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The Pin Up Art of Wilson Hammell

Updated on July 25, 2013

Sometimes I think maybe my personal tastes run a little far to the obscure.

An example would be if you asked me who my top ten pin up artists were....

Several of them would evoke a kinda 'huh, who?' look, even from more knowledgeable collectors.

I guess it's a common belief that there were only a few artists working in the genre during it's heyday in the 30's and 40's.

But honestly, there are dozens of excellent artists who contributed to the rich history of what we call 'pin up' art.

And, that's where this post comes in...

So far, I've posted on four of the most popular and well known of the vintage pin up artists ----

George Petty, Gil Elvgren, Rolf Armstrong, and Enoch Bolles.

But, there are many, many, many GREAT pin up artists that have completely slipped through the cracks,

..... at least as far as popular recognition is concerned.

And, you never know...

I might slip a couple of 'em in on you when you're not looking.

One of them is Raymond Wilson Hammell, or Will Hammell (1896-1972)...

A long time resident of Red Bank, New Jersey,

(his studio was in New York City, at 25 West 45th Street) ....

He was primarily a commercial artist, and worked for several popular magazines of the era.

Hammell is probably best remembered as the creator of the 'balloons' motif for Wonder Bread.

He also created some gorgeous pin up art ......

( It's interesting how many of his glamour and pin up works contain this colored balloon device...

It seems to have become something of a signature running item, sort of like Petty's girls on the phone. )

He signed his works under several AKA's, according to his granddaughter, Patricia Hammell Kashtock:

Including " Will Hammell, AKA R. WIlson Hammell, AKA Q. Wilson Hammell, AKA Wilson Hammell.... ",

..... and kept his "'dual' life" as a pinup painter pretty much to himself.

He was a highly skilled artist, and felt the 'glamor' genre might be considered 'low-brow' by his many 'high art' associates, but it was lucrative....

Thus, the several nom-de-plumes.

In the late 1920s, Hammell did several beautiful pin-ups for the highly regarded Thomas D. Murphy Calendar Company,

.... and many more for Philadelphia's Joseph C. Hoover publishers in the 30's.

Most of these were utilized as advertising art pieces, on various media from pens and stationery, to print ads and, of course, calendars.

He was married to another excellent artist, Elizabeth Lansdell Hammell, and both of them did work for Vogue Magazine.

After World War II, Will gave up commercial art and spent much of the rest of his life promoting Elizabeth's work.

Some of his best pin up pieces were republished in a line of high quality jigsaw puzzles in the 40's and 50's, for which application the rich color and detail of his work was highly suited.

Most of his pin ups were signed either "Q. Wilson Hammell", or "R WIlson Hammell".

He liked both the Art Deco and Art Nouveau motifs, and used them extensively...

He was able to capture a real liveliness in his renderings of 'flappers' particularly.

His models are captured in natural poses, and there is a lovely, bright pastel look to his pieces, giving a gentle feminine feel.

He was particularly good controlling the contrast of his subjects with their background.

His careful use of focus, color and contrast has often been compared to the work of several of his contemporaries, like Rolf Armstrong, or Billy DeVorss.

His models are usually set against a sparse, dark or black background,

.... very reminiscent of the cutting edge work of French poster artist Leonetto Cappiello.

And perhaps that quality, above all others, is what appeals to me so much.

Or it could simply be the je ne sais quoi factor that makes art appreciation so individualistic.

Oh well.....

I may not always know why I like something, but I sure know what I like.

And I hope you'll like it, too !!

I will be doing more posts in the "The Pin Up Art " series, and I hope you will check them out.

Coming up in August will be posts on Zoë Mozert, and Earle K. Bergey.

Here's a link to my post on Gil Elvgren, the most popular artist of the genre.

If there's an artist in this art form you would like to see spotlighted here, please drop me a line.

And of course, I always appreciate hearing your comments on any of my posts.


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    • profile image

      S. Hammell Pease 2 years ago

      R. Wilson Hammell was born in Newton, Massachusetts in 1986 and died in 1949. He was my second cousin. As a little girl I use to watch him standing at his easel drawing with his charcoal pencils. He was never called Will by his family. I only recall him being called Ray. He never had any children to carry on his profession.

      The family has many of his charcoals in different sizes.

    • carolina muscle profile image

      carolina muscle 4 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      A friend of mine who sells pin up art on Ebay gave me a lot of information about Will -- I'm not sure if it came from him, from an article in which you yourself were interviewed, or from the book "The Great American Pin Up"...

      One thing is for sure, though- he was a fine artist.

      Thanks for dropping in! :)

    • profile image

      Pat Hammell Kashtock 4 years ago

      Chris! How on earth did you come by all that information on Will Hammell? I did not think the information that he was aka R Wilson Hammell was out there. I'm dying to know where you found it. :)

    • carolina muscle profile image

      carolina muscle 4 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      drbj: You really zoned in on one of his specialties, too, BJ... you sure know your pin ups! :)

    • carolina muscle profile image

      carolina muscle 4 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      nichellewebster: I hope you like em-- thanks for your comments and for dropping by !!!!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 4 years ago from south Florida

      Look at the eyes of his pin-up models, Chris. They are so realistically drawn they seem to look right through the viewer. Thanks for this delightful intro to Hammell's work.

    • nichellewebster profile image

      Nichelle Webster 4 years ago from Silicon Valley

      Beautiful--I love pinup art. My favorite is Earl Moran. I'm going to check out your other pinup Hubs.

    • carolina muscle profile image

      carolina muscle 4 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Vocalcoach: Thank you- I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Audrey ! Cheers~ Chris

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 4 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      You've given us a marvelous look into the different styles of artist Wilson Hammell. How exciting for me to learn that he designed the 'wonder bread' balloons. He certainly knew how to capture these beautiful ladies in his art work.

      Very interesting and most enjoyable, and looking forward to more. Voted up, useful, interesting and sharing. Thank you carolina ~ Audrey