This 1942 patriotic Petty Girl was the first of George Petty’s iconic pin up illustrations commissioned by the Ice-Capades, then in its second season and soon to become a cultural institution. Developed by RKO as a theatrical extravaganza on ice and held at Rockefeller Center in New York City, the event was wildly popular and the souvenir programs became a huge part of the brand. Petty would go on to illustrate all 7 of the subsequent 1940s Ice-Capades programs, and his take on the leaping, beaming ice dancer became a large part of the promotion of the event. After parting ways with the show due to creative differences in the 1950s, Petty effectively came out of retirement to create 5 more covers for the show in the early 1960s. Illustration shows a pretty blonde Petty girl figure skater in a form-fitting and revealing little blue number with a star-adorned headdress.
In 1942, Petty was already a star illustrator after a successful decade working in advertising and for Esquire magazine. The artist’s signature creation The Petty Girl made her debut in the autumn of 1933 in a full-page cartoon accompanied by a snappy caption in Esquire magazine’s inaugural issue. For the rest of the decade, she would appear every month, not only as a stand-alone feature in the magazine, but also in ongoing advertising campaigns for Jantzen Knitting Mills and Old Gold Cigarettes. By 1940, Petty had become a national celebrity. His relationship with Esquire had worn thin, however, and when they secured the services of Alberto Vargas a year later, he left the magazine – already having contributed a rich legacy to the history of pin-up art. His prominence only increased with his partnership with the Ice-Capades, to the extent that in 1950 Hollywood immortalized the artist in the film The Petty Girl based on the fictitious exploits of his long limbed pin-up creations with George Raft cast as Petty.
This work comes out of a recently unearthed New York collection that included a number of Petty Ice-Capades originals. We were fortunate enough to acquire two of the works, which had remained in private hands and institutions since their creation. Examples from this series rarely come to market. In 2010, this illustration for the cover of the 1965 program, the only example that has come on the auction market brought $16,730.00.