The Art of George Petty


Pin up art is one of those visual art forms
that you either love or hate.

While it seems to provoke
rather silly ‘gender objectification’
objections of some folks today,
most people can appreciate the
true artistry involved.

Far from being denigrating of women,
good pin up work only emphasizes
and highlights the beauty of the
female form and femininity at large.

Me, I love it.

And of course,
I have my favorites,
as far as artists and styles is concerned.petty

If you would ask the person on the street
today about theirs,
you might get several answers:

— from a vintage giant of the form
like Gil Elvgren or Enoch Bolles,

a more obscure but certainly talented choice
like Rolf Armstrong or Dan DeCarlo,

to a more contemporary choice
like Alberto Vargas, Bruce Timm,
Olivia Berardinis, or Dean Yeagle.

But, if you had asked
the average pin up fan in 1945
george pettywho their favorite was,
chances would be very good
they would have said:
George Petty
— and the “Petty Girls “.


Petty was by far the most well known
and popular pin up artist of the time….

His work was featured
in magazines,
matchbooks —

…and known in particular
for his illustrations
in Esquire Magazine,

and an advertising art
series for the Ridgid Tool Company.

The Ridgid series in particular
gave Petty a chance ridgid
to really show off his talents.

These drawings not only
featured a beautiful Petty girl,

… but also a carefully detailed illustration
of some very complicated
technical tools, machines, and devices.

They had to be appealing to the eye,
but also had to convey
a sense of thoughtful design and toughness —

Images the tool company
knew would translate into more sales.

And they did.

It was one of the most highly successful petty1940
advertising campaigns any tool company
ever ran, before or since.


During World War II,
copies of his works
even showed up
on American warplanes
— bombers,
fighters, and the like–

— an art form that has come
to be called “Nose Art”,
of which Petty’s work
was very well favored.

pettymemphisbelleIn fact, a work that appeared
in Esquire Magazine in April, 1941,
was chosen by George Petty
to be copied onto the famous
B-17 Flying Fortress
“Memphis Belle”,
and this has become
probably the most iconic piece
of the nose art genre.


Born in 1894,
George Brown Petty IV petty
learned to use the air brush while a boy in Chicago..
his father was a well known photographer
( George Petty III ) and was particularly good
with female subjects, including what
would now be glamour photography and nudes.

The young George was a quick learner,
and he soon was giving lessons to his
fellow students at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts,
which he attended while still in High School.

He was enrolled in the famous Academie Julian,
in Paris, until 1916,
when the outbreak of World War I
forced him to return home…
….. where he worked as an airbrush retoucher
and freelance artist.

He opened his own studio a
in Chicago around 1926.

Petty did his first “Petty Girl” illustration
for Esquire in 1933, and continued
to do them for the next 23 years.

His work is usually easy to identify,
especially in the female forms.

Yes, Petty drew men, too–
( usually in advertising,
his Jantzen bathing suit ads for instance )
where his work is quite reminiscent
of the work of a strong influence of his,
J.C. Leyendecker.


Several characteristics
distinguish much of his ‘Petty Girls’ —

— a leggy perspective,
lively airbrush style color,
a suggestive-but-never-lewd sexuality…

— no matter what his subject was wearing, a
she never uncovered ‘too much’.

His subjects are often portrayed
facing away from the viewer,
and holding or talking on the telephone.

To demonstrate what I mean,
Here’s my favorite Petty piece. —->


His influence on the World War II
generation was powerful,
and his work was considered
at the time to be the height of the pin-up genre.

One can see a fanciful
(and largely fictional)
take on Petty’s life and work
in the 1950 Columbia Studios film
” The Petty Girl “,
starring Robert Cummings.pettygirl


His work today is very highly collectible,
despite being largely forgotten
by the newer pin-up fans…

But once experienced,
the charming and beautiful quality
of his pieces often makes
for instant fans of younger people.

And all things considered,
George Petty remains one of
the most important influences
on the pin-up art genre.

HOY !!!!!!





17 thoughts on “The Art of George Petty

  1. Amazing! His work always brings smiles!
    Love the Rita Hayworth cover!
    HUGS!!! 🙂

  2. Paloma says:

    Petty Third From The End … yowza!!!!!

  3. jillianmrks says:

    I really enjoyed this profile of the artist! Thank you for taking the time to put it together, Chris! I’m going to see if I can find that movie 😉

  4. Fantastic art, and I agree with your favorite, the one with the woman on the phone, behind a see-through curtain. That’s masterful stuff.

  5. So interesting! My favorite is The Petty Girl Suit of 1940, and I love the fishing one, too. These are great. I love learning about new stuff on your blog, MHB.

  6. ktz2 says:

    nice job, I think all we pinup fans enjoy these posts about the various artists

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