As I have discussed in previous blogs, artists have often played a key role in shaping the fashionable body ideal throughout history. During the 1930s and 1940s, pinup illustrators such as Alberto Vargas and George Petty hepled popularize the glamourous bombshell image. Their pinup girls have become iconic, and symbols of World War II era America.
Artist George Petty was born in Louisiana on April 27, 1894. As a young man George worked in his father's photo studio where he learned the delicate the delicate workings of the airbrush. During the 1930s, he illustrated many advertising campaigns (such as Old Gold cigarettes) that featured fashionable women. These ads caught the eye of Esquire mahazine, and soon Petty was producing monthly illustrations for the publication. In 1941, after eight years at Esquire, the 'Petty Girl' was an American icon.
Petty's pinups were playful and innocently sexy; they were instantly recognizeable for their voluptuous figures, and long curvy legs. His paintings were loved by servicemen, and by 1943 many American bomber planes had Petty Girls painted on their fuselage. The Memphis Belle, a famous B-17 of WWII, was adorned with a pinup from 1941. Throughout the forties, Petty continued to make illustrations for ad campaigns, publications, as well as posters for the War Department and other patriotic causes.
For further information on the artist, check out Reid Stewart Austin's Petty: The Classic Pin-Up art of George Petty (New York: Grammercy Books, 1997).