A large and well rendered oil painting by William Medcalf, likely created for The Brown & Bigelow Calendar Company. This dates from the 1940s to early 1950s; an era of situationally challenged cheesecake themed entanglements. In this instance, a red head bathing beauty has been startled by a green frog. William Medcalf was a leading and prolific illustrator who worked in a variety of styles. His surviving pin-up commissions are especially coveted and this is a fresh-to-the-market, masterful work. Retains original limed wood frame in a fine state of original conservation.
Medcalf’s pin up work, like Elvgren’s, set standards for artistry and imagery for his contemporaries. When Medcalf joined the staff of resident artists at Brown and Bigelow on March 18, 1946, he hoped to get some pointers from his two idols, Elvgren and Norman Rockwell, who were both contributors to the firm. When he met both men at a Christmas party that year, he was therefore stunned and flattered when they asked him how he imparted such a finished glow to his work.
Medcalf painted more than twenty years of beautiful pin ups for Brown and Bigelow, handling all the special-project calendar commissions for their most important customers. For his first assignment in 1947, for Kelly-Springfield’s Celebrity Tires, Medcalf painted a beautiful girl walking her dog on an estate, with a sports car in the background. Then, for Dorman. Products (auto parts manufacturers), he created a breathtaking picture of a girl and her dog having a picnic in front of an automobile. While still handling these special pin-up projects, Medcalf also went on to deliver one winner after another to a new, more traditional Brown and Bigelow series, The Baseball Hall of Fame.
In 1949, Medcalf did his first pin-up “novelty fold” specialty item for the firm: a booklet that unfolded four times, each time revealing a larger pin-up image, the last being an oversized picture with an advertising message. Named one of the company’s top five pin-up artists in their 1951 business Builder, Medcalf released his first pin-up hanger the next year. Entitled Beautiful Morning, this depiction of a young girl just waking up proved to be a best-seller. The versatile Medcalf took on the responsibility for the company’s American Boy calendar series in 1953, and he also created many best-selling evening-gown subjects for their glamour line.
In 1940 and 1941, he worked in the art department of the United States Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and in 1942, he joined the Navy as a gunners mate.
During his tenure at Brown and Bigelow, Medcalf worked first at the company’s headquarters, then out of his home studio in a suburb of St Paul, often using his family and neighbours as models. In a September 1950 article for a local art school magazine, he said this about his work:-
“I look for the things that make a girl appear feminine, outside of her face and figure, that is, her pose, expression, the way she fixes her hair the way she handles her eyes, her buttons and bows”
“I play up the face and expression, making her look pleasant and sweet, with sex appeal but without sophistication, like someone’s sweet sister”