Joaquin Alberto Vargas y Chávez (9 February 1896 – 30 December 1982) was a noted Peruvian painter of pin-up girls. He is often considered one of the most famous of the pin-up artists. Numerous Vargas paintings have sold and continue to sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Born in Arequipa, Peru, Vargas moved to the United States in 1916 after studying art in Europe, Zurich, and Geneva prior to World War I. While he was in Europe he came upon the French magazine La Vie Parisienne, with a cover by Raphael Kirchner, which he said was a great influence on his work. He was the son of noted Peruvian photographer Max T. Vargas.
His early career in New York included work as an artist for the Ziegfeld Follies and for many Hollywood studios. Ziegfeld hung his painting of Olive Thomas at the theater, and she was thought of as one of the earliest Vargas Girls. Vargas’ most famous piece of film work was for the poster of the 1933 film The Sin of Nora Moran, which shows a near-naked Zita Johann in a pose of desperation. The poster is frequently named one of the greatest movie posters ever made.
He became widely noted in the 1940s as the creator of iconic World War-II era pin-ups for Esquire magazine known as “Vargas Girls.” The nose art of many American and Allied World War II aircraft was inspired and adapted from these Esquire pin-ups, as well those of George Petty, and other artists.
I have a pictorial book of pictures painted by Vargas who painted truly beautiful images of women. His paintings of the forties reflect a time when women loved to dress up.
I have just pressed the send button on the final edit on my novel: Castle of Dreams to be published in April 2016 by Allen & Unwin.
The story is a duel narrative and one narrative is set in the forties of the last century. It’s an era I love. I pondered over this while I was writing because I feel a powerful connection to those days. “Fabulous Forties and all that” a character in my story says reflecting back on the time when war raged across the world for the second time in twenty years.
I have thought often of the people born to live through two world wars: men who fought, women who lost husbands, lovers, sons or daughters; whole families lost to war. I also thought of the two separate generations of young people who marched out the door and never came home again; these were the things that informed the narrative of my story.
On a lighter note the forties was the time of a live for the moment attitude among young people. I have set part of my novel in Queensland, Australia where thousands of American troops were based during the Pacific War. There were dance halls: Cloudland and the Trocader being two of the most popular, the jitterbug, “the Americans were the best at that” a character in my novel says, the girls wore swing skirts and victory rolls in their hair. They fell in love with American soldiers, as did Vivien in Castle of Dreams, and our boys ended up in New Guinea where my own uncle died on the Kokoda Track.
Having older parents who told me stories from those times made it easier for me to bring the story alive in my novel. It was like having my own private viewing of the past and some insight into the secrets waiting to be discovered there.
Now the siren song of a new novel is calling I have a feeling I might revisit this era.