b.1896 - d.1982
Alberto Joaquin Vargas Y Chavez was born in Arequipa, Peru, in 1896. At an early age, Alberto helped his father, an internationally recognized photographer, by retouching portrait photographs. As a young man, he studied in Europe until 1916, when World War I forced him to leave for home. On the way, he stopped over in New York City and decided to remain in the US.
Thus began an illustrious career that would span more than six decades and delight millions throughout the world. The "Vargas Girl" has since become an American icon like none other.
From 1919 to 1934 Vargas was the exclusive painter of the dazzling Ziegfeld Follies. The Follies were the top of show business during the Roaring Twenties and included the most talented starlets in America; many of whom went on to become faouns in Hollywood as well. Vargas' paintings from this period, in many cases among his best, demonstrated that he was an extraordinary Fine Artist. They are the works of an inspired young genius that had yet to be discovered by the public at large.
The Depression brought an end to the lavish Ziegfeld productions, but a new monolithic entertainment industry was developing in Southern California. Alberto and his beloved wife Anna-Mae Clift relocated to Los Angeles and began working with such movie producers as Fox, Paramount, and Warner Bros., painting promotional works of the stars and creating fabulous set designs.
In 1940, Vargas replaced George Petty (Creator of "The Petty Girl") at Esquire Magazine and from that time forward, Vargas' artwork became recognizable the world over. Reproduced monthly in Esquire, and yearly in incredibly popular calendar publications, "The Varga Girl" was carried to virtually all corners of the earth by American GIs. But Vargas' paintings were more than just entertaining; they helped support America's efforts during WWII and Alberto was decorated by the US Government for his contribution.
During the 1950s, Alberto completed his now legendary "Legacy Nudes". These twelve masterful watercolor paintings were considered by Vargas to be among his best work. Inspired by his love and concern for his wife, Vargas toiled over these paintings until they were flawless. To truly comprehend the essence of Alberto one must understand his relationship with Anna Mae, his beloved wife and companion for forty-four years. As a couple, they protected and nourished each other through mutual devotion. United in love and aligned in purpose, their magic touched all who knew them.
From 1960 to 1975, Vargas was again in the international limelight through the monthly publishing of his paintings in Playboy Magazine, thus bringing "Vargas Girls" to a whole new generation of admirers.
In all, Vargas' work has been reproduced more than one billion times before an adoring public who have come to love his art and respect his talents. His life and his legend live on, and perhaps the greatest tribute to his life's work is yet to be paid.
Alberto passed away in December, 1982, at the age of 86. No one has since approached his remarkable skill at capturing the unique quality and allure of the All-American Girl. Already acknowledged as one of America's most famous painters, Alberto Vargas is also considered to be one of America's finest watercolorists and chroniclers of the 20th Century.
In 1985 the Vargas heirs selected San Francisco Art Exchange LLC to represent the vast collection of treasures held in the Alberto Vargas Estate. SFAE hosted the first-ever retrospecitve of his work that summer and since then we have sold more than $25 million of Alberto Vargas artwork. We are the acknowledged authorities on Vargas and the #1 dealer worldwide.
Below is a small selection of the many original paintings, drawings, sketches, and preliminary studies left by Alberto Vargas when he passed in 1982. Additionally, we offer limited editions (both signed and estate authorized posthumous releases) and fine art posters. Please contact us for more options or information in any of these categories.