Images of women have appeared in art for as long as there have been artists to paint them. True the earliest images we have are images of hunting and probably have magical or mystical significance.
But just as soon as things got a little easier for ole cave dwelling first man, they started looking around and decided that painting buffaloes and deer was well and good but what the designer man-cave really needed was a pretty girl.
Okay, yes that is narrow and sexist and there are countless example of not-so pretty girls who have been immortalized in art and will continue to be, but Hugh Hefner pretty much explained the way things worked by taking some pretty girls and getting them to shuck out of their clothes and making him a fortune so vast that he will never be a poor little ole man living on social security.
And he wasn’t the first one to notice, no in spite of making an obscene amount of money pandering to the basest instincts of men he caught on kinda late in the game. There were one or two guys who noticed that you can pretty much sell anything if you put a girl in the picture and hint that she might actually like you a whole lot better if you’d just buy whatever was on the other side of the picture.
And no, women are not one whit better, they stare just as hard and long and that is why boys and girls Fabio shows up on the cover of every other romance novel and not because he is essential to the story. I’m thinking Brad Pitt, Ben Affleck and Ashton Kutcher might just have some of that working for them so let’s all admit that we stare and move on.
See way back about 1894 The Divine Sarah needed a new poster for her performance at the Theatre de la Renaissance and the new kid in town Alphonse Mucha said, “Let me have a shot at it.” They did and he did and that one event led to the whole Art Nuevo movement which oddly enough featured a whole bunch of Alphonse Mucha’s airy, ephemeral, stylized girls.
Now at this point I would love to insert one of those wonderful pictures, but unfortunately Mr. Mucha lived in the time of Copyrights and he and his estate did a wonderful job of protecting the rights to his art for himself and his family and they take a dim view of willy-nilly blog writers posting pictures of Copyrighted art and so they tend to sue and since I am a typical, starving, garret-living, cheap wine drinking, beget eating artist my financial adviser, the Long Suffern has said, “Don’t even think about it.” And I take the Long Sufferin very seriously ever since Lorena Bobbit and knowing that I do have to from time to time sleep and the Long Sufferin knows where the knives are kept so while I would love to share the best I can do and not wind up in the Vienna Boy’s Choir is post a link to Mucha’s work.
And no I don’t have any connection except to be green with envy that someone has so many Muchas and can post them on the web and not have to worry about either Lorena or being sued and it is just unfair but that’s life so let’s move on.
A few years after Mucha another one named artist came along, he had a much more stylized view of women and he created a series of eroticized pin ups for Esquire back when there was no way to get away with actually putting in a picture of a real nekkid girl and since his girls were so much more enticing than real girls why would you bother to use the real thing when you could have the stylized thing and along came Hugh boy and noticed and he went out and hired the artist away from Esquire for his baby magazine Playboy and that is how Alberto Vargas’ girls came to form the fantasy life of two generations of American men.
Vargas girls were a lot more seductive than the hazy images of Mucha’s women and they liked doing what they were doing and they looked like they were having a real good time and if you knew them they promised you’d have a real good time too and boys young and old believed every single image Alberto painted.
His works were so famous that every area of the country soon had a Vargas competitor, painting happy, smiling buxom nekkid girls or girls wearing stuff that the PTA would never approve of. Even wholesome products like Pangburn’s chocolates had a happy girl in a cowboy hat and a smile and nobody even bothered to object.
Right here in Coos Bay at the Praus Haus Burger shop there is a collection of some of the best imitation Vargas’s girls I have seen and having grown up, or that’s what it says on my driver’s license, long before Hugh broke the Post Offices’ ban on mailing nekkid girls through the snailmail, I can tell you I have looked at Vargas and his imitators for a bunch of years and the pictures at Praus Haus are as good as they come and you should take the time to go by and get a look and while you are there you could pick up diner and make the stay-at-home part of the business happy cause then they wouldn’t have to cook and that would eventually led to making you happy cause they’d be in a much better mood not having to stand on tired feet and cook a dead Brontosaur for your TV dinner.
And I’m sure you didn’t know, but I am going to fix that by telling you, some of the most famous images and indelible graphics of the last century owe their existence to guys like Vargas and Mucha who did the exploratory work so that along about the end of World War II a guy named Robert McGinnis could come along and make girls the stock and trade of paperback covers and movie posters.
Don’t think so?
All those wonderful Perry Mason, Sam Durell, Matt Helm, Carter Brown and Shell Scott women came from the fertile imagination of Robert McGinnis.
If you’ve never seen a Carter Brown cover you won’t have a clue what I am talking about but Dell, no the publishing house not the computer people, okay maybe the computer people cause geeks never got a date and Carter Brown covers made sitting at home alone on a Saturday night a lot more appealing, would have been out of business long before Evan Hunter had time to write the twentieth 87th Precinct novel or Edward S. Aarons finished the thirtieth Sam Durell novel and that would have been a serious flaw in the literature of the last century cause not everyone was in love with Bond, James Bond like President Kennedy and there had to be other books for a spy chaser to read cause ole James was too soft and Matt Helm was a too rough and Sam was just right but that’s not anything to do with art at all except Robert McGinnis painted the covers for all of those guys and made lots of teenaged boys stop and pick up the book and even if they bought it for all the wrong reasons they did finally open the book and read and reading anything when you are a teenaged boy is a lot better than most of the other things you could be doing and that is why Robert McGinnis deserves praise cause he alone curbed a bunch of juvenile delinquency.
And while he was doing all of this crime prevention, he found time to create three of the most iconic images of all time, The Barbarella poster, The James Bond pistol poster, Sean the Great and Roger versions and The Breakfast at Tiffany’s poster which made Audrey Hepburn a woman with no shape at all into a colossal sex symbol which is hard to do starting with so little to work with.
No I don’t think poster art is undying, it isn’t even mentally challenging, but it is art which the non-art community sees much more often that Fine Art and might just lead to some of them coming over from the Dark Side.
So take a look at these interesting pioneers and see what they contributed to the world of art and the next time you pass a movie theater take a look at the art and ask if it is as good as the art created by these life loving artists.