When one looks at most modern ‘lads mags’ it is easy to be a bit blasé with the quality of the pictures of the models. The same kind of body type, make up, dress (or lack of) and posing. Admittedly there are more specialist magazines if you prefer a less ‘mainstream’ look, I personally find that regardless of the content’s or nudity, that I don’t find allot them beautiful of charming. What I do find beautiful and beguiling are the older men’s magazine’s where there was more artistic talent in the depictions of the women. Where artists would portray and paint an idealised figure of a woman, not some anorexic waif who is starving in order to keep her job. Sadly, those days are definitely dead and buried. If there is one person who created, what many consider to be the finest of all the pin up art; that honour goes to Alberto Vargas. Peruvian born Vargas, emigrated to Europe to study art in the early ’20’s. While in Paris, Varga got a taste of his artistic future, in the form of ‘La Vie Parisienne’ magazine. Which at the time was a mildly risqué magazine at the time. Inspired by this soft sauciness, Varga began creating advertisements for the Ziegfield Follies and Hollywood movies posters once he moved to America. His most famed work was for Esquire magazine, where he created beautiful, idealised pin ups. What makes these images better than other artists? First, the quality of the models is flawless, the actual women depicted are stunning, luminous and never demeaning and there is a softness to his portrayal of women that is non threatening and warm. It is important to note the timing of Vargas pin ups, now known as ‘Varga Girls’. During WWII, pinups such as Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth were being used to boost morale among soldiers. Even on the side of fighter planes, Vargas’ Esquire ladies were still with lads, to keep them company even during flights. Unsurprisingly, Vargas/Esquire were subjected to legal woes for the ‘obscenity’ of their pin ups. Which seems like as strange contrast given that these pin ups were being used to inspire the men fighting in the war, yet they were being censored for being offensive. During his tenure he had some of the most beautiful women at the time; Olive Thomas, Nita Naldi and Paulette Goddard. Given his iconic status, you would think that Vargas lived a life of opulence and luxury. Sadly, thanks to many legal problems (obscenity issue and suing Esquire over the use of the term ‘Varga Girl’), Vargas suffered for many years financially. It was thanks to Hugh Hefner who so loved Vargas Pin up works that he featured them in Playboy magazine in the 60’s. Vargas died in 1982 of a Stroke. Thanks to Vargas, we have a great body (literally and figuratively) of art that has not lost any of its charm or it’s beauty. Alberto,we salute you.
Alberto Vargas: King of The Pin ups