Vargas Girls: From WWII Cheesecake To The Cars' 'Candy-O'
By | April 23, 2019
Early in the 20th century, an American visual style was invented by the Peruvian-born artist Alberto Vargas. The "Vargas Girls" he painted, as they were later known, appeared in magazines, advertisements, and calendars, and on posters and airplanes -- and for all he painted, infinitely more were created by others working in Vargas-inspired style. Vargas wasn't the only pin-up artist -- George Petty and Gil Elvgren deserve mention as well -- but the Vargas Girl brand he created has endured as the highest example of the genre. Vargas Girls became a staple of Esquire and later appeared in Playboy on a monthly basis.
Vargas' Early Professional Work
In May 1919, Alberto Vargas was painting in a store window, when a representative from the Ziegfeld Follies discovered him. The next day, Mr. Ziegfeld commissioned Vargas to paint watercolors of the 1919 stars of the Follies for the New Amsterdam Theater’s lobby; he would paint for the Follies for the next 12 years.
Vargas’s father was a photographer, and Vargas was exposed early on to the airbrush, a method that allowed for improvements to photographs. During a trip to Switzerland, he stopped in Paris, where he found his great inspiration: Raphael Kirchner, whose technique influenced Vargas’s development as an artist.