A Gil Elvgren model was seldom portrayed as a femme fatale - she was the girl next door whose charms were revealed in that fleeting instant when taken by surprise. Did anybody see? Of course they did!
Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Gillette A. Elvgren graduated from University High School. He wanted to be an architect and his parents had encouraged him in this, because they had already noted signs of his natural talent for drawing from the time he was eight, he had occasionally been sent home from school for sketching in the margins of his schoolbooks. Elvgren eventually went to the University of Minnesota to study architecture and design, but also took art courses at the Minneapolis Art Institute. It was there, during a summer class in 1933, that he decided the process of creating art suited him far more than designing buildings or parking lots. Some of Gil's fellow students were Coby Whitmore, Al Buell, Andrew Loomis, Ben Stahl and Robert Skemp (many of whom would later work for Coca Cola) as would Elvgren.
He graduated from the Academy during the depression at the age of 22. Gil joined the stable of artists at Stevens and Gross, Chicago's most prestigious advertising agency. He became a protégé of the monumentally talented Haddon Sundblom, who was most famous for his Coca Cola Santas. Working in Sundblom's shop (Stevens-Gross) with Al Buell and Andrew Loomis (among other noted illustrators), Elvgren contributed to various Coca-Cola ads himself.
Sundblom who had studied at the American Academy of Fine Art taught his star pupil the lush brush stroke technique that makes Elvgren's girls such glowing wonders.
In 1937, Gil began painting calendar pinups for Louis F. Dow, one of America's leading publishing companies, during which time he created about 60 works. These pin ups are easily recognizable because they are signed with a printed version of Elvgren's name, as opposed to his later cursive signature. Dow paintings were often published first in one format, then painted over with different clothes and situations. These 'new' paintings were then republished and distributed to an unsuspecting public.
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