George Petty (April 27, 1894 – July 21, 1975) was an American pin-up artist. Influenced by his photographer father, Petty grew up to design posters for many magazines, films, wartime propaganda, calendars, and other materials. He is most famous for his series "The Petty Girl," which he produced for Esquire magazine. His illustrations portrayed voluptuous and sensual caricatures of women.
Petty was born George Brown Petty IV in Abbeville, Louisiana to George Brown Petty III and Sarah Petty. The Petty family moved to Chicago when Petty was still very young. His father was a photographer, and mostly produced photos of young women, madonnas, and nudes. Petty was the staff artist to his school newspaper in high school.
Advertisement Illustration by George Petty, 1936. Image source
George Petty for 'Esquire', May 1934. Image source
Petty took night classes at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts under Ruth Van Sickle Ford. He also worked in his father's photo shop and even taught his own classes, charge $5 a session. He eventually moved to Paris to study at Académie Julian with Jean-Paul Laurens, but at the start of World War I was ordered to return home.
After his father died following his return home, he closed his father's studio and began working at an ad agency. This is where his first work was published, an ice skater for Marshal Field catalog in 1920. His father had taught him how to use the airbrush, and this went on to distinguish his art later on. In 1933, one of his posters won first prize at the Chicago World's Fair.
But his career really took off after he opened his own studio and one of his illustrations appeared on the cover of Esquire magazine in 1933. This went on to become a series called "The Petty Girl," which landed him work with many major magazines as well as on film posters. During this period, he produced another of his most notable works, his cover for Time magazine in 1942.
George Petty's illustration of Rita Hayworth, November 10, 1941. Image source
In 1942, he stopped producing for Esquire, but kept working on posters for other causes. During World War II, his work included ads for the Ziegfield Follies.
- Birthday Date: Sunday, 27 April 2014