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George Petty

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George Petty

The Ballerina – 1965

George Brown Petty IV (April 27, 1894 – July 21, 1975) was an American pin-up artist. His pin-up art appeared primarily in Esquire and Fawcett Publications's True but was also in calendars marketed by Esquire, True and Ridgid Tool Company. Petty's Esquire gatefolds originated and popularized the magazine device of centerfold spreads. Reproductions of his work were widely rendered by military artists as nose art decorating warplanes during the Second World War, including the Memphis Belle, known as "Petty Girls".


  • Birth and early career 1
  • Artistic influences 2
  • "The Petty Girl" 3
  • Use in popular culture 4
  • Sources 5
  • External links 6

Birth and early career

George Petty was born in Chicago, Illinois, just before the turn of the century, where George, III, a photographer of some note, enjoyed considerable success with images of young women, madonnas, and nudes.

Petty was not a particularly good student in high school, spending a great deal of time on extracurricular activities instead of schoolwork. His artistic bent first became obvious in high school, where he was the staff artist for the school newspaper.

During his high school years, he enrolled in evening classes at Chicago Academy of Fine Arts under the tutoring of Ruth VanSickle Ford, where he taught his own art course, charging classmates $5.00 per session. He also worked in his father's photo shop where he learned how to use an airbrush. Petty studied art at the Académie Julian with Jean-Paul Laurens and others until 1916, when World War I caused Joseph P. Herrick, ambassador at that time, to order all Americans to return home.

Petty returned to Chicago, and worked as an airbrush retoucher for a local printing company. He was able to establish himself as a freelance artist, painting calendar girls and magazine covers for The Household. By 1926, he was able to open his own studio.

Artistic influences

George Petty never discussed in detail those artists who influenced him, other than William Russell Flint.

"The Petty Girl"

Petty is especially known for "the Petty Girl", a series of pin-up paintings of women done for Esquire from the autumn of 1933 until 1956. Petty frequently depicted these women with the relative lengths of their legs being longer—and the relative sizes of their heads being smaller—than those of his actual models.

Petty appeared as a guest on the popular TV program What's My Line.

Petty died in San Pedro, California, on July 21, 1975.

Use in popular culture

Crew of the Memphis Belle with the Petty Girl nose art


Reid Stewart Austin (The Best of Gil Elvgren) examined the life and art of George Petty in the 192-page Petty: The Classic Pin-Up Art of George Petty. Published by Gramercy in 1997, the lavish volume features a foreword by

External links

  • George Petty on the Pin-up Files
  • Samples of George Petty Pin-Ups
  • George Petty artwork can be viewed at American Art Archives web site
  • Petty Project: A modern recreation of George Petty's Pin-Ups through photography
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