Scratch 'n' Sniff

When all is said and done, I believe that the great “illustrators” of the twentieth century—and particularly the masters of the American pin-up—deserve, as much as any other artists of quality, to have their works appear in galleries, museums, and history books. The best of the pin-up artists were, in fact, innovative; their experiments centered around finding new and interesting variations on how to present the human figure in two dimensions. Elvgren, in particular, was renowned for his daring, tongue-in-cheek situation images, in which an accidentally sexy event happened to an absolutely innocent American girl.

Practically every one of the artists discussed herein was rigorously trained, in the same schools and at or above the same levels as their colleagues in “fine” art. The contemporary artists to whom I have shown Elvgren’s work have been deeply impressed by its compositional genius and rich painting technique. And few “fine” artists have mastered the art of pastels as well as the best pin-up artists.

The paintings of these men and women, as they exist today, triumphantly meet all of the traditional standards of fine art. And in fact, if viewed without prejudice and preconception, pin-up art commands much attention and imparts much pleasure—certainly more than most of the “fine art” produced during the last twenty-five years in the increasingly distorted contemporary art world.

Louis K. Meisel, "The 'Fine' Art of Illustration, from The Great American Pin-up


Bettie Page: The Life of a Pin-Up Legend

Karen Essex and James L. Swanson

Among the many books available on the memorably beautiful Bettie Page, this one is written with her cooperation, providing a unique glimpse into her childhood and early adult years before and after she became a model. The resurrection of the icon of Bettie Page over the last 10 years and the assimilation of her image as a pop culture phenomenon is also thoroughly examined. Her own insights and reflections on her life provide a poignant foil to the pop culture myth of Bettie Page and her enduring allure and influence in style and fashion. The numerous illustrations depict the canon of Bettie’s actual work (including many of her classic bondage poses, nude beach poses and swimwear modeling) and contemporary derivative art, fashion and invented scenarios inspired by her vulpine body, raven hair and captivating smile. Forward by Bettie Page. MM

Publisher: General
Hardback: 288 pages

Bettie Page: The Queen of Pin-Up

Edited by Burkhard Riemschneider

Includes a very brief history of Bettie Page, featuring Irving Klaw, the man responsible for the beginning of her bondage and spanking photos, short films and comics. Anyone not familiar with the classic, clean, sweet, good-looking charm of Bettie Page has certainly missed out, but now has a chance to catch up. Full-page photos by Bunny Yeager include whips, suspender belts, lace undies and her trademark extra-high heels. Also includes photos from Robert Harrison’s girlie magazines Beauty Parade, Eyeful, Wink and Titter, covering the market for the bare (or at least scantily clad). Bettie mugged for the camera with consistent integrity throughout her nine-year career.
Lush, curvaceous breasts, black bra, stockings and full panties (some crotchless) are constant; her trademark six-inch heels are included in every shot. From 1948 through 1957, the risqué themes of her work included all-girl wrestling, bondage and insinuated discipline, along with really cool costumes, such as metal bras, early latex and vinyl. Fold-out beds, footstools, coffee tables and many other around-the-house items are some of many props used. Her 1950s naughty-but-oh-so-nice image translates well for the ‘90s, and beyond, because underneath it all, if we’re going to get corrupted, it’s best to be corrupted with style. CF

Publisher: Taschen
Paperback: 80 pages

Bunny’s Honeys

Bunny Yeager

Dubbed “the world’s prettiest photographer” in 1953, former pin-up model Bunny Yeager decided to step behind the camera, and in the process, became a pioneer in the almost exclusively male world of cheesecake photography, as well as one of the best. She’s known mostly for her exceptional work with Bettie Page, but all of Bunny’s pictures have the same sense of relaxed glamor and intimacy that’s uniquely hers, and she had an great eye for “talent.” A few of the ‘60s shots are a bit scary though, mainly because of the squalid nature of the clothes, hair and makeup (think how Jayne Mansfield looked around that time… ‘nuff said). MG

Publisher: Taschen
Paperback: 160 pages

The Great American Pin-Up

Charles G. Martignette and Louis K. Meisel

Will the art-history textbooks of the year 2525 focus on George Petty and Haddon Sundblom as the true exemplars of 20th-century American painting rather than Jasper Johns or Ed Ruscha? The authors of The Great American Pin-Up clearly think so, and make no secret of the historical significance of this staggering pageant of painterly pulchritude reproduced lovingly in living color and often taken from the original oil paintings of the masters themselves.
This survey begins with the exotic “moonlight girls” of the art deco era and follows pin-up art from the celebrated Peruvian da Vinci of the American Girl, Alberto Vargas, to the salacious pulp covers for Eyeful, Giggles, Titter, and Flirt. Most prominent are the hot-to-trot all-American gals-next-door specialized in by the Brown and Bigelow calendar company of St. Paul, Minnesota. Esquire magazine’s crucial role in disseminating the art of the pin-up through its “Gallery of Glamour” in each issue is recognized here as well.
Besides being the first to compile and reproduce such a plethora of fascinating female figures, this collection emphasizes the personalities behind the pin-ups: Art Frahm and his acclaimed “panties falling down series”; such woman pin-up painters as the glamorous Zoë Mozert (who often modeled for herself by posing in front of a mirror) and Chicago’s sister pin-up team Laurette and Irene Patten; Gil Elvgren and his hugely popular “situation pictures” (over a billion have been reproduced) in which a gusty wind or a mischievous BBQ grill leads to a provocative display of thigh and garter; Fritz Willis, originator of Brown and Bigelow’s Artist Sketch Pad series with sketched-in elements surrounding the vibrantly painted model; and the many other artistic spirits behind the 900 racy images collected herein. SS

Publisher: Taschen
Hardback: 380 pages

I Was a 1950s Pin-Up Model!

Mark Roenberg

A black-and-white photo-book ode to the girdle, the garter belt and the pointy bra. “Remember the days when you found the secret shoebox hidden in the back of your father’s night table? Inside were pictures of GIRLS! Beautiful girls, in various stages of undress! And they weren’t Mom! There was no denying it, Dad did think about sex, “about girls, gals, sirens and sex kittens, all posed to tease and titillate his horny soul.” GR

Publisher: Shake
Paperback: 94 pages

Pin-Up Mania: The Golden Age of Men’s Magazines, 1950-1967

Alan Betrock

This time it’s capsule histories of men’s magazines, from Playboy to Poorboy. The ‘60s’ cheesiest cheesecake, from Alan Betrock, the “King of ‘50s Sleaze” (his collection is legendary), each one with a cover full of female cleavage and with articles like “Are Burlesque Queens Really Dumb?” and “The Sexual Side of Crime.” Hundreds of black-and-white cover shots of such magazines as Gent, Modern Man, Escapade, Fling, Nugget, Rogue, Scamp, Satan and Sir Knight. GR

Publisher: Shake

Va Va Voom! Bombshells, Pin-Ups, Sexpots and Glamour Girls

Steve Sullivan

A veritable Plutarch’s Lives of “Bombshells, Pin-Ups, Sexpots, and Glamour Girls,” this book is a compendium of feminine pulchritude, lushly illustrated with hundreds of suggestive black-and-white and color photographs. The author’s thorough research clearly documents both the life stories and all of the major media appearances of his subjects. This surprisingly serious study of the fates of variously famous, notorious and nearly forgotten women ranges from the depths of the downwardly mobile, the dead, the washed-up, the forgotten, the bankrupt, the drug-addicted and the recovered, to such heights as fame as a still-respected sex symbol; an older exercise maven; working actresses; employment in late-night TV, or porn; coverage in magazines; the conventions, periodic revivals cult followings; and posthumous fame.
This book is a social history of the sexual mores, the exuberance and the darker side of post-war America. Va Va Voom! captures the irony that some women like Julie Newmar can achieve fame, happiness and success spanning decades while others like Marilyn Monroe achieve more fame through their unhappy lives and tragic deaths. The anecdotes alone are positively riveting. For example, it tells of stripper Candy Barr’s associations with Jack Ruby, Mickey Cohen and Hugh Hefner; Tempest Storm’s career as a stripper and Bunny Yeager’s transition from pin-up to photographer. A must-have for any aficionado of popular culture or any man who reached puberty between World War II and Vietnam. MM

Publisher: General
Paperback: 200 pages