Earl Moran

Earl Moran - (1893-1984)

  This pastel on board painting by Earl Moran is titled, "Blue Monday". Created for the Brown and Bigelow Calendar Company, this painting features a pretty young blonde girl hanging her swimsuit cover-up on a clothes line. The bright colors against the black background make this painting stunning. Moran's use of light and shadow is quite evident here. This image was also used on a mutoscope card in the "Hotcha Girls" series. Mutoscope cards were dispensed from coin operated vending machines in such places as amusement parks. The "Hotcha Girls" series is the rarest of the mutoscope card series. Unlike other series of mutoscope cards that feature images by several artists, the "Hotcha Girls" series featured only images created by Earl Moran. There are 64 cards in the "Hotcha Girls" set. The model for this painting was born in 1918 into a large family with many siblings in New York. In addition to posing for Moran, she also modeled for the Sears Catalog. Coincidentally, Earl Moran painted images of models for the Sears Catalog. It is possible that Moran's connection with this model began through his work with the Sears Catalog. The model passed away in 1993 in Florida.

   Earl Moran was one of the most important pin-up and glamour artists of the twentieth century. He was born on December 8, 1893 in Belle Plaine, Iowa. As a child, Moran was inspired by the work of Charles Dana Gibson and James Montgomery Flagg. Growing up on a midwest farm, he longed for the lights and glamour of the big cities. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago for 2 years, and moved on to Manhattan, where he would enroll at the Art Student's League and study under muralist Vincent Dumond, Robert Henri, Thomas Fogerty (Norman Rockwell's teacher) and the legendary anatonomist George Bridgeman.

   As a way of introducing himself, Moran sent some paintings of girls in bathing suits to the Thomas D. Murphy and Brown and Bigelow Calendar Companies. When both companies bought his work, his career was launched. In 1932, Moran signed an exclusive contract with Brown and Bigelow. In 1946, after surviving a scandalous divorce, and having become Brown and Bigelow's best selling pin-up artist, Moran packed his bags and moved to Hollywood. He had already painted several movie stars, including Betty Grable for publicity posters. It was in Hollywood that he soon interviewed a young starlet named Norma Jean Dougherty who was interested in modeling for him. The two became friends and she changed her name to Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn would pose for Moran's paintings for the next four years. She always credited Moran with making her legs, (which she believed were too thin) look better than they were. Moran once commented that "her body was as expressive as her face, which made all her poses good".

   Creating just the perfect amount of light on his models was important to Moran, and he was an expert on lighting his models and sets. He used photography to capture the candid, natural expressions that he sought in his work. Moran worked in a variety of sizes and mediums, but he was most comfortable working in pastels, which were often 30 x 40 inches. Some of his magazine work is signed "Steffa" or Black Smith". Earl Steffa Moran died in January of 1984.

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