See vintage calendar girls & pin-ups from the ’40s & ’50s – plus meet artist Gil Elvgren

Vintage pin-up models & calendar girls of the '40s & 50s

Note: This article may feature affiliate links, and purchases made may earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. Find out more here.


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.

Vintage calendar girl pin-up (1)

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 If I were to put some silly beehive hairdress or high styled shoes on a girl, the vogue might be out of date when the calendar is published.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.”

Pin-up girl artist Gil Elvgren (1962)

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.”

See vintage pin-up Betty Grable and her famous legs

Gil Elvgren pin up artwork - Quick change

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.

Pin-up girl artist Gil Elvgren (1963)

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 girl pin-up (2)

Vintage calendar girls from Esquire – March 1950

Esquire vintage calendar girls


Esquire calendar girl for April 1950

Vintage Esquire calendar pin-up girls (1)

Vintage pinup art by Harry Ekmon

Vintage pinup girl by Harry Ekman

August 1952 calendar pinup model

Vintage 1952 calendar girl pin-up by Ward Brackett

October 1952 calendar pinup model



Vintage 1952 calendar girl pin-up by Michael Silver

Sexy vintage pin-up girls adore Mennen aftershave with the He-Man

January 1944 calendar girl by Alberto Vargas

Vintage 1940s pinup models - calendar girls

Art by J Frederick Smith

Vintage 1940s pin up models - calendar girls (1)

At the shore artwork by Ben-Hur Baz

See vintage calendar girls from the forties

Vintage girl in plaid by Fritz Willis

Vintage 1940s pin up models - calendar girls (3)

17 Vintage Halloween pin-up girls from the '30s & '40s for a different kind of pumpkin cheesecake

Vintage pin-up girl by Joe deMers

Vintage 1940s pin up models - calendar girls (4)

Mexican woman artwork by Ben-Hur Baz

Vintage 1940s pin up models - calendar girls (5)

Art by Fritz Willis

Vintage 1940s pin up models - calendar girls (6)

Drying off calendar girl artwork

Vintage 1940s pin up models - calendar girls (7)

10 stunning vintage evening dresses worthy of the red carpet: Eye-catching form-fitting bodycon styles from the 1950s & 1960s

Circus girl by Joe deMers

Vintage 1940s pin up models - calendar girls (8)

Showgirl calendar art by Ben-Hur Baz

Vintage 1940s pin up models - calendar girls (9)

Pin-up girl waiting for the mail, by artist Fritz Willis

1940s vintage calendar girls

Circus ballerina pin-up girl by Joe deMers

Vintage 1940s pin up models - calendar girls (11)

Women: Do you have the ideal figure? Here's what 'they' thought in 1950

Cowgirl art

Vintage calendar girl pin-up (3)

Pinup girl from the 1940s

Vintage 1940s pin up models - calendar girls (12)

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.

YouTube video

PS: If you liked this article, please share it! You can also get our free newsletter, follow us on Facebook & Pinterest. Thanks for visiting and for supporting a small business! 🤩 


You might also like...

The fun never ends:

Comments on this story

One Response

Leave a comment here!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.