There are a few legitimate greats, legends of the pin-up and glamour art world whose names are synonymous with style and perfection. There's Rolf Armstrong, Zoe Mozert, Gil Elvgren, and, perhaps the greatest of them all, Alberto Vargas. Vargas first came to notoriety in 1919 when he was hired by the Ziegfeld Follies to paint portraits of the various Follies Revue stars. He would work for several years producing pinups for Esquire Magazine but it was his work for Playboy Magazine beginning in 1960 that made him a legend. The Vargas page in Playboy would become a regular feature for the next decade and a half.
This book contains an eclectic assortment of Vargas art beginning with the earliest work in 1914 and running up through 1975, over sixty years worth of work. It is indeed fascinating to compare his works from the twenties to those of the sixties and seventies. Despite the changes in fashion, hairstyles, and even facial expressions, Vargas' work always had an innate sensuality to them.
The names of the Follies women aren't remembered by most people today but women like Olive Thomas and Nita Nadli were the starlets of their era. His work in the thirties included paintings of Hollywood stars as well movie posters. His subjects included a young Shirley Temple and the sultry Marlene Dietrich.
Several examples of Vargas' sketches are shown partnered with the finished paintings so one can see the progression and changes made along the way. There are a number of two-page spreads in the book such as "Cordillera De Los Andes" a wonderful nude spread of a sexy blonde lying face down. It is simple, yet remarkable erotic. "Blonde Venus" is yet another fantastic 1950's nude spread.
The first Vargas painting from Playboy included in the book is from December 1960 and shows a buxom nude redhead in a pink negligee twisting almost impossibly over her left shoulder to look at the reader. The thing that strikes me about Vargas' paintings, particularly the Playboy paintings, is the way the girls seem to look at you, and you alone with those big, watery eyes. It's no wonder he became so popular with the Vargas page.
The book is a beautifully produced, over-sized hardcover with some 100 full-color illustrations. Highly recommended for all fans of pin-up or glamour art, or those that just appreciate the female form.
Reviewed by Tim Janson