It never ceases to amaze us at Eco Relics the kinds of things we find. From tattered old photo albums to cherished family heirlooms, but one of our latest finds was truly a blast from the past. We recently came into possession of a vintage pinup calendar that just blew our socks off!
The heyday of the pinup was the 1940s and 50s, but pinup art became famous when Earl Moran signed an exclusive contract with Brown & Bigelow in 1932, who eventually sold millions of calendars graced with his sensual art deco pin-up girls.
“A young model named Norma Jean Dougherty approached this famed artist in an attempt to pose for a painting. For four years Moran painted Marilyn Monroe and they created a lasting friendship. She always credited him with making her legs look better than they were as she felt they were too thin.” The Pinup Files.
Earl Steffa Moran (December 8, 1893 – January 17, 1984), born in Belle Plaine, Iowa, was a 20th-century pin-up and glamour artist. Moran’s first instruction in art came under the direction of John Stich, an elderly German artist who also taught the great illustrator W.H.D. Koerner. Moran also studied with Walter Biggs at the Chicago Art Institute.
His studies began much earlier, first at the Chicago Art Institute and then at the famed Art Students League in Manhattan where he studied under Vincent Dumond, Robert Henri, George Bridgman and Thomas Fogarty (Norman Rockwell’s teacher).
Moran signed an exclusive contract with Brown and Bigelow in 1932 and by 1937, his pinups had sold millions of calendars for the company. In 1940, Life ran a feature article entitled “Speaking of Pictures” which mostly focused on Moran’s work and made him a national celebrity. In 1941, Moran helped the magazine publisher, Robert Harrison, to launch a new men’s magazine called Beauty Parade, and he later contributed pin-ups to other Harrison magazines such as Flirt, Wink and Giggles.
In 1946, Moran moved to Hollywood though he had already painted many movie stars including Betty Grable, for publicity posters. Soon after his arrival, he interviewed a young starlet named Norma Jean Dougherty who wanted to model for him. For the next four years, Marilyn Monroe posed for Moran and the two became friends. Moran’s work during this time period is now his most valuable; a Moran Marilyn pastel sold for $83,650, nearly doubling the previous record for one of his works, when the Craig MacMillan collection was sold at Heritage Auctions in February 2011.
“America’s entrance into World War II back in 1941 triggered the golden age of pinups, pictures of smiling women in a range of clothing-challenged situations. The racy photos adorned lonely servicemen’s lockers, the walls of barracks, and even the sides of planes. For the first time in its history, the US military unofficially sanctioned this kind of art: pinup pictures, magazines and calendars were shipped and distributed among the troops, often at government expense, in order to ‘raise morale’ and remind the young men what they were fighting for.” Toptenz.net
“As well as pinup photos, the US Army Air Force also unofficially permitted ‘nose art’, drawings of scantily-clad women on the fuselage of bombers and fighter planes, as a way of boosting pilot morale. Artists, often servicemen themselves, drew their inspiration from men’s magazines, popular actresses, and real-life models.” Toptenz.net
“Unlike many pinups, bomber girls weren’t just about pictures of attractive women: the female figures were often regarded as mascots or lucky talismans that would ensure the plane’s safe return home. Sociologists have linked airplane nose art to the carved figureheads once found on the bows of ships, which superstitious sailors regarded as a type of good luck charm. The art form saw a resurgence in the US military during the first Gulf War, but was officially banned in 1992 after complaints from feminist groups.” Toptenz.net
Moran lived in the San Fernando Valley from 1951 to 1955, hosting fabulous parties, directing and starring in short television films, painting portraits of Earl Carroll’s Vanities Girls, and maintaining his position as a star of the pin-up world.
Earl Moran was one of the century’s most important pin-up artist’s and a true star in the pin-up world.
After a move to Las Vegas (circa 1955) and several years of living in the fast lane, Moran decided to devote his time to painting fine-art subjects, with nudes as his favorite theme. Signing with Aaron Brothers Galleries, he painted for collectors until 1982, when his eyesight failed. An interesting note, some of his earlier works for Harrison were signed “Steffa” or “Black Smith”
Moran died in Santa Monica, CA on January 17, 1984
*Thank’s to Wiki and Toptenz for the background!