Gil Elvgren’s COWGIRL Pin-Ups

Gil Elvgren (March 15, 1914 – February 29, 1980) was an American painter of pin-up girls. He was best known for his pin-up paintings for Brown & Bigelow who produced commercial advertising, calendars, etc. 

An original Elvgren calendar

During World War II much of the nose art on military aircraft was inspired by Elvgren’s work.  

Nose art

Elvgren was associated with Brown & Bigelow from 1945 to 1972. He produced an average of twenty pin-ups a year. The women are in various costumes and in various humorous, or slightly risqué, poses. I think the cowgirls are some of his best!



But, you might ask, what exactly is a pin-up? A pin-up model is a model whose mass-produced pictures see wide appeal in popular culture. Pin-ups are intended for informal display, i.e. meant to be “pinned-up” on a wall. Pin-up models may be fashion models, or actors, or literally the girl next door. These pictures are also sometimes known as “cheesecake.” … And guess where this usage of the word cheesecake came from? It is reported that in 1912 James Kane, a photographer, was working for “The New York Journal.” One day Kane was taking photos of an attractive young woman when a breeze blew her skirt up. When more leg than usual came on display, Mr. Kane (who reputedly loved cheesecake) exclaimed, “Wow! This is better than cheesecake!”

Since we’re in Tucson, where cowgirls are “home on the range,” I thought it would be fun to feature some of Elvgren’s “cheesecake” cowgirls.   Saddle up!


Carol Fenn 4-2017