Francis Bacon says:


” There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion. “


Vintage Female Pin Up Artists

joyceballantyneToday’s post is all about
the greats of the vintage
Pin Up Art world,
who also happened
to be women.

(Or should that be:
women who happened
to be Pin Up Artists,
I wonder?)


You shouldn’t be.

The beautiful piece at top is an example:
It was done by Joyce Ballantyne.
(Famous for the Coppertone Ad)

In the 1940’s and 1950’s,
women painted some of the
best remembered pin-ups of the era.

zoemozertPerhaps their fame has been eclipsed by the Gil Elvgrens and George Petty’s —

But collectors remember the work of these ladies with the same fondness.

We’re talking about female vintage Pin Up Artists like:

Joyce Ballantyne, (top)
Pearl Frush ,
Zoe Mozert , (right)
Mabel Rollins Harris,
Irene and Laurette Patten ,
and Ruth Deckard .

I’ve already written posts
about several of these artists,
and they can be found be
clicking the links on their names.

For those I haven’t posted about yet,
well– now’s the time.


pearlfrushPearl Frush :

One of the most highly skilled artists working in the pin-up industry,
in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

Pearl Frush first had formal training at Art Schools
in New Orleans, Philly
and New York —

She became a graduate of the famed Chicago Art Institute,
before opening her own
studio there in Chicago.

She was highly regarded for her
almost photographic style
using gouache and watercolors.

About Miss Frush,frushenchantment

Louis K Meisel , the founder of the Meisel Gallery in New York had this to say:

“When it comes to watercolor,
I’ve seen the best that exist.

Fifty years ago, Pearl Frush was way ahead of everybody.
Face-wise, she is on the level of Alberto Vargas.
Her paintings are not as sexy, but when it comes to painting a face, nobody surpasses Pearl Frush.
It’s too bad that she wasn’t
with a bigger publishing company.”

It’s said that Pearl’s limitation
was her choice of media —

And I suppose that’s true,
as far as how many works
could be reproduced en masse
for calendars, etc.frush

But, the beauty of her work clearly demonstrates her talent and ability,
and proves her place among the leading pin-up artists of all time.

And the last I heard,
Miss Frush was still alive and kicking somewhere in the Midwest.

Most of her work is signed.
But, there are also works of hers
that are signed:
Pearl Mann (her married name)
and Charles Brudon ( a pseudonym)
as in the picture above right .



The Patten Sisters :

This is one of Irene Patten’s best known works —

Called ‘Youth’ –
it is thought to have represented Lady Godiva.

Irene was a great artist,
whose life and career was cut short by at age 30.

Her sister Laurette also did fine pin-up work,
and she lived into her 60’s.

lauretteHere’s one of Laurette’s best known works,

— an exhibit card called “Lovely Little Lady”.

Yes, indeed.

And in the two head shots from the sisters:

You can see there are both similarities and differences in their art,
mostly in the use of color,
and facial detail.

It’s fair to say that while:

Laurette put most of her emphasis
on drawing beautiful faces,
and fashionable clothing. laurette

Irene like to draw faces with harder edges,
and sharper contrast,

(and did a good deal of full body art/lingerie work).

All the nudes that were painted by the sisters were done by Irene.

The Patten sisters were both born in Chicago, Illinois around 1910.

while I certainly enjoy Irene’s work,

Laurette’s faces are often so beautiful and ethereal,
as to grab one’s attention away from the more sensual considerations,
— for a moment, anyway.



Mabel Rollins Harris:

She was also a popular female artist in the 1930’s and 1940’s….

Called “the finest female illustrator of the Art Deco era”
by Charles G. Martignette in his “All American Pin Up” ,

She was a protégé of Rolf Armstrong,
and he was responsible for
getting her a job with Brown and Bigelow,

which led to all sorts of
other opportunities for her.

She is probably best remembered
as a painter of children,bluende

but she also painted nudes for Exhibit/Mutoscope cards and calendars,
and several of her works are considered “classic” pin ups.

“Blue Nude” (right)
was one of the most popular calendar images ever published by Brown and Bigelow,

although she also was doing image work for several other companies at the time.

Her works seem particularly suited
for the applications and the era
in which they were applied.

rollinsWhat I always notice about her work,
is the sense of innocence she is able to convey on canvas –

This trait is a hallmark of her career,

and I guess is explains why
she was so successful painting children, too.

While some would argue that her pin-up work lacks sex appeal,

I would say they are very sexy, indeed –
— in the way they display a feminine sensibility,
freedom and subtlety.



Ruth Deckard :

Interestingly enough, Ruth ,
known only as “Deckard” on her pin-up work,

was thought to be a man by most of her fans,
until the release of the “Great American Pin Up” in 1996.

As you can probably imagine,
biographical information on Ruth
has been rather sketchy.

But I would think it shouldn’t
have taken much intuitionruthdeckard
to have figured out her gender, though —

Her work displays a fun loving nature, and an unmistakably feminine touch.

At right, you can see her most famous pin-up,
which was called “Pin Cushion “,
from the early 1940’s.

Based in Chicago,
( along with the majority of
leading pin up artists at the time ),

most of Ruth’s work was published
by Louis F Dow Publishing,ruth
of Saint Paul, Minnesota.

She liked
bright contrasts of color,
stylish clothing/lingerie
simple lively backgrounds,
and humorous situations.

Her work is usually very distinctive,

and almost all of her work is simply signed “Deckard ” .



There are, of course,
many more talented women
working in the field these days,
like Fiona Stephenson,
Olivia De Berardinis, and Kelly X —

But the way was pioneered by the
wonderful vintage artists above.

We wrap up today’s post with
my favorite work by contemporary
artist Fiona Stephenson.

Cheers !!!!



What The Butler Saw

You’ve probably noticed
the occasional “Mutoscope”
cards that have been posted
here from time to time
on the Muscleheaded Blog….

And you might have
wondered just what
the heck a “Mutoscope”
was, anyhow.

Mutoscope was actually
a trade name name of
a large company in Chicago-butler
the American Mutoscope

….who originally made an
early motion picture device,
similar to the Edison Company’s Kinetoscope, using flip cards on
a ‘Rolodex’ sorta wheel, to
simulate motion.

The wheel would hold
about 800 cards, but
would only display
for a few seconds,

… to see the whole
‘movie’, you’d have to
continue to put in coins.

I’m pretty sure that
you’ve seen the kind of
thing in museums
and some older arcades —

You put a coin in the device,
you turn the handle, a light
turns on inside, and you look
down into a viewfinder.

The most popular title back
in Great-Granddaddy’s day
was called:
What the Butler Saw ” —

—  a series of scenes
featuring a Victorian
Age lady undressing in1
her bedroom as if
seen through a
keyhole —

( at right, you can see
one of the more ‘explicit’ scenes from this vintage set )

which, when viewed by
contemporary standards
would be considered
very mild, even trite,
as far as pornography goes,

……………. but at the time
was extremely racy, indeed.

In fact, the short Mutoscope’s
suggestive title became a
catch-phrase to describe
the whole genre.

I love these things–
I’m absolutely fascinated
by them.

Not that I didn’t know
that those stuffy Victorians
got naked, exactly,
but that
they actually got turned on
by the thought of a pretty
lady doing it.


These things got so
popular, they were soon
found almost everywhere —

….. and were being made by a number of different companies
in a number of different formats.

Not all of them showed m3
risqué material, either —
far from it .

Most were completely mundane —
like cartoons, news films,
travelogues, etc……

But there were a number
of devices that, while not
containing actual salacious

( and sometimes not
even a ‘moving’
image, but a
picture card
or a diorama )

….. would have a ‘come-on’ sign
advertising something very
confidential and prurient–
(using the old PT Barnum rule)

IF one would only put
in a coin to see for themselves.

Like this one-
The sign advertises
” Very Naughty ”
” Strip Poker ” –
put your coin in,
and ‘ voila ‘ –


The joke would then
be revealed —
——— usually an innocent view,
some kind of pun or
a play on words.

for a penny….

Not a bad price to enjoy
a laugh on oneself, I guess.

I remember one from
my childhood that was
in the corner of this
old candy store —

escoIt said:
on the machine,

….. and when you
slipped in a nickel,

( hey, even I’m not old enough
for the penny version )

…………….. you got a magnified
view of a living ant farm.

By the 1920’s, the whole genre of
coin operated gizmos were being
called “Peep Show” machines —midgetmovie
and they were usually found
in penny arcades.

The flip card format
was especially
good for displaying
still images slowly –

So, more and more machines
were set up to show 12
images for a coin —
– timed at 3 second intervals.

This was used for all kinds
of materials, views of a city
for instance, or humorous cartoons….

…..  and came to be called
“Exhibit Cards”.

But the most profitable
ones displayed Pin-Ups.

Sure, there were cards for sports,
comics, fortune telling, movie stars, flowers, and patriotic themes, (just about anything!),
but the ‘girlie’ ones , especially
those featuring Pin Up Art,
were top draws.

The cards for these machines
were done by artists who are
now considered to be past
masters of the Pin Up genre —

…….. including Gil Elvgren, Zoe Mozert,
Rolf Armstrong, Earl Moran, etc.

a2The pin-up exhibit cards were soon also finding a marketplace outside arcades, at news-stands, in magazines …..

And especially, in vending machines, selling them individually, or in series.

Their popularity hugely increased once World War II broke out….

Every serviceman had at least one set of these, it seemed.

Two major companies were marketing the majority of the cards, Mutoscope, and Exhibit Supply Company,

….. although today, most people
just generically call them
“Mutoscope Exhibit Cards”.exhibit

The cards had a very distinctive look then, and now,

……and most are easily identified,

because of their ethereal colors and simple, airy design  —

— printed, as they were, to display just as well under the lights and magnification of a Mutascope machine,

………… as to hold in your hand and view them up close.

Usually, they had some kind of legend, pun, or title that was vaguely relevant to whatever position or activity the pin-up girl was engaged in —

………..  well known titles of individual Pin-Up Exhibit Cards included:

Disturbing Elements ” ( Gil Elvgren ) disturbingelements

Hit the Deck
( Zoe Mozert )

I’ll Say So
(Rolf Armstrong)

Visibility Perfect
( Earl Moran )

Jutht My Thize
( Howard Connolly )

Anchors Aweigh
( K.O. Munson )

Up to Par ” ( Edward D’Ancona )

Red, White and You
( Billy DeVorss )

Would You?
( Earl Christy )

Air Minded
(Mable Rollins Harris )

Total Eclipse
( Haskell Coffin )

Shoulder Arms
(G.C. Orde )

Sailor’s Sweetheart
(Hy Hintermeister)

Keep ‘Em Flying
(Vaughan Alden Bass )

All told, there were at least
10 sets of these Pin Up
Exhibit Cards printed in
the early 1940’s —

……… or, about 500
cards in all, although some
were repeated
over several sets.

Unfortunately, many of these
wonderful vintage cards
have no signature,

………….. and we can only guess
who created the artworks contained on them.

The cards fell out of favor
after the War, as many servicemen returned and
settled down to domestic life —

Sexy returned to
being something
out of the social mainstream…
taboo and undesirable
for the ‘new prosperity’.

And even the greatest
pin-up artists
of the time were pressured to
‘tone down’ their more risqué
work for peacetime printing
applications — calendars, advertising, etc.

During the Eisenhower years,
pin-up girls were often pictured
wearing knee length garments,
with prim and proper posing,
and the cards with girls in
wispy lingerie again became
hard to get novelties.

it seems society’s
blue-noses always find
a way to piss on one’s
parade, it seems.

Not that a little ‘coyness’
once in a while can’t be
sexy, too, I guess.

Either way —
we still have these
vintage cards to
enjoy, right ?

!!! HOY !!!!