This 1937 dazzling and fresh (both in scene and technique) original mixed medium illustration painting by George Petty first appeared in Esquire Magazine as a full page color cartoon. It also was published as the first image of a spiral bound folio titled “Petty – A Portfolio from Esquire,” which featured series of images culled from his work from this early men’s magazine. With the caption of “No particular floor, just drive up and down” this captures the double entendre laden repartee that Hollywood screwball comedies delighted in. One of the crown jewels from the estate of Charles Martignette. The work is framed and matted behind glass and is a defining example of the lithe and modernist Art Deco Petty Girl.
In the early Thirties, George Petty opened his own studio in Chicago and started to get more and more work that relied on images of pretty women. His daughter Marjorie Jule, born in 1919, was modeling for him and her body topped with an endless variety of faces would appear in many of his stylized Art Deco ads. In 1933, during the depths of the depression, Esquire Magazine was started. At a time when The Saturday Evening Post cost a nickel, The Ladies Home Journal a dime, and Good Housekeeping and Cosmopolitan a quarter, Esquire debuted at 50 cents. Only Fortune, started in 1930, just three months after the stock market crash, was priced higher at $1. And just as Fortune had confounded the prophets by being successful, Esquire’s first issue sold out – even with a print run of 100,000.
Petty’s work was in that first issue, a cartoon. He wasn’t a cartoonist, but that’s what the magazine needed and they were willing to supply him with situations and gags. The drawings he submitted were printed full page on good paper and the magazine’s 10″x14″ format was perfect for the slick, well-rendered images George was capable of. With his command of the airbrush, a strong foundation in drawing, plenty of practice drawing lissome women, and a willing model, Petty had assembled the components of a meteoric career. His cartoons appeared in seven of the first dozen issues and were thinly disguised excuses for rendering the female body.
This era of the Petty Girl typically finds the streamlined pin-up in control and looking fabulous while stringing along assorted sugar daddies and fat cats with quips and humor that borrow from the gags and giggles associated with the Hollywood tinsel-town working girls of the pre-code and depression-era talkies.