The Pin-up Files

Bill Medcalf pin-up artist

The pin-up art of Bill Medcalf, like that of Gil Elvgren, set standards for artistry and imagery for his contemporaries

Bill Medcalf painted more than twenty years of beautiful pin-ups for Brown & Bigelow, handling all the special-project calendar commissions for their most important customers.

Bill Medcalf pinup artist

When Medcalf joined the staff of resident artists at Brown & Bigelow on 18 March 1946, he hoped to get some pointers from his two idols, Gil Elvgren and Norman Rockwell, who were both contributors. When he met both men at a Christmas party that year, he was therefore stunned and flattered when they asked him how he imparted such a finished glow to his work.

For his first assignment in 1947, for Kelly-Springfield Celebrity Tires, Medcalf painted a beautiful girl walking her dog on an estate, with a sports car in the background. Then, for Dorman. Products (auto parts manufacturers), he created a breathtaking picture of a girl and her dog having a picnic in front of an automobile. While still handling these special pin-up projects, Medcalf also went on to deliver one winner after another to a new, more traditional Brown & Bigelow series, The Baseball Hall of Fame.

In 1949, Medcalf did his first pin-up "novelty fold" specialty item for the firm: a booklet that unfolded four times, each time revealing a larger pin-up image, the last being an oversized picture with an advertising message. Named one of the company's top five pin-up artists in their 1951 business Builder, Medcalf released his first pin-up hanger the next year. Entitled Beautiful Morning, this depiction of a young girl just waking up proved to be a best-seller. The versatile Medcalf took on the responsibility for the company's American Boy calendar series in 1953, and he also created many best-selling evening-gown subjects for their glamour line.

In 1940 and 1941, he worked in the art department of the United States Treasury's Bureau of Engraving and in 1942, he joined the Navy as a gunners mate.

During his tenure at Brown & Bigelow, Medcalf worked first at the company's headquarters, then out of his home studio in a suburb of St Paul, often using his family and neighbours as models.

Bill Medcalf biography borrowed from The Great American Pin-Up by Charles G Martignette & Louis K Meisel.

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