George Petty and His “Petty Girls”

The pin up art of George Petty is some very iconic work. His classic pinup girls are very recognizable, and he is regarded as one of the great pin up artists of the golden age.

Like Vargas and Elvgren, Petty had a very long career. A master of airbrush art, he began creating pinup calendar images as early as 1926, and his career lasted until the 1970’s.

He created the most iconic pin up girl image of all time, The Petty Girl. She made her appearance in 1933, and continued until 1956. Petty introduced her during his years as an illustrator for Esquire magazine, and these Petty Girls became the first centerfolds.

In my opinion, the vintage pin up girls of George Petty don’t hold up as well today, and I can only think that it is because of the weird stylized smile plastered on every one of their faces, and his fetish for ballet slippers.

I found them disturbing at first, but they are beginning to grow on me, and I think that it is because technically they are so perfect. I love his insistence on a white background, and the fact that certain elements are not rendered in as much detail, like the shoes and other secondary elements in so many of his pieces.

Anyway, the Petty Girl was one of the most popular pin-up girls of WWII, and artists were commissioned to paint them on bombers as nose art. The most famous Petty Girl was painted on the Memphis Belle.

After his stint at Esquire magazine, Petty continued to produce pinup calendars, and had a long run producing pinup girl art for the Ridgid Tool Company. The pin up girls entwined with these giant tool parts are some of his most famous and unusual work!

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