Gil Elvgren was a Minnesota-born painter who is famous for his pinup art. Some think of him as the most important of all the pinup artists.
To Elvgren, the ideal model had the face of a 15-year-old and the body of a 20-year-old. It is always noted that his art combined the two.
I’ll say that for artistic purposes, Elvgren’s ideal woman was probably between 17 and 18, only because the average of 15 and 20 is about 17–the age that men evidently find women to be most beautiful (see here). To me, the women in Elvgren’s paintings appear mainly to be adult women who might be posing as 17-year-olds.
The artist George Petty, on the other hand, seems really to have captured this image of the 17-year-old in his pinup art, not only because of that big, wholesome smile he gave his girls but because a lot of them are on the telephone! The women in these idealized portraits of American White womanhood are always called pinup “girls.” Just as dancers of all varieties are called girls. Models are routinely called girls. So are prostitutes.
When women are presented for mostly male “consumption,” they are nearly always presented as girls.
Many men describe young women as “happy,” which is part of their appeal. In a Bob Seger song about a man who has fallen for a dancer he likes to watch in “a little club downtown,” he says of her:
Unlike all the other ladies, she looked so young and sweet…
Young. Sweet. Happy. An infatuating combination.
You don’t stay young. So you don’t stay sweet. But a charming older woman is one who has retained a spark of that girlish sweetness. Or at least one who can give that impression.
- Seger, Bob. 1976. “Main Street.” On Night Moves [Record]. Hollywood, CA: Capitol Industries-EMI.