Gil Elvgren - the Norman Rockwell of cheesecake

Peruvian painter Alberto Vargas may be the most famous pin-up artist, but Gil Elvgren was the greatest. The massive book, Elvgren: His Life & Art, has the artist’s best paintings, and often the photographs of models Elvgren used for reference are printed side-by-side with the paintings.

Today Elvgren’s oil paintings of wholesome, happy young woman dressed as pirates, cowgirls, trapezists, and marching band majorettes are held up as exemplars of the “mayonnaise school” of art, because of their rich, creamy texture. His work was familiar to millions of Americans in the mid-20th Century, thanks to calendar publishers who printed his cheesecake paintings for decades. Elvgren’s paintings were copied onto fighter planes by paintbrush-wielding World War II soldiers.

On some pages of the book the paintings are printed on translucent vellum with the photos underneath them, and it is fascinating to observe how Elvgren deviated from the photos to achieve his lively paintings.

See a gallery of images from Elvgren: His Life & Art at Wink