Perhaps the finest nude pin-up ever created, this Earl Steffa Moran pastel is a fresh midwest estate find. This luminous masterwork dates from Moran’s “Light & Shadow” period. Marketed under the title “Show Girl,” the model was reported to be Jean Harlow. Six early nudes by Moran were packaged as a large format high end print folio which Brown & Bigelow gave as a premium gift to its most lucrative business accounts under the title “Running into Six Figures.” Many collectors site the folio as the high water mark of pin up art. Over the years, the location and even existence of this pastel was the subject of much debate among the illustration art community, and we are delighted to have found it and be able to offer the work. It is the Great American Pin-Up personified. This pastel retains its original silver gesso stepped art deco frame and verso label from “The Brown & Bigelow Calendar Company.” Larger than most of Moran’s work, the condition of the pastel, much like the work itself, is astounding. This is in all regards the best of the best.
This image also might have appeared as an “Arrow Beer” Calendar as several of the other “Six Figures” nudes have surfaced in recent years in hard to locate 1930’s – 40’s large advertising calendars for “The Globe Brewing Company” of Baltimore and for Arrow Beer specifically.
Earl Moran, along with Alberto Vargas and George Petty, is regarded as one of the most important pin-up artists of the Twentieth century. Originally from Iowa, Moran studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Students League in New York. He opened an art and photography studio in Chicago and after submitting paintings to Brown & Bigelow, was signed to an exclusive contract in 1932. His paintings sold millions of calendars for B & B; Moran fast became their best selling artist. In 1940, after LIFE magazine ran a feature story about his work, he attained celebrity status. Besides his calendar art, Moran provided nude art for various early men’s magazines. Relocating to California in 1946, he hired a young Norma Jean Dougherty as a model, who posed for him for four years. Norma Jean, of course, later became famous as Marilyn Monroe. Earl Moran enjoyed the life of celebrity in the “golden state” and Las Vegas, painting for B & B until 1957. He continued to paint for collectors until 1982.
Recent magazine articles have focused on Earl Moran and his work with frequent pin-up model Norma Jean aka Marilyn Monroe in her pre-platinum blonde pin-up modeling days. The July 2008 issue of Playboy has a pictorial 4 page spread titled “Monroe & Moran” with the artist and model in various seductive poses which were a mainstay of the Brown & Bigelow Calendar Companies line in the late 1940’s to early 50’s. This collaboration has also graced the pages of Life Magazine in recent years attesting to Moran’s enduring star, and luminous vision of feminine pin-up appeal. This is a unique opportunity to own a legendary work and is the finest work by the artist to be offered for sale.