Home / Pin-Ups / Alberto Vargas Esquire Gatefold “Varga Girls”_OB [76]


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Alberto Vargas  1896 – 1982

Varga Girl Gatefolds

Gatefold: a page larger than the others in a magazine or book, bound so it can be unfolded and opened out like a gate.  Well that’s a dictionary definition, but the reality was a little different.

"Esquire’s" gatefolds for the most part used only two pages, unlike "Playboy’s" centerfold that uses all three pages of the gatefold. The benefit of "Esquire’s" approach is no staples holes in the picture only a page fold.  Original "Varga Gatefolds" are approximately 14 inches high by 18 1/2 inches wide (36cm x 47cm) and have a vertical fold line in the center.  One of the exceptions is January 1946, four pages of a five page gatefold, three fold lines and size approximately 14 by 36 inches.

"Esquire" lead it’s rival publications in sales with the “Petty Girls”.  Mr Smart, the publisher of "Esquire" magazine, had his problems with George Pretty and decided it was time for a change. By changing his feature artist Mr. Smart could try someone new and maybe get Petty back on better terms at a later date.  The problem was, George Pretty didn’t care if he ever went back to "Esquire" and the new feature artist was a steal, Alberto Vargas.

Volumes have been written on the contract that Alberto Vargas signed with Mr Smart.  The shot version (in my opinion) is Vargas got screwed by Mr Smart.  The lesson is, if you don’t understand what you are to sign, DON”T.

"Esquire" magazine sales increased at a faster rate when the “Varga Girl” replaced the “Petty Girl”.  Fourteen months later the United States entered WWII and Esquire’s target audience started to shrink.  Out of patriotism or an eye to future buyers after the war, Mr Smart published a free military version of "Esquire" magazine that was distributed to military personal stateside and overseas.  As a result "Esquire" magazine had a much wider exposure than could have ever been dreamed of before the war and in every issue was the “Varga Girl”.

With the war over GI’s were coming home and life was returning to normal, but for Alberto Vargas the situation was becoming intolerable.  He had signed a new contract that he never read and it had become clear that Mr Smart’s only interest was getting as many paintings from Vargas as he could at the least cost.  Vargas’ association with Esquire ended in January 1946.

Note:  The images of the “Esquire Varga Girls” posted below are small likenesses of Alberto Vargas paintings.  They do not have the detail of the original paintings or the correct coloring. Having never seen a Vargas painting, an Esquire magazine “Varga Girl” or any of the poster reproductions there is no way to accurately represent Vargas work. The coloring is only a best guess and what looks good, if they closely match the original Vargas painting it’s dumb luck, nothing more. OB

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