Pinup art or is it? Are our girls really art?

1950s pin-up girl in tulle skirt print
1950s pin-up girl in tulle skirt print by Lillylie
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Been thinking about this,
It makes life easier to call myself a pin-up artist…quicker, you know. But it might be more accurate to say I am an artist who draws pin-ups.

The great legends of the genre were Alberto Vargas, the master of the airbrush who’s penthouse pinups appeared on WWII aircraft.

George Petty, the creator of the famous ‘petty girl’, a stylised look, and Gill Elvgreen, who created the glamour for the millions of calendars produced by Brown and Bigelow.

At the height of the pinups popularity hundreds of artists were making their living creating paintings and drawings of beautiful women in alluring or comical poses.

*Fun fact: One working artist was Ruth Deckard. Known only ever as ‘Deckard’ for years, she was always assumed to be a man. It was not until the book “The great American pinup” was published in 1996 that the world finally found out she was a woman!

Females in the field today now may out-number the men! Just as much art is now made ‘for women by women’ as it is for male fantasy.

A possible reason for modern women’s love of the vintage look today is the fashion industries persecution of natural curves, making the petty and varga girls look more like a celebration of “real” women, despite their stylized proportions.

But are our beauties really art at all??

Pinup art is just a painting or drawing of the female form, right. The female form has always been a popular subject of art from the earliest human civilizations. The female body is beautiful, it’s meant to be beautiful and we are hard wired to respond to it. So it is only natural that it should be made into beautiful art.

Beauty has a purpose in nature, that is obvious, but pinning down exactly what that purpose is, is not so easy. One of my favourite quotes on the subject of beauty states that “if beauty is not intelligence, then it certainly shows some level of higher animal cunning” which suggests that beauties’ purpose is to get one over on the competitors, which as a theory certainly stands up!.

But is pinup art really art?
Well to answer that we would have to answer the old question of what is art anyway?..which is as old as, and as hard to answer as, ‘how long is a piece of string?. But we are smart kittens so lets give it a go.

In the tradition of the fine art nude, the female body is treated as an object for study like any other object would be. The light on her skin, the lines of her curves, the shadow she casts and her placement in or interaction with her surroundings all combine to set a scene, tell a story or just inspire that special feeling we have that is unique to the beautiful. She may seem untouchable and exists in a place far removed from our lives.

In pinup art the female body is idealized and overtly sexual. The poses are just as staged as in fine art nudes but they suggest more ‘earthly’ feelings. They are intended to titillate, arouse or amuse the viewer who feels more of a connection to her than they would to the fine art nude. Which seems odd at first because the pinup girl is less ‘real’ than the art nude, but she expresses something, that while it may seem superficial, it feels much more real.

Those who would have us believe they know about these things state that art must exist for nothing but its own sake to be true art. So this certainly puts our classic pinup girls out of the picture, as it was almost always created for specific commercial purposes. Pinup artists mostly worked for big companies and their drawings and paintings were used for advertisements to sell anything from cigarettes to soap and filled magazines and calendars devoted to them which sold by the millions. By the very definition of the word pin-up these images are mass produced and so also disposable.

It is also held true by many artists (including this one) that it is the artists ‘intent’ that makes it art, and that skills alone without artistic ‘intent’ is craft or design…..both good but not art. And pinup art is pretty structured, with each girl being painted to a pre-set standard. But that is something that can be argued of many fine art works as well.

So are our ladies art?
I want to just come out and say YES! because I love them so much, but by the standards of fine art the classic pinup cant be called true art in that sense. However the pinup genre has endured in a way the fine art nude has not really. The pinup has given birth to entire sub-cultures devoted to her which has given her greater meaning than the sum of her parts. And the new guard of modern pinup artists are taking the genre forward in whole new ways. And the pinup painted cover art of vintage girly magazines have been accepted by many in the art world.

These days it is not uncommon to see a work by an artist inspired by the legends of pinup, that is non commercial, has artistic ‘intent’ and takes us on a mental journey, all while also being really hot!. Personally I work in both ‘high art’ and umm..’low art’? and I love them both equally as they are different but equal parts of who I am. So In my opinion the answer is “WHO CARES” there is room for it all and you can take what you want from it and never mind the rest.

How do you feel about it?

Have a fabulous day Kittens xxx

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