King of the calendar cuties: Pin-up girl artist Gil Elvgren (1962)
By Lorna Carroll & Photos by Bob Moreland – Tampa Bay Times (Florida) December 30, 1962
A dewy-eyed, curvacious lovely smiles sensuously from your new 1963 calendar. Before the year is out, you’ll see her glamorizing garages, diners and dens, making life a little more fun every time you look at her.
She comes to you from the brush of Gil Elvgren, probably the world’s most prolific artist of calendar girls. You’ve seen her stretched out on a daisy-strewn meadow, her sky-blue skirts up to her pretty knees; you’ve watched her sloshed with soap suds in a light, little wooden tub smiling her ever-seductive smile.
You’ve admired her long, lithe limbs outlined by flowing satin skirts or revealed through black, lacy underthings. You’ve found her utterly irresistible, how ever she is dressed, whatever she is doing.
Elvgren, her creator, lives on Siesta Key near Sarasota. Under contract to Brown and Bigelow, the world’s No. 1 calendar house, since 1940, he paints about 18 devastating pin-ups a year. The job is enjoyable, he explains (probably the understatement of the New Year) but it does tax his imagination.
How does he dream up his ideas? It gets harder every year. Sometimes he will say to his wife, Janet, “For heaven’s sake, what shall I draw?” Then they’ll talk it over together.
Once, late at night, Janet found him poring over a dictionary, trying to find some word that would inspire an idea. “I try to get a girl caught at some inopportune moment, which will immediately pass away,” he explains. “It gives the picture life and naturalness.
“I can’t follow any specific style trend. If I were to put some silly beehive hairdress or high styled shoes on a girl, the vogue might be out of date when the calendar is published. I work several years ahead — my 1965 calendar already is finished.”
While all of Gil’s poses are different, the similarity of face and smile are the same. This is his trademark.
He doesn’t care whether his model is tall or short. “I can elongate or shorten her,” he says, “cut her in at the waist, give her a pretty bust line, make her feet smaller. The important thing is to get a girl with a good face — one who can use her eyebrows and eyes expressively. That’s something your brush can’t fake.”
His models frequently are daughters of families he knows. A particular model is his godchild, whom he has known since she was 10. “The old method of posing a model hours at a time is gone,” Gil says. “You can’t expect a girl to hold a difficult, uncomfortable pose for hours. I photograph my models, choose the photographs we want, and paint from them. Sometimes a calendar girl will have the head of one model, the legs of another and the torso of a third.”
For years, Gil Elvgren painted nudes for Brown and Bigelow. Then the company began making calendars and pamphlets for Catholic organizations, and took the nudes out of line.
A product of the Minneapolis Art Institute and the American Academy of Art, Gil originally wanted to be an architect. A successful artist friend helped change his mind.
He quickly found a market for his work: He made $45 a painting on his first job. His bosses increased it to $1,000. Then Brown and Bigelow offered him an even more lucrative contract.
Pin-ups haven’t been his only specialty. His wonderful girls have advertised well-known beers and soft drinks, and he has made billboards and illustrated for the country’s leading magazines.
Married to his high school sweetheart, he has three children, Karen, who married last September, Rocky, a student at Tulane and Drake, who attends Manatee Junior College.
His home, designed by himself, is one of the most attractive on Siesta Key. He collects guns, enjoys boating, plays golf and is a chess expert. He has no particular work schedule.
“It’s wonderful to work free,” he exclaims. There is a saying, popular among artists: “He who can paint the beautiful woman need never want for much.” Gil Elvgren, with a bow to his beautiful pin-ups, no doubt agrees.
A pretty vintage calendar girl by Gil Elvgren
Vintage calendar girls from Esquire – March 1950
Esquire calendar girl for April 1950
Vintage pinup art by Harry Ekmon
August 1952 calendar pinup model
October 1952 calendar pinup model
January 1944 calendar girl by Alberto Vargas
Art by J Frederick Smith
At the shore artwork by Ben-Hur Baz
Vintage girl in plaid by Fritz Willis
Vintage pin-up girl by Joe deMers
Mexican woman artwork by Ben-Hur Baz
Art by Fritz Willis
Drying off calendar girl artwork
Circus girl by Joe deMers
Showgirl calendar art by Ben-Hur Baz
Pin-up girl waiting for the mail, by artist Fritz Willis
Circus ballerina pin-up girl by Joe deMers
Pinup girl from the 1940s
Neil Sedaka: Calendar Girl
“Calendar Girl” was a hit single for singer/musician/songwriter Neil Sedaka in 1961, when it reached #4 on the US Billboard Singles chart.
These and others bring back fond and tender years of youth.