It's clear that Vargas loved American women and made a career of flawlessly painting images of them elegantly dressed and/or semi nude. These prints are some of his less suggestive female portraits and I think they are beautifully suited to girly décor. Imagine having a grouping of these vintage style framed prints in a woman's dressing area decorated in pastels. Or to cheer up a dreary office? They make a great focal point for a room. The idealized forms of these "movie poster style women" are a throwback tribute to the 1940s in America.
Vintage Alberto Vargas Pin Up Girl Poster Prints
I've been a fan of pin up art created by Alberto Vargas for a long time and recently ran across some reprints of his famous air brushed paintings sold as poster art.
Who Was Alberto Vargas?
Alberto Vargas was a painter from Peru. His father was a famous Peruvian photographer and Alberto studied art in Europe. He came to the U.S. in 1916 and began his career as an artist for several Hollywood studios creating movie posters. He also became the official artist for The Ziegfeld Follies from 1916 to 1934. His technique was to paint with watercolor and airbrush and he became so successful at it that he is considered one of the best artists in his genre. Even today Airbrush Magazine gives an annual Vargas award for airbrush artistry.
Alberto Vargas and Esquire Magazine
Vargas began working for Esquire magazine in 1940 to create pin-up art for the publication. His works became so popular during World War II that they were reproduced on the nose of aircraft, on ships, and even on servicemen's military uniforms. The pin-up girls were known as Varga Girls, a term that Esquire owned the rights to. The Federal Government wasn't so happy about some of the more racy poses and eventually took away Esquires second-class mailing permit. The magazine went to court and got its license back but stopped using Vargas's pin up art as a result. They did not allow Alberto to continue to use the Varga Girl name when he left Esquire.
Moving On To Playboy Magazine
In 1960 Alberto Vargas was hired by Playboy's Hugh Hefner and the name of his portraits changed to Vargas Girls. Same artist, different magazine. His art was used in Playboy as a monthly feature and Vargas worked there for 16 years. During that time he created over 150 paintings and mostly remained exclusive to the company. His work only graced 2 covers of Playboy, a figure of a girl in a bathing suit that was part of a montage in 1961, and the cover for the March 1965 issue.
America Loves Vargas Pin Up Paintings
Alberto Vargas pin up paintings are some of the most recognizable iconic art of the mid 20th century. His work is revered and collectors pay top dollar for original paintings. One of his most famous is a 1933 poster for the movie The Sin of Nora Moran. It shows a nearly naked pose of actress Zita Johann and is considered one of the finest movie posters ever made. His 1967 painting done for Playboy titled "Trick or Treat" sold at a Christie's auction in 2003 for over $70,000 and the record for one of his paintings is currently $179,250 for a 1963 Playboy illustration.
Other Notable Vargas Works
There are some less known companies that commissioned Vargas' work. When he first arrived in the U.S. Alberto Vargas drew and colored covers for Butterick sewing patterns. He also painted covers for Tatler and Dance magazine, illustrated hairstyles for Harpers' Bazaar, patriotic pin-ups for Amercian Weekly magazine, advertisements for Hellman's mayonnaise, and counter displays for Old Gold cigarettes. He produced his own calendars after leaving Esquire and also released a deck of Vargas playing cards called Vargas Vanities. In the 1970s he created album covers for Bernadette Peters and The Cars. He also served as a judge for the Miss Universe beauty contest in 1956-58.
Famous Hollywood Stars Vargas Painted
Alberto Vargas clientele reads like a who's who of Hollywood actresses: Betty Grable, Paulette Goddard, Jane Russell, Shelley Winters, Linda Darnell, Marlene Dietrich, Loretta Young, Ann Sheridan, Ava Gardner, and Marilyn Monroe. He painted men actors too, including W.C Fields and Eddie Cantor.
Alberto Vargas Personal Life
He was born February 9, 1896 in Arequpa Peru, studied art in Zurich and Geneva before leaving to come to America in 1916 because of World War I. Alberto married Anna Mae Clift, a showgirl with Greenwich Village Follies in 1930, and their marriage lasted until her death in 1974. His work appeared in major exhibitions all over the world and his successful career spanned most of the 20th century. He died on December 30, 1982, in Los Angeles California.
Where To Visit The Varga Girls Collection
Esquire magazine gave much of the Varga Girls paintings and illustrations to the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas in 1980. Much of his other works are held in private collections. Reproduction prints are available in many art stores and at online venues such as Allposters and Amazon.