American Artist George Petty and his French Connection

Research by Clarence Simonsen

Excerpt

My life-long interest has been painting and preserving aircraft markings whether they be official, functional, or merely a pilots’ self-expression which was titled “Nose Art” during WWII. The images of aircraft nose art were first learned from American Air Force comics in my pre-teen years, and followed by the pages of Playboy magazine in the early 1960s. The editor and publisher Mr. Hugh M. Hefner was world known for creating his men’s entertainment magazine, and his associate picture editor, Reid Austin, had no read meaning at all. I recall thinking what would an associate picture editor do every day, just look at hundreds of photos featuring beautiful nude women. To this average Canadian teenager, that seemed like the best working conditions in the world and you got paid for picking the best erotic looking photos for each monthly issue of Playboy magazine. During my four-year stint in the Canadian Army Military Police, six months of 1965-66 were spent with the United Nations on the Island of Cyprus. During off-duty hours, I painted large wall murals and life-size images of the girls from the centre-fold of Playboy magazine. In the following years as a Metro. Toronto Police constable my nose art research and collection grew in size, producing three historical books on this forgotten aircraft art form. My research came from many sources, and today I consider myself very fortunate in being able to meet, interview, and copy the nose art images from the surviving veterans World War Two photo albums. There was no internet, interviews were done with pen and pad, and each photo was copied with 35 mm camera and three-power lens, then hand developed in a rented dark room studio where you mixed your own chemicals. It took hours of learning at photo classes [partly taught in 1976 when I served in Metro. Toronto Police Identification Bureau] and in the end saved thousands of nose art photos are a low cost. Since my first publication of photos in Gary Valant’s Vintage Aircraft Nose Art book in December 1987, it was a learning experience in the harsh world totally controlled by giant book publishers. If you were rich and famous, they tossed you thousands of up front money, but if you were a nobody, you got six or eight per cent and the publisher made millions from your years of hard work. I soon learned that if you did long proper research and seek out the forgotten or government hidden history, you could still make good profit, if you sold forty-thousand books or more. [nose art did just that] I will always be indebted to the many readers and war veterans who enjoyed the fact I stuck my neck out and told the truth, even if a few times it stepped on the toes of our Canadian Department of National Defence, War Museum, or RCAF Association magazine editor in Ottawa. When they screwed up, I told them and backed it up with photos or documents, and bureaucrats then hate you for life. In 1982, I received a letter from Mr. Reid Stewart Austin, [Yes, the Playboy picture editor] he was conducting research on a new book titled “PETTY” and wanted aircraft nose art.

We became friends and I will always be very grateful for his assistance, phone chats, and sharing his pictures, plus amazing knowledge of George Petty and daughter Marjorie, the Petty Girl. On 27 July 1996, Reid Austin signed a book contract with Gramercy Books in New York, and the book PETTY was published in September 1997.


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American Artist George Petty and his French Connection


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Author’s Preface

My life-long interest has been painting and preserving aircraft markings whether they be official, functional, or merely a pilots’ self-expression which was titled “Nose Art” during WWII. The images of aircraft nose art were first learned from American Air Force comics in my pre-teen years, and followed by the pages of Playboy magazine in the early 1960s. The editor and publisher Mr. Hugh M. Hefner was world known for creating his men’s entertainment magazine, and his associate picture editor, Reid Austin, had no read meaning at all. I recall thinking what would an associate picture editor do every day, just look at hundreds of photos featuring beautiful nude women. To this average Canadian teenager, that seemed like the best working conditions in the world and you got paid for picking the best erotic looking photos for each monthly issue of Playboy magazine. During my four-year stint in the Canadian Army Military Police, six months of 1965-66 were spent with the United Nations on the Island of Cyprus. During off-duty hours, I painted large wall murals and life-size images of the girls from the centre-fold of Playboy magazine. In the following years as a Metro. Toronto Police constable my nose art research and collection grew in size, producing three historical books on this forgotten aircraft art form. My research came from many sources, and today I consider myself very fortunate in being able to meet, interview, and copy the nose art images from the surviving veterans World War Two photo albums. There was no internet, interviews were done with pen and pad, and each photo was copied with 35 mm camera and three-power lens, then hand developed in a rented dark room studio where you mixed your own chemicals. It took hours of learning at photo classes [partly taught in 1976 when I served in Metro. Toronto Police Identification Bureau] and in the end saved thousands of nose art photos are a low cost. Since my first publication of photos in Gary Valant’s Vintage Aircraft Nose Art book in December 1987, it was a learning experience in the harsh world totally controlled by giant book publishers. If you were rich and famous, they tossed you thousands of up front money, but if you were a nobody, you got six or eight per cent and the publisher made millions from your years of hard work. I soon learned that if you did long proper research and seek out the forgotten or government hidden history, you could still make good profit, if you sold forty-thousand books or more. [nose art did just that] I will always be indebted to the many readers and war veterans who enjoyed the fact I stuck my neck out and told the truth, even if a few times it stepped on the toes of our Canadian Department of National Defence, War Museum, or RCAF Association magazine editor in Ottawa. When they screwed up, I told them and backed it up with photos or documents, and bureaucrats then hate you for life. In 1982, I received a letter from Mr. Reid Stewart Austin, [Yes, the Playboy picture editor] he was conducting research on a new book titled “PETTY” and wanted aircraft nose art.

 

 

We became friends and I will always be very grateful for his assistance, phone chats, and sharing his pictures, plus amazing knowledge of George Petty and daughter Marjorie, the Petty Girl. On 27 July 1996, Reid Austin signed a book contract with Gramercy Books in New York, and the book PETTY was published in September 1997.

 

 

 

The book reviews were tops and Reid was very happy, then he disclosed to me he had throat cancer. To pay his mounting medical bills Reid was forced to sell a few of his original American illustrator paintings to the vast girl art collection of Charles G. Martignette in Florida.  In 2000, Reid Austin made contact with Peter Perrault in Kentucky, and discovered another vast collection of rare unpublished George Petty advertisement posters and printed material. Samples of George Petty’s early work, particularly his European Paris paintings, and early advertising display art work are extremely hard to find today. Peter Perrault spent a life-time collecting and a fortune preserving the rare advertising art from the air brush hand of George Petty and a new book was now planned. Professional photo images of the Peter Perrault collection were taken and mailed to Reid Austin in Washington State, then in early September 2006, cancer claimed the life of Reid Stewart Austin. Two years later, art dealer and American illustrator collector Charles G. Martignette died in Hallandale, Florida. His private gallery housed the largest collection of commercial illustrated girl art in the world, and today it is slowly being separated and sold at auctions in the United States. Private collectors and art historians spend a life-time collecting and preserving, then they die, and their work is sold to the rich and famous, to hang lost in some five-million-dollar mansion. That’s the simple, and main reason I attempt to educate and preserve girl and nose art to the world using the Blog. Which is free. In 2020, Peter Perrault made email contact with the author and explained his life-long Petty art collection of advertising art material and his connection to Reid Stewart Austin before he died. The original copied photos [including original Petty art] from the Perrault commercial art collection have been lost or still remain somewhere with the Reid S. Austin estate. I am grateful for my fifty plus years of obsession with aircraft nose art, the best part being the wonderful average group of people I have made contact with and their willingness to share and preserve this lost girl art mostly preserved through the eye of an old camera. My special affection and appreciation must now go to my new American friend Peter Perrault, who allowed me to publish any selected Petty images from his vast collection, some being viewed on the Blog for the very first time. To Peter with all my gratitude, for also giving me hours of new found Petty pleasure and new history.

For – Reid Stewart Austin:  Been there, done it, preserved the Petty Girl.

In November 1997, a replica nose art Petty Girl image was painted on original RCAF WWII aircraft skin and gifted to Reid Stewart Austin. His Christmas card reply sparked the idea of featuring a Petty Nose Art book with a few of my replica paintings. The first two replica nose art were selected as a B-24 “The Vulgar Virgin” and a B-17 “Tondelayo” both remained in my basement almost twenty years. Any future Petty nose art book and the Peter Perrault advertising book ideas died with Reid S. Austin in 2006.

 

 

My Petty Girl replica WWII nose art panels were offered to Canadian Aviation Museum’s but declined. Today my four Petty replica nose art panels are property of the Peter Perrault collection, who understood the value of nose art history and wanted them preserved.

B-24-D replica serial 41-24198.

 

Originally painted for Reid Stewart Austin in 2004, size 31” by 31” on WWII B-25 aircraft skin. The B-25 WWII original U.S. Navy skins were obtained from Kermit Weeks in Miami, Florida, in the 1990s and used in the restoration of the Alberta Aviation Museum [Edmonton, Alberta] B-25D [Mitchell] RCAF bomber. The Green camouflage paint is original WWII U. S. production.

 

 

B-17-F replica serial 42-29896

 

Painting originally started for Reid Stewart Austin in 2005, size 31” by 31” on WWII B-25 aircraft skin. The skins were saved from the garbage by pilot friend Tony Jarvis and the author picked them up in Edmonton, Alberta, in 2004. The painting was replica 8th Air Force, England, B-17F of Hedy Lamarr [famous American actress, inventor, and film producer] but the pose came from the Esquire magazine Petty Girl Suit of 1940. This replica nose art was not completed until December 2020 for Peter Perrault collection.

 

 

WWII replica B-24 bomber, 8th A. F. England, Petty Girl nose art painted in 2020 for authors Blog nose art story. [Peter Perrault collection] Another B-25 skin saved from a garbage bin of the Alberta Aviation Museum, Edmonton in Alberta,. Their B-25J history can be read online, and the bomber contains excellent RCAF nose art history, a job well done.

 

 

Rare WWII RCAF Halifax B. Mk. V replica nose art painted on original B-25 skin for authors Blog nose art story. [Peter Perrault collection] Another original WWII B-25 skin panel from the Alberta Aviation Museum restoration, saved from garbage by Tony Jarvis.

 

 

 

Today [2021] the Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, have 26 huge metal cases which contain the Esquire collection, 1,600 drawings and girl paintings. One-hundred and fifty are Vargas Girls and seven are original George Petty Girl Art. Above is the original June 1941 Petty Girl painting. [Peter Perrault collection]

 

Now – the early forgotten and rare George Petty advertising art history thanks to the amazing collection of Peter Perrault.

Clarence Simonsen

“Come with Me.”

 

 

American Artist George Petty and his French Connection

The Petty Girl became an American painted icon which captured the admiration of millions of males in United States and Canada from 1933 to 1956. Her creator, George Brown Petty IV, was born on 27 April 1894 in Abbeville, Louisiana, USA. The father, senior George Brown Petty III moved his new family to Chicago at the turn of the century, where he enjoyed success in the business of photographing and hand-tinting colour images of young children, ladies, and nudes.

 

An undated colour retouched nude image by George Brown Petty III. [courtesy Peter Perrault collection]

 

 

Young George junior grew up around the family photo retouching business and showed a natural talent in drawing, which prompted his father to enroll him in evening classes at Chicago’s Fine Art Institute. He also excelled in track and field events, and became the staff artist at McKinley High School monthly “The Voice” in 1911. George won High School peer approval through his excellent art drawings and his star quality inter-class Track Meets. He was always sketching in class and not the best academic student.

 

This George Petty sketch “The Runner” is possibly 1912, where he won the 100-yard, 220-yard, and half-mile dashes in an inter-city tournament. [Internet public domain]

 

In 1913, George won second in a world-wide poster competition and his father recognized his growing talent required further artistic training. In 1914, George Jr’s most favorite American cover artist was Joseph Christian Leyendecker, who created 322 cover paintings for The Saturday Evening Post magazine. Joseph Leyendecker was born in Montabour, Germany, 23 March 1874, and the family immigrated to Chicago in 1882. Joseph and brother Frank studied art in Paris at the Académie Julian studio in 1896-97 where they developed their artistic styles. Jean-Paul Laurens stressed hours of study on the male and female anatomy, and considered the knowledge of the human body especially important in drawing or painting of all action figures. The school trained both sexes in separate classes, while both received the same hours of studies drawing and painting fully nude models.

Photo – 1896 Académie Julian, J.C. Leyendecker, American student school painting of French male model, public domain.

 

 

The Saturday Evening Post, 4 July 1914, cover art by Joseph C. Leyendecker, author collection. He painted hundreds of American military images and Arrow Shirt ads showing the perfect All-American male, including full male nudity mainly posed by his model Charles Beach.

 

 

Public domain of Leyendecker front cover poster [Charles Beach] painting for Chevrolet Review, January 1922, featuring American nude male art.

Leyendecker painted over 400 magazine covers during the Golden Age of American illustration and defined the perfect image of the sleek nude All-American muscle-men. Norman Rockwell worshipped his fellow artist and even copied his style plus a few of his cover ideas, until after his death, when he learned Joseph and brother Frank were both Gay. These All-American men paintings were mostly modeled by Joseph’s twelve-year junior lover and lifelong companion, Charles Beach, a Gay muscle-bound Canadian. It is highly possible the decision to send George Petty IV to train under instruction of Jean-Paul Laurens in his Paris studio was largely influenced by the realistic cover art of J.C. Leyendecker, who created hundreds of perfect American male and female paintings until his death in 1951.

 

 

Joseph Leyendecker was an amazing artist, who also had the gall to paint his Canadian lover on the front cover of major American magazines and make him the icon of American masculinity, which he was also able to hide from the world. The Leyendecker brothers Paris Académie Julian training inspired the Golden Age of American illustration and influenced hundreds of future American and Canadian artists, including George Petty and his new pin-up girl which became another American female icon. [2021 – Petty original paintings sell for over $100,000 and the work of Joseph Leyendecker for over $400,000.]

After graduation from high school in 1914, George Petty IV traveled to Paris, France, rented an apartment, and studied art at the Académie Julian under principal instruction from Parisian Jean-Paul Laurens.

 

Free domain self-portrait painting of the master French artist Jean-Paul Laurens.

 

 

 

Free domain of Académie Julian Paris, France, date unknown.

Laurens was a painter of French historical scenes who established “Académie Julian” in 1868, a private art school in Paris, France. His paintings and complete history can be read on many websites. The school played host to painters and sculptors from over fifty countries and never required they follow any particular line of art studies; they were free to develop their own style; from which they were graded.

 

 

Man and women were trained separately, however, both participated in the very same studies, and equal hours of drawing and painting French nude models. Laurens stressed the study of anatomy, and considered it a most important asset in the artist’s new knowledge, especially when painting or drawing action figures from imagination. The students were each given a vote in picking their next nude model and learned in a progressive and liberal style of art teaching. These modern teachings attracted at least ninety-two Americans, of which nineteen were female, all benefitted from his free-style instruction which they took back to the United States. For over forty years, 1890-1930, American Cultural Art strongly reflected the teachings of the Académie Julian schools in Paris. Forty-five Canadians were also trained at this famous private art school, and their paintings are displayed across Canada today. Laurens became the most sought after French teacher for both Americans and Canadians and today his teachings are part of both countries North American cultural art painting styles forever.

 

 

 

 

This famous painting by American Jefferson David Chalfant, titled “Bouguereau’s Atelier” was painted at Académie Julian in 1891. A male and female nude model pose for the artists and American Chalfant included himself [bottom right corner] in his own painting. This image captures the roof lighting, air venting, and the stove which supplied the heat. This is a public domain image and the original art can be seen in the Fine Arts Museum at San Francisco, California. This is believed to be the very same studio where George Petty IV received his first teachings. When you check the list of American trained artists you will not find the name George Brown Petty IV, but sometimes you need photo proof to correct an over-sight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This rare photo was the property of artist George Petty IV, taken in Paris studio class of Jean-Paul Laurens, 1914, when George was twenty years of age. When the image was snapped, the face of George Petty [far right] was cut in half, and George then sketched in the missing half of his face and body. After the death of George Petty 21 July 1975, this photo became the property of close family friend James Camperos and was later purchased for the collection of Peter Perrault. Used courtesy Peter Perrault, a rare gem in the missing Petty years in Paris, France. At one time or another twelve different Laurens art schools operated in Paris, and this photo location is believed to be the original studio where German/American Joseph Leyendecker studied and painted in 1896-97. I believe his full nude male painting in the lead-in history was posed at the exact same spot as the young nude lady is laying. I’m also positive the young artist Petty realized the connection and importance of this location and treasured his photo.

Pages 16 and 17 of the Reid Stewart Austin book “PETTY” detail the art learning skills obtained by George at the Laurens school in Paris, however, his original sketches and paintings from Paris are still missing. I’m sure a few survive in or around Paris today, but will they ever be located or displayed? Images of George Petty art from Paris 1914-16 would be most appreciated by the author or Peter Perrault.

 

 

 

 

In 1903, the United States of America became the cradle of the world’s first powered aircraft flight, however by 1909, France became the new baby’s nursery. This brilliant [public domain] cover painting by J.C. Leyendecker for The Saturday Evening Post shows a lot of hidden truth in regards to the American invention of powered flight, and their shaky development of the early airplane. Thanks in part to American pilot Wilbur Wright, France became the center of aviation on the eve of the Great War. The U.S. government showed very little interest in flying until 1909.

 

 

In 1909, the French aviation aircraft words” Aileron”, “Fuselage”, and “Nacelle” were admitted to the Oxford English Dictionary, and the following year the world’s first pilot flying instruction under military control took place outside Paris, France. Numerous other French aviation developments followed but only three are relevant to my story. In July 1912, the French Army recommended a three-ring red-white-and-blue “roundel” be painted on all aircraft for identification to ground troops, an aviation first. This was followed by the establishment of ten or more aircraft which were called “Escadrille” or Squadron. Each escadrille then received a number which remained constant, and a prefix which varied according to the aircraft they were flying. The French then created and painted an insignia for each escadrille and this was located mostly on the nacelle or fuselage of each aircraft. Birds were used 34 times, animals 12, Dragon 3, Star 3, letters 2, Knight 2, then a skeleton, Demon, fat girl, flower, and Dutch windmill. In 1916, the French introduced green and light brown “camouflage” to the fuselage and upper wings of aircraft and light blue or clear finish to the under surface. The French Air Force entered World War One with the best aircraft, best aircraft engines, best markings, and best organization in the world and most Allied countries would follow WWI French aircraft markings, which is a long detailed history. In short, the French took the American invention, improved the design, engine, named parts, organized squadrons, created insignia and introduced French art to airplane markings. The very beginning of future aircraft nose art paintings.

 

WWI French poster art.

 

 

French war poster art became a huge part of World War One.

 

 

George Petty IV spent over two years in wartime France, sketching, painting, and learning, yet, his art for this period is sadly missing. In July 1916, American Ambassador Joseph P. Herrick ordered all Americans in France to return home to the United States and George Petty’s art training came to an end. In the fall of 1916, father Petty III senior developed gall bladder blockage and with no known medical treatment, passed away. On 8 June 1917, American General Pershing landed in Liverpool, England, with his staff in route to France to organize the American Expeditionary Force. This produced a new poster blend of 1776 American revolution memories and hopes for the 1917 American participation in WWI.

 

 

 

In the United States a new war poster art Liberty Bond drive suddenly appeared.

 

This 1917 Liberty Drive poster by American artist Charles Nicolas Sarka [18 June 1879 – 27 May 1960] was more Knight’s Templar Catholic Military Order than WWI United States of America. [Author collection]

 

Charles Sarka spent most of his life in New York City where he created three Liberty Bond posters in 1917-18. This 1918 poster showed an American aviator as a Roman Warrior throwing bombs at German ground forces. [Author collection]

 

 

Cyrus Leroy Baldridge [27 May 1889 – 6 June 1977] became a war illustrator in France in 1915, was allowed behind German lines to record the battles. When America entered the war in 1917, he served as a painter for the Stars and Stripes and illustrated the common American doughboys expression after battle. Cyrus refused to paint American officers.

 

He painted fast with bold wide strokes and recorded many Belgium and American troops. In 1919, he enrolled in the Académie Julian Paris art studio and returned to U.S. in 1920. He shot himself in 1977, with his WWI issue pistol, after learning he had cancer.

 

 

 

James Montgomery Flagg [18 June 1877 – 27 May 1960] another American artist who took art instruction at Académie Julian in Paris 1898 to 1900. In 1917 he began painting American War poster art. [Author collection]

 

James Flagg painted the most famous American War Poster art [ever] in 1917, and he used his own mirror face reflection for that of Uncle Sam. [Internet free domain]

 

Orson Byron Lowell [1871 – 1956] studied at the Art Institute of Chicago 1893, moved to New York in 1905. Well known for his pen and ink humorous art and war poster art above in 1917. He was part of a close knit social group including Norman Rockwell and the Leyendecker brothers, however little else is recorded from this time frame. [Author collection]

 

 

Norman Percevel Rockwell [3 February 1894 – 8 November 1978] early 1918 war poster art. Rockwell admired and imitated the rich style of J.C. Leyendecker, and each enjoyed a warm friendship as neighbors in New Rochelle, New York. [Author collection]

 

 

The art of George Petty IV is missing from 1916 until 1918, and possibly some hidden treasures are still waiting to be found. George married Julia Donohue on 6 April 1918, which most likely explains his lack of painting, he was in love.

 

This 1919 painting of Gladys Engel Dobbrodt was done by George Petty as her wedding present. [Private collection courtesy Peter Perrault, unpublished]

 

 

 

In 1920, Van-Ess Laboratories, Chicago, produced a new liquid scalp dandruff message which sold in an amber colored glass bottle with rubber tipped nipples. The dandruff message was advertised for use by all ages and a number of half and full page ads were printed in black and white for magazines and newspapers. George Petty painted an early full color poster ad [1920-22] for the company, which contained his early signature in simple block lettering.

These black and white newspaper ads were very common until 1925.

 

 

This ad appeared in the Saturday Evening Post magazine for 1924.

 

Poster date unknown 1920-22 [Peter Perrault collection, unpublished]

 

The Marshall Field & Company imposing building was the second largest department building in the world, a Chicago, Illinois, tourist attraction and landmark. The company published six 32-40-page high quality catalogues each year, with no advertising, and the cover was always French Art Deco. [Internet 1922 cover image $225]

 

 

 

George Petty painted an Art Deco cover for January 1920 catalogue, [Petty book page 16] plus a June 1922 Art Deco cover for the Marshall Field & Company. [Reid Stewart Austin collection – Value $400]

 

In 1924, George received his first freelance work and painted two covers for “The Household Magazine” and Marjorie posed for her first painting, [Courtesy Peter Perrault] The other cover is found in the book “PETTY” page 13, by Reid Stewart Austin.

 

 

In 1925, George sold three pastel portraits of Art Deco French style Petty girls for Vesta calendars of 1926. [Three images – Courtesy Peter Perrault collection]

 

 

 

 

This American Petty Girl is so French looking you would think she was in Paris. The calendar girls didn’t pay that much and George turned to other illustrations where good money could be found. These three calendars were all signed George Petty, very rare.

 

In 1925-26 George secured a new contract with a very controversial female product, birth control. It’s possible he planned this painting knowing it would advertise his new nude lady to North America. For good or bad it worked.

 

This nude poster posed by Catholic raised wife Julie also appeared in American magazines and match covers. The Petty Girl was suddenly being noticed in U.S. and Canada. [Internet image value $3,000]

 

 

The long red stroke “Y” in Petty appeared in 1925 and this rare undated ad was likely 1926-27 for the Venus company featuring a new Art Deco French Silhouette Girdle. Found in pin-up collection of Pauline Harry, who Reid Austin called “Cissy.” [Peter Perrault collection]

 

 

In 1920, the French Flapper Silhouette became the new American design and the bone ribbed lady corset gave way to a new undergarment, the Latex Girdle. The new Venus Latex girdle created a flat-chested, no curves, boy-like appearance which focused on slenderness, requiring the use of starvation diets and fat ‘rolling machines.’ Movies and Hollywood styles helped create this new vision of beauty and for the first time weight loss ads began appearing in American fashion magazines. This continues today part of a billion-dollar super rich skinny robot stroll modelling industry. That was just the opposite image which George Petty was painting, but he had to think ‘thin’ for his Venus Girdle French Silhouette poster.

 

The famous 2 February 1922 LIFE cover art of “The Flapper” by Frank Xavier Leyendecker, [brother of Joseph] who also trained at Académie Julian in Paris, France. [Public domain]

 

In 1929, Julie Petty posed for her last paintings, daughter Marjorie [age ten] was ready to step up and take over as the Petty Girl. [Peter Perrault] This De Vilbiss perfume spray Art Deco poster sells today for $4,000.

 

A rare June 1929 Petty ad which also appeared in Canadian papers at Walkerville, Ontario. [Peter Perrault collection]

 

Princess Nariva, possibly the last nude posed ad by wife Julie 1929. Peter Perrault collection.

 

 

 

Marjorie Petty first posed nude for this Lesser Slim Figure Bath Salts ad in 1929. [Peter Perrault collection]

 

In 1930, George Petty openly stated he preferred to draw the male strong British types and his favorite American artist Joseph Leyendecker’s style. The male nude painting studies he learned at Académie Julian in Paris [1914-16] gave George the ability to draw his strong and appealing male, which provided much of his subsequent success and money in the 30’s. The Atlas Beer ads of 1930, 31 and 32 can be found in the book PETTY by Reid Stewart Austin, page 18 and 19. These paintings are powerful, bold, and clearly show the influence of Leyendecker’s males which dominated many American magazines [The Saturday Evening Post] and male fashion covers.

In 1932, George painted three program covers for the world’s largest indoor sports area, Chicago, Stadium. Two were for boxing events and one cover is described in the PETTY book on page 21. [left] A second [right] is displayed from the Peter Perrault collection below.

 

A second child, George Brown Petty V, was born on 8 July 1922, and it is possible he posed for these boxing covers showing a young fighter. Daughter Marjorie began posing at the same age.

 

 

 

Internet

The third Petty cover was painted for the Chicago Blackhawks NHL hockey game program and appeared in 1932-33 and 1933-34 seasons. [Image from the internet] This art shows his ability to capture a strong male figure in a fast action sport, created in black and white for two-colour printing in black and red.  The hockey player was created by Petty [not modeled on a real player] and the uniform is not created for any special NHL team, it was just magazine cover art for the Blackhawks hockey home game program. This original art is for sale on the internet for $17,000, reduced to $14,000 at time of my research. It is way over-priced and should be around $7-8 thousand range. The real artistic value in this painting is found on the face, which shows the strong influence Joseph Leyendecker painted males had on the style of George Petty. Most readers commonly assume the paintings of the Petty Girl in Esquire led to the fame and fortune of George Petty. In fact, it was the 1935 Jantzen advertising of both Petty Girl and brother George V which gave the artist his biggest advertising break. It’s possible this NHL Hockey painting was the very beginning of the Petty created male reaching a large man’s audience. The cover lettering and color changed slightly from one printing to another.

 

 

 

The Black Hawks won their first Stanley Cup in 1933-34 and their star goalie was Scottish born Charlie “Chuck” Gardiner. [front row uniform far right] He never played another hockey game, died from a brain tumor 13 June 1934. The Chicago Black Hawks logo also received first new colors for the 1934-35 season. A 1933-34 Hawks jersey sells for around $10,000 range, so the Petty hockey cover art is a bit over-priced. Now, if it had the Black and White 1934 logo, that would possibly raise the value.

 

 

 

 

The 1934 Jantzen bathing suit Petty Girl ads were both anatomically and politically incorrect for the time, but nobody noticed. In 1935, George Petty V began posing for his father and the male figure was introduced to create sexual chemistry for the bathing suit line. It worked, and men’s swimsuit line sales tripled, as a result, the Zantzen advertising began appearing full page color in Esquire magazine. While the new male figure was again anatomically incorrect, it is clear to see his admiration for Joseph Leyendecer’s male paintings were now appearing in his new Petty male art.

 

 

In 1935 a single Zantzen billboard painting sold for one-time usage at $600, five years later the same billboard painting, plus one magazine ad of this painting sold for $2,000. Jantzen sales had increased by 45 per cent over those five years and the Petty boy and girl had changed North America forever, in more ways than one.

 

 

While the original idea of using his Petty girl and boy was fully intended as sexual chemistry for the Jantzen bathing suits, they also became sexual chemistry for the large hidden Gay community in North America. I have no idea if George Petty ever understood or intended this powerful result. [Jantzen author collection]

 

 

From 1930 to 39 George produced a beautiful series of full-color pages in the Chicago Tribune and these are extremely rare and hard to find today. Mass produced on newsprint, they were short lived and most ended up in the dumpster, forgotten. Peter Perrault saved many from this series and a few are published now after eighty-plus years.

 

May 1933 “Chicago American” cover page. The first Petty cartoon appeared in the first issue of Esquire magazine August 1933, and editor Arnold Gingrich paid George twenty-five dollars.

 

The Petty Girl face was still appearing in June 1939 – new style Chicago American

 

 

June 1935 cover for New York Journal. In late 1934, the Old Gold Cigarette ads, with the rich fat old-codger, began appearing in major American magazines. The first Old Gold Petty ad appeared in Esquire magazine February 1935.

 

 

 

This beautiful “Raccoon Rah-Rah” also appeared in Vanity Fair magazine for November 1935, clearly showing the quickly developing Petty-Pin-Up with French accent showing in her face. [Peter Perrault collection]

 

These 1935 Old Gold cigarette ads and posters [above] proved so successful they became a major campaign for the new Petty Girl, even when his signature was omitted from his art. George received $600 for one-time usage of each painting, and retained his copyright.

 

 

 

 

The February 1935 issue of Esquire also produced a rare Petty cartoon first. This is the only painting with the fat-rich-old-codger where the Petty girl [Miss Dean] exposes her nipples. This airbrush pose is also very pin-up sexy style for Esquire male readers. I believe this is where George Petty recognized the power of the pin-up and the fact he was becoming a girl illustrator. [Courtesy Peter Perrault collection]

 

 

On 19 October 1935 Marjorie was featured in person on the cover of Saturday Home Magazine, she was fifteen years old. Years later [July 1996] she would sign this cover and mail to the author. Donated to Peter Perrault vast collection which contains many letters and signatures from George and Marjorie preserving their past.

 

 

George Petty not only described his favorite pin-up model, he began to realize he was creating the typical American pin-up girl with elegant and powerful sex appeal. From this point on George became a girl illustrative artist, who created a new American pin-up female icon which changed North America forever.

 

 

 

The sexy Petty Girl appeared in the 1933 first issue of Esquire as a cartoon and evolved into a true pin-up girl by 1936. She was not created by the artist; it was the public demand mostly by male readers who in fact forced the air-brush hand of George Petty.

 

3 July 1939, the Petty Girl continues to appear on newspaper covers showing her Patriotism. In two months the world goes to war, the U.S. remains neutral. In 1940, the U.S. Air Corps will begin to expand and advertising for Flying Cadets will appear in major magazines.

 

 

22 July 1940, full page two-color printing ads for Old Gold start appearing in LIFE magazine. [author collection]

 

1940 U.S. Army Recruiting Service begin with new mobile stations using the 1917 war poster created by James Flagg. [LIFE magazine author collection]

 

In the fall of 1940, the United States Army adopted a very impressive Army Aviation Cadet recruitment poster with the new motto – ‘KEEP ‘EM FLYING’ LET’S GO! U.S.A.

 

 

There is no advertising using the title U.S. Air Corps or the new U.S. Army Air Forces which came into effect on 20 June 1941. [author collection] These brave young Americans will be some of the first to enter WWII against the Japanese and Germans.

 

 

 

On 4 June 1920, an act in United States Congress created the American Air Service as a combat air-arm of the United States Army. On 2 July 1926, the new Air Service officially became the U.S. Air Corps, but they did not control their own aircraft combat units. Jurisdiction for training and combat came under control of Army ground forces, outdated principles laid down by the War Department back in 1919. This Air Corps structure was bitterly condemned by Billy Mitchell, and we all know what happened to him, he was court-marshalled. During the 1930s the Air Corps were always in conflict with the Army ground officers over organization and command of their American military aviation. The most important change in U.S. military aviation history came on 1 March 1935, the War Department established a General Headquarters of the Air Force, [GHQAF] under command of an air force officer. All Air Corps pursuit, bombardment and attack units came under direct control of the new formed [G.H.Q.A.F.]. Air Corps Observation units still remained under control of U.S. Army ground officers. In January 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt told Congress America’s air power was ‘utterly inadequate’ to protect the United States in time of war. In the next six months, the U.S. Air Corps began to rapidly expand, and by early 1940 they were composed of thirty groups. This sudden growth of the air arm required the total re-organization of group and wing levels plus created many serious problems of coordination between the combat organization [GHQAF] and the Air Corps, which were still operating as separate units.  This became confusing times for the air arm, which was all corrected by orders from the new officer in command, Major General Henry [Hap] Arnold. Arnold combined the combat organization [GHQAF] and the logistic organization [Air Corps] and they were officially renamed the U.S. Army Air Forces on 20 June 1941. On 9 March 1942, the old Air Corps and Combat Command were officially discontinued forever, and Gen. Arnold was made Commanding General of the newly formed U.S. Army Air Forces. [The correct spelling is Forces]

1941 is a very busy year for George Petty, as he completes his last twelve Petty Girls for Esquire magazine, and a host of other paintings. The list can be found on page 187 of the PETTY book by Reid S. Austin, and the last line reads – “George offers the War Department an air corps recruiting poster; there is no record of its use.

The Air Corps Petty Girl poster created on the motto “Keep ‘Em Flying” was presented to Major Frank Lane on 6 November 1941, while George Petty had no idea the U.S. Air Corps was now a title from the past. The air arm officially became the United States Army Air Forces [20 June 1941] and the Japanese will attack Peal Harbor in thirty-one days. It appears both of these events resulted in the possible unknown fate of the only painted air force Petty Girl recruiting poster.

 

 

Peter Perrault photo of artist George Petty presenting his original U.S. Air Corps recruiting poster to Major Frank Lane of the U.S.A.A.F [War Department] on 6 November 1941.

This original girl painting was never seen or displayed and the Army Air Forces never published the poster, or at least no records can be found the poster was ever used by the new U.S.A.A.F. Due to the “incorrect title – U.S. Air Corps” it could not be displayed by the newly formed Army Air Forces and was possibly just lost as the United States went to war. It remains a mystery why the air force never changed the wording and used this powerful Petty Girl poster art. The Petty Girl was the best viewed pin-up in 1941 and her finger motioning you to join the air force was an effective recruitment idea. If you happen to find this in an old book store or antique shop, it could be worth a few dollars. [maybe around $150,000]

A color image or further information on this lost Petty pre-war poster would be appreciated by the author.

 

Peter Perrault collection, photo blow-up showing rare air force Petty Girl face. In June 2000, a fake U.S. Air Corps drawing appeared for sale on the internet. Reid Stewart Austin was not impressed and his post card to Peter Perrault is published.

 

Original November 1941                                                  June 2000 fake

 

 

The very same face and most of the Petty Girl pose were used again April 1942. [James Camperos from Peter Perrault collection]

 

On 6 April 1942, George Petty presented the Navy with a new poster – “Join The Waves or Spars.” The pose and face are the same girl as he painted for the rejected U.S. Air Corps poster 6 November 1941. If she was not good enough for the air force, the U. S. Navy had no problems with their recruiting poster.

 

 

Even with no wartime editorial outlet, Esquire magazine and Alberto Vargas controlled the pin-up art field, the “Petty Girl” still held her own in aircraft nose art paintings. These images can be found all over the internet, but finding an original Petty Girl is not always that easy.

 

In 1924 a young artist Alberta Vargas created this music cover for Ziegfeld Follies.

 

Twenty years later George Petty completed six paintings for the 1944 film version of “Ziegfeld Follies” which were described as his best work. [MGM Poster from internet]

 

 

 

 

The often delayed film finally opened on 15 July 1946, becoming a box-office success, and George and daughter Marjorie are seen getting off the train at Los Angles around the premier date. George created six paintings of his Petty Girl for advertising and six MGM lovelies, with white telephones, met the famous pair at the train. The film earned $5,344,000 but due to the large budge cost for the all-star cast, it in fact lost $269,000.  It is believed George earned $3,000 per girl painting, which were used extensively in film promoting by MGM. [Reid Stewart Austin collection]

From January 1945 until December 1947, the Petty Girl appeared in True magazine and these thirty-five paintings were again the best George created to that date. Reid Austin believed he was paid $3,000 per painting as no contract or known records survive. Two Petty Girl True calendars were also published, [1947-48] possibly part of the original deal. The two-page fold-out paintings were highlighted with an analysis by author and lecturer on female psychology, Dr. William Moulton Marston.

 

 

The TRUE Petty March 1946 girl was titled “MISS PADDY WHACK” also appearing in the March 1947 TRUE Petty calendar. [author collection]

 

In November 1971, retired artist George Petty was asked why the American Pin-Up had slipped so far down the list in calendar sales. George – “Today, everything must be shared with one’s wife and children, a man can not longer enjoy his girl calendar art in his own room.”

21 July 1975, George Brown Petty IV dies in the family home of Marjorie MacLeod in San Pedro, Southern California.

 

[Image from Reid Stewart Austin – Petty Estate] Photo was first published in June/July issue of Modern Maturity magazine for 1983, courtesy Marjorie MacLeod.

 

The June/July 1983 issue of Modern Maturity magazine publishes the first story told by the Petty Girl, sixty-four-year-old Marjorie MacLeod, written by Derek Gill. [Peter Perrault collection]

 

 

 

Marjorie [Mugs] Jule Petty born 21 September 1919 –

 

February 1948 True calendar [author collection]

 

The February 1948 Petty True magazine original can still be found for sale on the internet but it might cost over $100,000. [internet image]

Please don’t worry, if you can’t afford an original to hang in your special men’s collection, the Petty Girls are still selling in affordable calendar’s, pleasing men for over one-hundred years. George Petty would be very proud and the Petty Estate might still be making money. Petty Girls will always offend a few close-minded people, however once they get past that, the true nostalgic value is very positive.

 

2 thoughts on “American Artist George Petty and his French Connection

  1. Rob Shepherd

    Hi – thank you for writing up this piece. My family has a “Petty Original Ties by Hut” figurine that my grandfather always had around, and this article was one of the few sources that helped us figure out what it was likely in reference to.

    Would love to share a photo of the sculpture with you and ask a few more questions if you are interested.

    Thank you again!

    Like

    Reply

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