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Pin Ups

While erotic art has existed for thousands of years, the pin up as we know it was first displayed in the 1890s in France, when an artist named Jules Charet began exhibiting his paintings of young, sensual women in magazines and on posters. During the same time, Charles Dana Gibson began drawing his Gibson Girls for "Life" magazine. These pin ups were not revealing, but displayed women as voluptuous and desirable. They were informal, and meant to be pinned up on a wall, inspiring the "pin up" name.

Pin ups grew in popularity during the world wars. In World War I, women in uniform were shown on military recruiting posters. During World War II, pin ups became enormously popular, as the art was promoted as a way to help keep morale up among the troops. The Varga girls were the most popular pin ups during this time period and many of these vintage pin ups are still well known today. Hollywood stars also appeared in pin up pictures to support the troops. The most well known of these is the picture of Betty Grable showing off her famous legs.

Pin ups became more revealing after 1953 and the introduction of "Playboy" magazine. Marilyn Monroe became famous as a pin up girl through her appearance in "Playboy." Famous pin ups girls from the '60s and '70s include Ursula Andress, Raquel Welch, Cheryl Tiegs, and Loni Anderson.

Quick Facts

  • Pin ups that showed photographs of the Ziegfield girls from the Ziegfield Follies were more risqué than earlier pin ups. They were popular from about 1910 to 1920
  • The 1976 pin up photo of Farrah Fawcett in a red swimsuit is the best selling pin up poster in history
  • Charles Martignette acquired the largest collection of vintage pin ups, which included 4,300 pieces. The collection was sold at auction after Martignette’s death in 2008

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