren, Rolf Armstrong,
Zoe Mozert, Enoch Bolles, Earl Moran, and Henry Clive, et al.
And a lot of folks kinda figure that pin-ups are a mainly American form of art.
Au contraire, mon frère !!!
Actually, the turn of the 20th century saw the form develop first as part of the Art Nouveau movement in Europe,
and, of course, La Belle Epoque……
The sensual Art Nouveau genre was strongly influenced and driven by artists like:
British artist Aubrey Beardsley, Czech artist Alphonse Mucha, Italian artist Achille Mauzan, and French artists Leo Fontan, and Xavier Sager.
… many of the other very important artists and their works of this era are largely forgotten —
— which seems a shame considering the beauty and innovative spirit of the art they created.
Well, the Muscleheaded Blog ain’t just gonna stand around and let that happen, ya hear me?
‘Course, we got only about 300 some readers…
But dammit, we’re gonna do our part to put this art out there where people can see and enjoy them again.
When I think about my favorite European artists who did sensual Art Nouveau pieces…..
( and the whole form had a sensuality about it, no question….. )
usually the first name that comes to my mind is Raphael Kirchner, born in 1876.
Kirchner grew up in Vienna, Austria — at 20, he was painting upper class portraits for good money, and had built a large following—
…… so in 1900, he packed up and moved to Paris.
In France, Kirchner was immersed and refreshed by the whole Fin de siècle climate of those days–
more especially, the Parisian nightlife,
and the lovely women of the Montmartre.
…… much like Henri Toulouse-Lautrec was known to do in his heyday.
And his subjects, framed by bar and boudoir, were for Kirchner, the final ingredient to developing his own special style —
— which he further innovated while working as an illustrator for the famed French periodical La Vie Parisienne .
He is most well known, however, for his illustrated picture postcards —
………and the charm and rarity of the cards also happens to make them extremely collectible, as well.
One of the interesting things about Kirchner’s postcards —
— the original ” French Postcards” as Americans of the time called them…
was indeed the esteem the men serving on the European front during World War I had for them.
…for instance, Leo Fontan, and Xavier Sager,
but Kirchner’s was, by far, the most popular.
His “Geisha” series, in particular, captured the imagination of the servicemen.
British soldiers used the beautiful and mildly erotic Kirchner cards like currency –
— the more common Tommies called them “Kirsonners”–
This practice became so ubiquitous, that there was even a poem by Gilbert Frankau…
It was printed in a soldier’s publication, and was entitled “The Nuts of the Old Brigade”.
It read in part:
“O where is Bob of the big moustache?
An alien adjutant shoots
For the Major-man that I used to know
With his Kirchner ladies all in a row
And his seventeen pairs of boots.'”
This is an example to show just how pervasive Kirchner’s work had become.
His art speaks to a man in such a simple, direct, and appealing way.
Another interesting aspect of Kirchner’s work,
……… is that his later postcard art all featured the same model —
— his lovely wife and muse Nina, who upon Kirchner’s death in 1917, attempted suicide,
Her influence over Kirchner’s style cannot be underestimated.
She represented to Kirchner the ultimate ideal of femininity and grace, a paradigm of erotic love —
… and the many works in which she is featured shows that quite clearly.
….and he concentrated on painting more portraiture and canvases, even doing a few sculptures.
Of course, his beloved Nina was ever present in his work to the end.
Overall, Kirchner was a wonderfully talented artist,
….with a flair for expressing the sensuality of both the era, and the women of the time,
And certainly, one must consider Kirchner an innovator of the modern pin up form as it exists today.
If you like Pin Ups, check out my other posts on these famous Pin Up Artists :