Friday, April 24, 2015

Arty Farty Friday ~ George Petty

I wasn't particularly inspired by any artist born around this time who'd not already been under the Arty Farty Friday microscope, so... a tidied version of something from past pages, featuring a pin-up artist, one of the best and foremost of his day: George Petty. He was born on 27 April 1894, in southern Louisiana, died in 1975.

In one particular genre of art, USA artists cornered the market: pin-up art. I enjoy it, admire it and don't give a damn what feminists have to say about it. Pin-up art is highly skilled airbrush work - not easy to master, or so I'd guess. One of my very early blog posts, from 2006, features several pin-up artists and their "Neptune connection" - that post is definitely in need of a tidy-up, but the information is readable.

George Petty's father's profession, photographer, no doubt had influence on the younger Petty, especially as Dad enjoyed producing photographs of women, often nude women. The family moved from Louisiana to Chicago where George grew up. He attended evening classes at the Art Institute. He later studied in Paris at Académie Julian, famous for its alumni, John Singer Sargent, Alfonse Mucha, Matisse, and particularly influential to George Petty, J.C. Leyendecker - see archived post HERE. On return to the USA George wasn't drafted to serve in World War 1 as his father had died, leaving him as head of family.

He worked for an advertising agency, won first prize in the 1933 Chicago World's Fair poster contest. When the magazine Esquire was launched George Petty was engaged as a cartoonist. He lost no time in including in his presentations evidence of his fine talent for illustrating beautiful females. This led to more advertising work - swimsuits, cigarettes and more varied work for Esquire, True magazine and for calendars - those for the Ridge Tool company were to become internationally famous.

What came to be known as The Petty Girl had arrived. Petty never looked back. Petty Girls were idolised by military men of World War 2, Petty Girl copies were famously painted by military artists, The Girls were carried into battle on the noses of war planes. Below is a (possibly not as Petty-like as some) example of nose art from my husband's vintage photograph collection. Click on image to link to it + comments at Flickr.


Shrewd businessman as well as talented artist, Petty always retained secondary rights and kept his original artwork; use of his work on playing cards, glassware etc was strictly licensed. The core of his business was kept within his family circle. His wife added her ideas, son posed as date to Petty Girls. His good-looking daughter Marjorie was always his main model. All of which, for me, indicates there was no sleazy, soft-porn intention to any of his work, rather there was an innocently teasing feel to it, never crossing the line, hinting only, sometimes quite pointedly but never vulgar.


Sun in Earthy, Venus-ruled Taurus, and in first decan (tenth) of the sign, the Taurus decan, underlined his artistic temperament. There's emphasis on neighbouring sign, Airy Gemini, generational Neptune & Pluto with Jupiter are close together there. Mars in Aquarius and Saturn in Libra form a loose Air Grand Trine with the Gemini planets - could be seen as a nice reflection of his skills with the....AIRbrush ? Or even carriage through the AIR of his Petty Girls - on the noses of aircraft ?

In that Airy circuit Neptune (creative), Pluto (erotic), Jupiter (wide publication), Saturn in Libra (fair-minded business sense) and Mars in Aquarius - (ambition, energy, unconventional) - all fitting for what we know of George Petty.

Born before 6:00 AM his natal Moon would have been in business-oriented Capricorn; if born later, natal Moon would have been in unconventional Aquarius; either would fit, and blend with the general flavour of his natal chart. It's a pity no birth time is available, we can't know his rising sign or exactly where the planets fall in relation to the chart's angles.

A few examples of his Girls, many more can be found via Google Image:


mike said...

Very nice art work! It's probably difficult for the younger set to realize that this type of female depiction was considered extremely vulgar in its day and was considered pornographic and crude. You mention in your 2006 post that these were never considered pornographic, but I remember differently, but I grew-up in the USA's Midwest! In the 1950s when I was a child, this suggestive art was considered suitable only for men's eyes. My favorites were the posters and calendars that had an acetate overlay providing skimpy clothing, yet the overlay could be lifted to provide the (gasp) nude figure...LOL. Ink pens in the upright position depicted clothed women, but invert the pen and voila...a nude form. [Here's a poster of Marilyn Monroe:].

mike (again) said...

BTW - Brutal storms here again. We seem to have one about every three days. I see that you and my relatives up north are in the zone, too. I hope you receive rain, but without nature's fury. I just saw on the weather that a big cool front arrives next Tuesday, which means the same front will be COLD for all of you!

mike (again) said...

Came across this by accident just now:
"In 1950, Tippi Hedren played a Petty Girl in her film debut in the movie of the same name. The Beatles used a Petty Girl on the cover of their Lonely Hearts Club Band album."

"The Petty Girl (1950) is a musical romantic comedy Technicolor film starring Robert Cummings and Joan Caulfield. Cummings portrays painter George Petty who falls for Victoria Braymore (Caulfield), the youngest professor at Braymore College who eventually becomes 'The Petty Girl'."

Twilight said...

mike~ Yes, I can well imagine that in some areas of the US pin-ups were thought of as more than simply a bit naughty and teasing. I don't remember seeing many as a child in England. My Dad used to buy a little magazine called "Basin Full O' Fun" occasionally - for the jokes and cartoons, and I recall it had the odd pin-up sketch or photo of scantily clad female, but nothing of the quality of US pin-up artwork.

I've never seen one of the overlay calendars - lol! I do remember some ball-point pens, later on, which had a clothed woman displayed along the side who disrobed when pen turned upside down.


(again) ~ We had one noisy storm early one morning this week, with some good rain for a short time, but have missed, or been right on the edge of other storm systems this week. They are forecast for the area still though. Cooler front coming in on Monday for a couple of days, as you say.

Went out earlier than usual to "fill the fridge" and miss any likely storm later on.


Interesting who pops up on the Sergeant Pepper album cover! I see there's a Vargas Girl in there too.
Vargas was more delicate than Petty his pin-up artwork is gorgeous.

I've not seen the Petty Girl movie - must look out for it, maybe on an old VHS tape.

anyjazz said...

The air-brush technique is an art form almost lost now. Computer graphic techniques have almost eliminated the need for it. And it's a shame too. I doubt anyone could ever rival the sensitive work of Vargas or Petty using a computer.

Twilight said...

anyjazz ~ Yes, sadly, another lost art to add to the list.
Sensitivity too - yet another among the lost arts these days! Crude, vulgar, nastiness has largely taken its place.