Monday, 8 September 2014

She's Got It: Pin Ups Before World War Two

My question today comes from the twitters online: "Were pin up girls invented during the Second World War in the1940s or did they have them in World War I?"

French Postcards
What your great-grandad went to war for.
As long as there has been eyes, there have been pin up girls, in art and photography. Pin ups implies the type of girl pictures up somewhere so you could look at her all the time, hence the name. That term did not come into use until the 1940s. There are many girl pictures pre-1940s however that would have caught the notice of the men in the first World War.

The concept of mass produced pictures of ladies in various states of undress were popular advertisements among burlesque performers in the 19th century. An example of this are Boudoir Cards, almost exclusively from France, that the young men in the trenches could look at. The French were not so worried about the naked female form as other countries, but they still had to be sold under the table. One very popular model was Fernade Barrey, who we know very little about. Postcards from the 1910s state that she was a courtesan who used the cards to advertise.

Another kind of pin up was Bathing Beauties, pictures and films that were focused on pretty girls who wore bathing suits. Mack Sennett, a Canadian filmmaker and founder of Keystone studios, was a major player in early comedies, giving us the pie in the face jokes and those Keystone cops running around like mad. He also in 1915 gave the world girls showing their knees:

These bathing beauties and their pictures were very popular until their end in 1928. These were mild compared to the new genre of nudist publications that surfaced. The idea of linking sex and humour, a component of pin-ups, and using drawings to illustrate their stories and jokes evolves during the early 1930's. As well, a much more graphic female body was now being drawn, compared to earlier "oh my god I saw her ankle" photos that the general population was seeing. Major artists including George Petty and Alberto Vargas created calendar girls that very soon adorned the walls of garages and workshops everywhere. 

Earl MaPherson's work late 1930s, because you really need a calendar that small...

 For some amazing pre-war pin ups, check out pinterest, oddly enough.

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