Book Review: Off the Bookshelf

Charles G. Martignette

Off the Bookshelf

Gil Elvgren: All His Glamorous American Pin-Ups

edited by Charles G. Martignette & Louis K. Meisel

Taschen, 272 pp., $39.99

This thorough collection of Elvgren's work goes well beyond his cheesecake work, detailing how an arousing nude could later be painted over to become merely a cutie hawking Coke. However, the emphasis certainly is on the female form, and Elvgren's depictions of busty, leggy gals were the envy of everyone in his field. Elvgren should not be romanticized as striking a blow against unrealistic standards for women -- "Elvgren Girls," as they were called, were idealized just like today. In portraying the models who posed for him, "he built up the bust, lengthened the legs, pinched in the waist, gave the body warmer and more attractive curves," Martignette writes. Still, at least being slender didn't mean anorexic. The Elvgren Girl also had a heavy dose of bimbo in her, often portrayed in silly situations -- who could imagine there were so many things on which a woman could catch her skirt and have it lifted to panty-and-garter-exposing height? Yet there's something appealing about the old-style objectification. Unlike the steely stares of today's models, saying "you can't have me," Elvgren Girls give an inviting smile, asking "Wanna play?" -- precisely what a lonely GI in World War II or Korea needed to warm his heart.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Book Reviews
<i>Presidio</i> by Randy Kennedy
Presidio by Randy Kennedy
For his debut novel, Kennedy creates a road story that portrays the harsh West Texas terrain beautifully and fills it with sympathetic characters.

Jay Trachtenberg, Sept. 14, 2018

Hunting the Golden State Killer in <i>I'll Be Gone in the Dark</i>
Hunting the Golden State Killer in I'll Be Gone in the Dark
How Michelle McNamara tracked a killer before her untimely death

Jonelle Seitz, July 20, 2018

More by Lee Nichols
Game Changer
Game Changer
A new football culture for Austin bars

Oct. 23, 2015

Beer Flights
Beer Flights
Celis: welcome home

Aug. 17, 2012

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Gil Elvgren: All His Glamorous American Pin-Ups, Charles G. Martignette, Louis K. Meisel

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle