Pin-up girls through history – in pictures

Since the 1880s they have featured in magazines, calendars, and on posters admired by soldiers in their barracks. Now, the history of pin-up girls is celebrated in a new book published by Taschen Warning: this gallery contains moderate nudity

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Charting the evolution of the scantily clad, yet elegant beauty queen – from Life magazine’s original Gibson Girl in 1887 to the women who featured in First World War recruitment posters – The Art of Pin-Up explores 10 of the most famous pin-up artists and their works.

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In it, authors Dian Hanson, Sarahjane Blum and Louis Meisel describe the classic pin-up as provocative but never explicit; always a good girl, whose attractiveness is natural and uncontrived.

She symbolised the wild youth and free spirit of the 1920s, sold calendars in the 1930s, and through posters pinned up for moral support reminded men what they were fighting for during the Second World War.

Here is a selection of images featured in the book:

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Watercolor on board, 1943, for the December 1943 issue of Esquire. The Spencer Museum of Art. By Alberto Vargas © the Max Vargas Collection

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Carmen, oil on canvas, 1929, by Rolf Armstrong © Brown & Bigelow

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A Second World War serviceman’s stationery kit with pin-up girl. The tri-fold kit opened to reveal the sarong-draped pin-up girl holding note paper and envelopes.

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Is My Face Red?, pastel on board, 1946, for Brown & Bigelow’s Nifty Numbers 1948 12-page calendar. This pastel was given as a retirement gift to a B&B employee and survives in pristine condition. By Earl Moran.

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Oil on board, 1946, for the February 1947 issue of Eyeful, Robert Harrison’s second magazine, launched in 1943. By Peter Driben.

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Jane Russell posing for Mozert, for The Outlaw film poster. Mozert complained that Russell’s breasts were too big to be esthetically pleasing; in her painting she lifted them and reduced their size. Howard Hughes had cast Russell specifically for the qualities Mozert criticised.

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Wanna Pet?, February 1933 cover of Film Fun magazine. By Enoch Bolles.

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Number Please, oil on canvas, 1957, for a 1958 Joseph C Hoover & Sons calendar. By Art Frahm.

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What a Beautiful Morning, oil on canvas, 1950, for a 1952 Brown & Bigelow calendar. By Bill Medcalf.

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Miss Liberty, a 1944 Earl Moran sample calendar by Brown & Bigelow. By Earl Moran © Brown & Bigelow

Skirting the Ride, oil on canvas, 1950, by Edward Runci for a Shaw-Barton calendar.

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To find out more about The Art of Pin-Up, soon to be published by Taschen, click here.