Born in Arequipa, Peru, Joaquin Alberto Vargas y Chávez moved to the United States in 1916 after studying art in Europe prior to World War I. He was the son of noted Peruvian photographer Max T. Vargas. His early career included work as an artist for the Ziegfeld Follies and for many Hollywood studios. He became famous in the 1940s as the creator of iconic World War II era pin-ups for Esquire magazine known as “Vargas Girls.” The nose art of many World War II aircraft was adapted from these Esquire pin-ups.
In 2004, Hugh Hefner, the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Playboy, who had previously worked for Esquire, wrote that “The US Post Office attempted to put Esquire out of business in the 1940s by taking away its second-class mailing permit. The Feds objected, most especially, to the cartoons and the pin-up art of Alberto Vargas. Esquire prevailed in the case that went to the Supreme Court, but the magazine dropped the cartoons just to be on the safe side” A legal dispute with Esquire over the use of the name “Varga” resulted in a judgement against Vargas and he struggled financially until the 1960s when Playboy magazine began to use his work as “Vargas Girls.” His career flourished and he had major exhibitions of his work all over the world. The death of his wife Anna Mae in 1974 left him devastated and he stopped painting. Not only was Anna Mae his wife, but she was his model and his business manager. The publication of his autobiography in 1978 renewed interest in his work and brought him partially out of his self-imposed retirement to do a few works, such as album covers for Bernadette Peters and The Cars. He died of a stroke on 30 December 1982, at the age of 86.
His work was typically a combination of watercolor and airbrush. His mastery of the airbrush is acknowledged by the fact that the highest achievement in the community of airbrush artistry is the Vargas Award, awarded annually by Airbrush Action Magazine. Despite always using figure models, his images would often portray elegantly dressed, semi-nude to nude women of idealized proportions. Vargas’ artistic trait would be slender fingers and toes, with nails often painted red.
My personal favorite of Alberto Vargas’ works would probably be an earlier work he did of Ziegfeld girl Olive Thomas called…. Memories of Olive
I recently received this question from one of my customers:
I put this on my Strat’s (plastic) pickguard and want to know if you’ve had any feedback from other players on whether it’s better to polish or not polish over the decal.
I use a simple guitar polish (Dunlop 65) and I’m not talking about soaking the decal by any means, just want to know if the guys treat it just like it’s part of the guitar, and if it helps to protect the decal from pick scraping, or does it cause the decal to start to peel or crack.
Truth be known, I’m not a luthier… I produce decals. So, I contacted my good friend Drew Basford of Saloon Door Guitars and asked him to help me out, and this is the answer I received from him:
Susan tell your customer he should take the guard off the guitar and spray the whole decal and guard with a rattle-can of nitro-cellulose clear paint. VHT make these cans and you can get them in most auto accessories stores. You gotta spray light coats – the more light coats the better – 8 to 10 light coats is enough. Give it a day to cure. He should then carefully and gently wet sand the guard starting with 800 grit paper, taking care over the decal. Finish with 1200 or 1500. He can then polish as much as he wants. If he tries polishing the decal without the protective clear-coats, it will come right off.
Hope this helps!
To make the decal permanent, however, he should have sanded the guard first with 400 or 600 grit paper. Then he should spray the whole guard with 2 or 3 coats of clear nitro – once this has dried, he wet and dries those coats till smooth and then he applies the decal. The decal sits better on a few coats of nitro and will not “lift” down the track…He should then overcoat the whole guard with the 8 – 10 light coats and wetsand/polish – the plastic pickguards are generally too smooth for a decal to adhere to properly, and the waterslides always need to be applied over nitro and then coated over with more nitro to seal them in permanently. If he got multiples of the same design I’d suggest he scrapes off the first one and start again.
We’ve been selling on eBay for years. One of our most popular items have always been the single images, they were inexpensive and gave people a chance to try our product before they paid a lot of money on multiple images. The problem we had was that we just couldn’t figure out how to get them on the website without charging a lot of money in shipping for them. A website is only as good as the program that creates it, and as good as the Zen format is we were running into problems.
We finally took a tip from our eBay sales and just included the shipping into the product. Problem solved. We are now able to ship out those same lovely single images via our website at a great price.
Click here for our great single images
I guess the question would be.. Why not, what’s not to like? But truth be known that is kind of a snappy sappy come back. The first pinup probably originated the moment man figured out that by putting chalk to stone he could create permanent or semi-permanent images, one of which most certainly must have been of a semi-clad or un-clad female.
So the question still remains, how did these images of fast women manage to migrate to fast cars? Would welcome comments and theories
I have to say that when I originally started collecting Vintage Pinup art and producing waterslide and vinyl decals I wasn’t much of a fan of Betty Page. I had numerous customers ask me to produce decals with her image and I really had no interest in doing so. There was just something about the whole Bondage Fetish thing that I didn’t really find very appealing. Our style was more of the hiked Skirt bomber Art era Pin up and not the girl on girl spanking action.
As time has gone on and with and more customers requesting Betty I have been forced to take a second look at her. What I have found is there is so much more to her than the photos found in underground magazines hidden between old mattresses. Even many of the nudes showed what grace and beauty Betty possessed and the charm and ease she had before a camera. It is easy to tell she enjoyed what she did and actually had fun playing to the camera.
One of the most interesting things about Betty Paige aside from that amazing hour-glass figure is that her modelling career didn’t really take off until she was almost 30. Today’s models are pretty much considered washed up long before 30 but not Bettie, at age 32 Miss Bettie Mae Page was featured as the January centerfold and Playmate of the month for the two year old publication of Playboy magazine.
Today artists such as Olivia De Berardinis and Armando Huerta honor the pinup queen with beautiful modern works while we continue to restore and colorize vintage black and white photos.
This is our very first Blog for Pinupsplus.com and wanted to take this opportunity to introduce our site, ourselves and our pinups. We have been selling pinup waterslides and vinyls for about 3 years on eBay now and they have proven to be pretty popular.
At the beginning of 2010 we decided to open our website so that we could introduce many more people who do not shop on eBay to Vintage 1940s, 50s and 60s pinups. Why this era you ask? There is a significantly different feel to these pinups than to the modern pinups being produced today. Vintage pin-ups represent a more wholesome and innocent time, a time where the glimpse of panties or the top of a garter where considered far more sexy than some of the full nude Pin Ups being created today.
We have been lovers of vintage pinups for some time now, we had been selling waterslides of varying types for some time on eBay and decided to post a few images to see how they would do. We were pleasantly surprised when some of the items began to sell. We were then contacted by a buyer who suggested we post some of our items in the Guitar section and it took off from there.
We have acquired most of our images from actual items from our own personal collection. Even though most vintage pinups are public domain, there is quite a bit of work that goes into cleaning the actual pinup and preparing it to be “decal ready”. Sometimes hours and hours have to be spend removing a background or completing a limb so that the image is just right. We also spend hours developing new ways to use vintage pinups in modern and vintage settings.