I N T R O D U C T I O N
Defining/Defending the ‘‘Feminist Pin-Up’’
In2000,IattendedalectureattheLosAngelesCountyMuseumofArt
in which the legendaryart historian Linda Nochlin addressed the issue
of the nude. She approached the subject through her life experience as
both a scholarand a feminist,which has informed her tastes in and fas-
cination with its representation. Reading from her essay ‘‘Offbeat and
Naked,’’Nochlinsaid:‘‘Ilikeanynudethatisn’tclassical,anynakedbody
that doesn’t look like Michelangelo’s David or the Apollo Belvedere. For
me, as for the poet-critic, Baudelaire in the 19th century, the classical
nudeisdead,anddeathly.Whatisalive?Theoffbeat,theugly,theother,
theexcessive.’’1
Herperspectiveintriguedme:atworkonthisbook,in-
vestigatingthefeministhistoryofthepin-up,Ifeltthatmyfascination
with the genre came from a similar place. Afterward, I asked Nochlin
where,ifanywhere,shefeltthepin-upgenrebelongedinthisaesthetic
of the offbeat.To the surprise of the audience, and without hesitation,
she began an impromptu paean to perhaps the most famous pin-up in
thehistoryofthegenre—AlbertoVargas’s‘‘VargaGirl’’(fig.1).Nochlin
recountedhow,asachildduringtheSecondWorldWar,shewouldrifle
throughheruncles’ Esquire magazinestomarvelatthegrotesquebeau-
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