Friday 6 June 2014

The Complete Pin Ups of Gil Elvgren - Taschen

First of all I need to say thank you for my wonderful Other Half for getting me this gorgeous book, so 'Thank You Baby' :)
This is a typically beautiful art book from Taschen which charts the work and life of Gil Elvgren the pop artist and real life MadMen artist. His images were used to advertise everything that made up the mid 20th Century American world, everything from Cola, to war bonds to farming equipment could be found featuring one of his provocative little ladies. Usually these were painted from photographs with a model sometimes recreating the pose again and again in order to capture the correct feel, before essentially being photoshop-ed 1930's style. Everything was made perkier, and cheekier in the final image. What I hadn't noticed before is that often the same image was recreated just in a new outfit so that something very risque with sheer lingerie etc could be toned down and used to sell vacuum cleaners to 1950's housewives. I recognise that these images are probably deeply unPC and that in many ways the naughtier ones are essentially soft porn for the ad industry, but I still really really like the Pin Up image. Like a classic screen siren, they manage to be sexy as hell while usually revealing nothing more than a stretch of bare back, or a naked shoulder. The tops of stockings have never looked so good as they do in these images! I find the gentle titillation and Monroe-esque 'who me?' style of these pictures to be deeply charming and yet highly erotically charged. The fashions shown of the 1930's-1950's are brilliant also, and it is no wonder that the Rockabilly look is so very popular among such a large range of people.
Some of the later works from the 1960's and 70's start to get a bit of a 'Carry On' feel that removes some of the charm of the earlier images, but then both decades seem to have lost a lot of style of the past without gaining any of the equality of the modern world in my opinion anyway, so I was never going to find these later images quite as appealing.
The book contains a great biographical section discussing the life of Elvgren and his influences, which was fascinating to read.
If you like the all American Mid-West girl serving you apple pie with a cheeky pout, this is likely to appeal. Then again it will also appeal to students of advertising history, mid 20th Century popular art, Pin Ups, Burlesque and Vintage style. Pretty darn good! :)

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