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 Art Frahm  (1907 - 1981)

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Lived/Active: Illinois      Known for: pin-up girl illustration

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Ad Code: 3
Art Frahm
from Auction House Records.
Spare, 1952
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Art Frahm (1907–1981) was an American painter of campy pin-up girls and advertising.  Frahm lived in Chicago, and was active from the 1940s to 1960s.  Today he is best known for his “ladies in distress” pictures involving beautiful young women whose panties mysteriously flutter to the ground in public situations, often causing them to spill their bag of groceries.  In one of Frahm’s noted idiosyncratic touches, celery is often depicted.

Frahm had adequate technical competence for his medium, with a style somewhat reminiscent of Norman Rockwell's, though more cartoony.  He was mostly influenced by commercial artist Haddon Sundblom, with whom Frahm may have worked as an assistant early in his career.

Frahm’s forte was depicting beautiful young white women, rendering their legs and figures.  Frahm’s depictions of the women's faces are less successful, often tending towards plastic doll-like expressions.  Minor problems with perspective and unrealistic depiction of subsidiary figures and objects are common in Frahm’s work.  Some of his artistic touches were deliberately unrealistic and artistically daring — for instance his coloring of a city street lemon-yellow in an otherwise realist painting.

Frahm was commercially successful.  His falling-panties paintings were later imitated by other pin-up artists.  The falling-panties art has a small cult following as mid-20th century kitsch, or even as fetish art.  The works are best described with plenty of irony; James Lileks' analysis (see external link below) of Frahm's work has brought it to the attention of many on the Internet.

In addition to pin-ups, Frahm created a series of humorous hobo-themed calendar illustrations. Another set of paintings celebrated traffic safety, complete with smiling, chubby crossing guards and schoolchildren (one such painting appears as a calendar print in the background of a bar scene in the movie Hud).  His advertising art included works for Coca-Cola and Coppertone.  He also painted the famous Quaker on the Quaker Oats cereal boxes, which is still in use to this day.[citation needed]

Reference: Charles G. Martignette, The Great American Pin-Up


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