Friday, May 25, 2007


Most pin-ups don't need to be good art, and therefore they are not. This is what economists call the efficiency of the marketplace. If customers don't buy pin-ups for artistic merit, it would be inefficient to waste time creating it.

For example, the famed pin-up artist Alberto Vargas is (in my opinion) an uninspired technician with no visible artistic ability. The same might be said for many of the other popular pin-up artists, such as Earl MacPherson, Zoe Mozert, Al Buell or Art Frahn (despite the fact that their "art" is now published in fancy art books and sells for astronomical sums).

Of course, there are non-artistic reasons to enjoy pin-up art. It is a wonderful celebration of the huge clanging dumbnicity of men:

Gene Weingarten once wrote,
Many, many years ago, when God was still an adolescent, he decided that for the survival of the species, it was necessary that men be loathesome, prurient pigs.
Yup. And darned proud of it.

But there is at least one real talent in the field of pin-up art, the great George Petty. His well designed pictures and beautifully idealized forms stood out from all his competitors.

Unlike many of his peers, Petty was a genuine artist. You can see his special gift in this assortment of graceful hands from his pin-ups. They look like a flock of birds taking flight.

I like Petty's work, especially his early years for Esquire Magazine. You can flip through pin-ups by a hundred different artists, but Petty's quality stands out.