The Pin-up girl culture became very popular during the early 20th century and continued well into the 80s and even late 90s. Many pin-ups were photographs of celebrities who were considered sex symbols. Other pin-ups were artwork, often depicting idealized versions of what some thought a particularly beautiful or attractive woman should look like. The genre also gave rise to several well-known artists specializing in the field, one of whom was the American painter and illustrator Gil Elvgren.
Gil Elvgren was one of the most important pin-up and glamour artists of the twentieth century. He was a master of portraying the feminine, but he wasn’t limited to the calendar pin-up industry. He was strongly influenced by the early “pretty girl” illustrators, such as Charles Dana Gibson, Andrew Loomis, and Howard Chandler Christy. Other influences included the Brandywine School founded by Howard Pyle.
Elvgren was a commercial success. His clients ranged from Brown & Bigelow and Coca-Cola to General Electric and Sealy Mattress Company. During the 1940s and 1950s he illustrated stories for a host of magazines, such as The Saturday Evening Post and Good Housekeeping. Although best known for his pin-ups, his work for Coca-Cola and others depicted typical Americans — ordinary people doing everyday things. The women Elvgren painted were never the femme fatale, the female adventuress, or somebody’s mistress. They are the girl next door whose charms are innocently revealed in that fleeting instant when she is caught unaware in what might be an embarrassing situation.