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 George Petty  (1894 - 1975)

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Lived/Active: Illinois/New York/Louisiana      Known for: illustrator-pin-up girl

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Ad Code: 3
George Petty
from Auction House Records.
Going Fishing, Brown & Bigelow calendar illustration
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
George Petty was an illustrator most noted for covers he created for Ice Capade programs and for his drawings that appeared in Esquire magazine during the 1930s.

Petty was the son of a photographer, and was born in Louisiana in 1894. In approximately 1900, his family moved to Chicago. His education was traditional and included courses at the Chicago Art Institute. After graduating from high school, George went to Paris with his mother and sister, enrolling at the Academie Julian. In 1916, he returned to Chicago.

His father died soon after his return, and George became the head of the family. Disinterested in photography, he closed his father's studio and began working for an ad agency. His first work that was published was of an ice skater, and appeared on the cover of a Marshall Field catalogue in 1920.

His mastery of the airbrush, a tool used to retouch photos and/or their negatives, was a talent he mastered in his father's studio. This skill facilitated his entry into the illustration field. The uncommon use of the airbrush provided him superb results. One poster won first prize in 1933 at the World's Fair in Chicago.

He opened his own studio in the 1930s. In 1933, one of his cartoons appeared in the first issue of Esquire magazine. It was a great success, and his career began to flourish. National ad agencies noticed his work, and within a few years his ads for Janzen Swim Wear and Old Gold cigarettes appeared in the same issues of Esquire as did his cartoons. He also completed posters for films. He became so popular that several thousand high school students selected him as Most Important Artist during their three years, a vote he won as a write-in candidate. Petty is most noted for his covers for Ice Capade programs and a cover for Time magazine in 1942.

Petty's relationship with Esquire magazine ended in 1942. He continued his commercial artwork during the war years, completing various ads and posters, including posters in 1946 for the Ziegfield Follies.

His business acumen was keen, and he retained all secondary rights on his images and originals. His works have appeared on drinking glasses and playing cards, calendars, and automobile hood ornaments, amongst others.

George Petty died in 1975.
The following is from

Robust commercial artist George Petty (1894-1975) began a series of color cartoons for "Esquire" in the early 1930s, featuring gorgeous girls and their unlikely unhandsome suitors. Soon the beauties with their dazzling smiles and sleek-as-a-Buick curves held solo center stage, and the "Petty Girl" was born; in the early 1940s, when he bolted "Esquire" in a money dispute, Petty was replaced by (the also underpaid) Alberto Vargas.

The classy if risque venue of Esquire gave the pin-up respectability, and Petty's amazing airbrush technique put him at the forefront of commercial artists; soon world famous, Petty was plying his pin-up trade for advertisers (including this Tung-Sol Radio Tubes image, circa 1935). Post-Esquire, he did calendar girls for True magazine and, finally, a long running series for the evocatively named Rigid Tools.

In the 1950 Hollywood film "The Petty Girl", the rotund artist was portrayed by slim Robert Cummings. " The Petty Girl" herself was more accurately depicted by Joan Caulfield.

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