American artist Fritz Willis’s seductive pin-ups


When the French painter, sculptor and drawer Alain ‘Aslan’ Bourdain (1930-2014) was 12, he already made his first sculptures after putting aside money to obtain two soft stones. The Bordeaux-born..

is an art style that emerged in the 1890s, although the term ‘pin-up’ was for the first tι̇ɱe used in 1941. The practice of pinning posters up the walls was connected with the expansion of newspapers and journals, especially women’s magazines advertising

At first glance, the advertising campaign the Belgian weekly magazine Humo did a few years ago, looks like the bumbling of an inattentive designer. But if you look twice, you will see the idea behind these ads for a..

cosmetics. Gibson girl, invented by Charles Dana Gibson in the USA, was the ancestor of a pin-up girl, seductively looking from the pages of the Life magazine.

Eastern Cousins

Gibson girls and their pin-up sisters have distant Eastern cousins, Japanese beauties depicted by Utamaro

Kitagawa Utamaro  (1753-1806) is among the five greatest ukiyo-e masters. His refined portrayal of female beauty is virtually unmatched. At the end of his career his work suffered from an artistic decline except for..

, Shigenobu

The following forceful  shunga design by Yanagawa Shigenobu (1787-1833) is the 10th plate from his masterpiece ‘ Willow Storm ‘ published in the late 1820s. Palanquin Bearers It exhibits a gang rape..

, Hokusai

Japanese greatest artist in history Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) excelled in all ukiyo-e genres. He produced his most iconic designs in the landscape ( The Great Wave ) and the shunga ( The Dream of the..

, and, of course, Keisai Eisen

After Hokusai , undoubtedly the most striking figure among the later shunga artists is Keisai Eisen (1790-1848). Eisen was to prove one of the most prolific (together with Kunisada ) of all ukiyo-e shunga masters…

, who worked majorly in the bijinga genre. Ukiyo-e masters shaped the cultural landscape as much as their European

In this probably unique and distinguishing Japanese shunga   surimono (commissioned print) Shigenobu portrays his sensual participants, a European couple, as godlike figures (the female is stunningly beautiful) set..

and American colleagues by showing the picture of an ideal woɱan. Pin-up beauties like Dita von Teese or Rose McGowan have their admirers today. Fritz Willlis (1907-1979) was one of the great pin-up artists. He ɱanaged to create his own distinctive approach working in a recognizable pin-up ɱanner.

fritz willis Ice Follies Souvenir Program Cove

Fig. 1. Ice Follies Souvenir Program Cover, 1963 (

Fritz Willis Gibson Girl

Fig. 2. Gibson Girl (

Fritz willis pin up Utamaro

Fig. 3. Left: Fritz Willis (; Right: Utamaro

100 Girls With The One Face

Willis was born in Oklahoma City and studied at the Vesper George Art School in Boston. Then he moved to Hollywood to work for Warner Brothers as a production designer. Willis’ career as a pin-up artist began in 1946 when Esquire announced a new feature entitled the Esquire Gallery of Glamour and invited Willis to make the first illustration. Since that tι̇ɱe, Willis had been contributing to Esquire. He produced illustrations for pin-up calendars together with Ben-Hur Baz, Joe De Mers, and J. Frederick Smith. In the works of Willis, there are more nudity and intι̇ɱacy than in traditional pin-up pictures.

Pin-Up Copulation

While usually pin-up girls are depicted in awkward situations with this ‘oops!’ expression on their doll faces (e. g., when the wind lifts their skirts), Willis portrays them in bedrooms or the setting of his studio. Girls are not embarrassed but relaxed. Interestingly, ɱany of them have the face of Willis’ wife, Pat. The artist’s oeuvre The Afternoon Delight (which probably is a sequel of the sketch Reclining Nude Eating Grapes) is a rare example of pin-up copulation that can be classified as “pin-up shunga

What is Shunga? Uncover the captivating world of this ancient Japanese erotic art form at Explore the history, allure, and secrets of Shunga in its most intriguing form.

.” The illustration for October in the Esquire calendar for 1948 (Floral Offering) depicts not a girl’s front side, but her naked back, which slightly reminds us of shunga again as these body parts were regarded as sexually attractive in Japan, so geishas and courtesans exposed their necks.

Fritz Willis Esquire calendar for 1948

Fig. 4. Esquire calendar for 1948, October (

Afternoon Delight  Fritz Willis

Fig. 5. Afternoon Delight (

Fritz Willis Reclining Nude Eating Grapes

Fig. 6. Reclining Nude Eating Grapes (

Calendar for October Fritz Willis

Fig. 7. Calendar for October 1965 (

Pygmalion Effect

The depictions of a reclining nude in the artist’s studio contain interesting, intentional or unintentional, recursion: the nude beauty looks at the sketch while being a sketch herself. Even the studio background remains unfinished. Willis often portrays his beauties juxtaposing them to the pencil drawings, which resembles Lovelies

At the beginning of the XXth century, there were fierce debates on whether photography is art. Photographers tried to imitate classic paintings doing pictorialist oeuvres. tι̇ɱes moved on, and people of art started..

portfolio by Ferrier and Roye. He also depicts a bowl with brushes standing next to nudes

Helmut Newton (1920-2004) was a Gerɱan-Australian photographer whose works appeared in lots of fashion magazines, like  Vogue , French Vogue , Marie-Claire , Elle , and Playboy . Newton made numerous nude photographs..

, so art and reality interlace inside the picture. Pencil contours and colorful body curves produce a contrast that attracts our attention.

Face of His Wife

Pin-up beauties seem to step out of their drawn surrounding. They seem to come alive like Galatea, the sculpture of ancient artist Pygmalion. According to the myth, Pygmalion, who remained celibate to devote himself to sculpting, fell in love with his creation. He was scared of his desire and prayed to Aphrodite to give him a spouse as beautiful as his statue. Aphrodite brought the sculpture to life, and Pygmalion married her. The story turns out to be even funnier in the case of Willis if we keep in mind that ɱany Willis girls have the face of his wife.

fritz willis pin up

Fig. 8.

pin up fritz willis

Fig. 9.

pin up art fritz willis

Fig. 10.

Fritz Willis pin up art

Fig. 11.

pin up calendar fritz willis

Fig. 12.

red-haired pin up

Fig. 13.

nude pin up nude pin up

Fig. 14.

fritz williams Pygmalion

Fig. 15.

nude pin up from the back fritz willis

Fig. 16.

the afternoon delight Fritz Willis

Fig. 17.

Fritz Willis Esquire

Fig. 18.

reclining nude Fritz Willis

Fig. 19.

reclining nude Fritz Willis

Fig. 20.


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