1889-1960 | Browse Artwork
A 1920 article described Rolf Armstrong, already making a name for himself as a rising star in the commercial art world, as “a young giant, massive shoulders towering above a slim waist wrapped in a Apache sash…[suggesting] the great woods of the Northwest—the prize ring.” This was only the first of many colorful descriptions of the artist that writers would come up with during his career, including the “pappy of 165 calendar girls,” a title which was later cemented as “The Father of American Pin-Up.”
Rolf Armstrong: Education
Armstrong started his education at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where his teachers increasingly recognized his work. The institute was a stepping-stone to Armstrong’s successful career in commercial art.
Two of the first publications to take a chance on this new talent were Judge and Puck Magazine and Armstrong was an instant success. Eventually Rolf Armstrong’s artwork were seen on several covers for the American and Metropolitan Magazine and he had a lengthy tenure doing cover art for College Humor Magazine. His portrait of a male sailor appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post.
|Above: Armstrong at work in studio with Jewel Flowers C.1941
Rolf Armstrong and Brown & Bigelow
In 1919, Armstrong aligned himself with Brown & Bigelow where he painted countless images for advertising calendar art. During these years along side Maxfield Parrish and Norman Rockwell, Armstrong was this prestigious calendar company’s star artist and an eager public awaited next months Armstrong Girl .
|Above: Brown & Bigelow calendar Company c. 1930 with “Hello Everybody” Rolf Armstrong lawn display (thanks Bob Arkin)
The character of the women that Armstrong portrayed contrasted that of other artists of the pin-up movement. Armstrong’s subjects were strong, confident women. They had an innate femininity and subtle sexuality yet were very much a product of the ongoing American Industrial Revolution.
With the development of national advertising and the increasing distribution of magazines, commercial illustrators were in high demand and artists themselves were seen as celebrities.
Rolf Armstrong and Hollywood
Motion picture film technology created screen stars and movie magazines such as the famed Photoplay sought out illustrators to create cover artwork donning these new faces. Rolf Armstrong’s portraits included those of Norma Talmadge, Marion Davies, Bebe Daniels and Greta Garbo. During the same period, he did advertising art for products such as Nehi and Green River Soda, Old Gold Cigarettes and Hires Rootbeer.
|Above: Brown & Bigelow Article in The Builder C.1938 showing Armstrong’s one man show at Tennant Galleries in Hollywood
|Above: James Cagney (second from left) sits with Rolf Armstrong in Hawaii.
|Above: Armstrong with model Margery Crampton and the recently completed work ” The B&B Girl”
|Above: Rare original Rolf Armstrong Christmas Card with his painted angels .
Today, collectors cherish original examples of his artwork and bids often soar into the ten’s of thousands of dollars when they turn up at auction.
|Above: The artist at work again with Jewel Flowers
|Above: The artist atop his New York City Studio 1940’s
|Above: Armstrong and Crampton in his Duesenberg Coupe
|Above: Armstrong (second from left) with Henry Fonda and James Cagney.
|Above: 1930’s creating “Venus” .
|Above: Boris Karloff and Rolf Armstrong circa late 1930’s
|Above: The artist at work in Hawaii
|Above: Armstrong sketches James Cagney