A Ship-Shape Sweetheart by K.O. Munson
Attired in a green bikini and a matching colored scarf tied around her wavy, red hair, this brick-topped bombshell is all smiles as she stretches her arms above her head during a relaxing, sunny day out on her yacht. Published as calendar art under the title “Ship-Shape”, this pastel illustration is by Norwegian-American artist and illustrator K.O. Munson.
This piece is housed behind glass in a simple wood frame with green mat. Pastel is signed by the artist in the bottom left.
About the Artist: K.O. Munson
Knute (K. O.) Munson was born in Oslo, Norway, and grew up in Sweden. His family moved to the United States when he was a teenager and settled in Michigan. Munson received his first commission before he ever studied art, when a local doctor hired him to draw medical illustrations for his lectures on surgery. Munson went to Chicago when he Was twenty-three to study at the Academy of Fine Art and the American Academy of Art, where his teachers included Andrew Loomis, He later studied with Harvey Dunn at the Grand Central School of Art in New York City.
Returning to Chicago, Munson got a job illustrating catalogues for men’s clothing and accessories and became on the job friends with Earl Moran. Loomis later advised Munson to consider advertising art as a career and referred him to Outdoor Advertising Incorporated, where he painted advertisements for Milky Way candy bars. In 1936, Munson received a call from Moran, who was then a staff artist at Brown and Bigelow. Moran told him the firm had liked the samples he sent and that he should “grab paint brushes and get here right away”.
Seven years later, Munson inherited the firm’s popular Artist’s Sketch Pad calendar when Earl Mac Pherson entered the service. He revised the calendar, applying a vignette technique inspired by Dean Cornwell’s work that produced the overall effect of an intimate studio work. Munson’s pastels for the calendar featured healthy, vital women, full of warmth and softness.
In 1945, Brown and Bigelow used Munson’s pin-ups for their Direct Mail Calendar line. He continued to produce dozens of pin-up paintings and drawings for the firm until 1949, when he decided to return to Chicago. There he kept busy as a freelancer. Earl Carroll’s Theatre Restaurant in Los Angeles, billed as “The Glamour Spot of Hollywood”, commissioned him to do a painting for an over-size souvenir postcard. Among his many advertising jobs were assignments from Lucky Strike cigarettes, Kelly-Springfield Tires, U.S. Rubber Corporation, and Goodrich Tires.
During his years at Brown and Bigelow, Munson had become an accomplished colour photographer, and in his new studio on Chicago’s North Side, he added photographic work to his commercial art jobs. In 1958, Artist and Photographer magazine ran a cover story entitled “K. 0. Munson and His Glamour Queens”. Munson, described as “unpretentious, congenial, frank”, reflected as follows on the interplay between painting and photography:
“The camera becomes one of the painters most useful and important tools. Painting, on the other hand, with its centuries of tradition and its massive accumulation of knowledge has been invaluable to the photographer.. Each has much to offer the other”.
Biography borrowed from The Great American Pin-up by Charles G. Martignette and Louis K. Meisel