Alberto Vargas (1896 - 1982)
The works of Vargas first saw publication with Esquire magazine in 1940, replacing the works of George petty on the pages of the magazine as Petty had decided to move on to pastures new.
Alberto Vargas had a busy career, after esquire, he moved on to create work for others, including the Paramount Pictures art department, Ziegfeld (where he painted many of the Ziegfeld follies), and even creating artwork for Playboy. A single original playboy master image was sold at a Christies auction in 2003 for just over seventy one and a half thousand dollars.
In a strange (but no doubt annoying to him at the time) situation, he lost the right to use the 'trademark' signature that first made his work famous. All his works with Esquire were signed Varga, Whether the reason for dropping the S from his name was politically minded and an attempt to mask his heritage (Born February 9th 1896, in Peru and only becoming a US citizen in 1939), or merely an aesthetic issue, the Esquire management of the period insisted on the change and specified the details in his contract. He worked for Esquire solidly through the war years, though still found time to do a few special items for military mascots. His calendars for esquire were highly anticipated and equally sought after items throughout this period. In 1946, he left Esquire with plans to produce his own calendars under his own control.
In 1947 Esquire published a Varga calendar using works Alberto had done prior to leaving their employ, but crucially, none of the images showed the Varga signature. A bit of creative airbrush work can obviously do wonders and Esquire were not about to give him any free publicity or assistance after he had left the company. In 1948 Alberto had his Varga calendar printed and ready to release when Esquire dropped their bombshell. A court order pointing out that the word 'Varga' was copyrighted in Esquires name and consequently they had a ban on his releasing the calendar, as a result his new 1948 calendar was in trouble, and for the time being, any future works were also tied up in this copyright issue. It took Alberto Vargas until 1950 to finally manoeuvre around the Esquire limitations, and even then it wasn't as simple as overturning the original court order. The contract he had signed with Esquire had effectively created the Varga name without an S and also signed this name over to Esquire, and unbeknownst to Alberto at the time, the contract didn't release this limitation when he left. The workaround as it turned out was simple though, he was now required to use his full name with the S now added. 1950 saw the courts agree to him using his full name with no fear of litigation from his previous employer.
In 1974 Alberto's wife died, and with her, so did his interest in painting. He did a few minor pieces of work for album covers before his death in 1982,but the works he was best known for were all created prior to 1974.
A Zippo lighter collectible showing a pinup girl and the Vargas name was released in the early 90's, coming in an equally adorned collectible tin. A fact that many Zippo collectors may smile about as Zippo management fumbled the ball on this occasion. The image of the girl on the lighter was actually a piece of work Painted by Enoch Bolles. There are stories around that say she would have been painted by George Petty were it not for the costs involved and Bolles was employed because he came in cheaper, but one thing is to be sure, Vargas was not the artist on this occasion. That said, Windy (as the female character on the Zippo was known), has proved to be as important a Pinup to the Zippo collector as any work Vargas may have created. Although Vargas works may not actually be used on Zippo lighters, early Pinup images are represented in Zippo form by the work of the man he replaced at Esquire (George Petty). Many of petty's artworks having been replicated on collectible lighters. The Petty pinup series of Zippos are not the only ones to be made, but as names go, they are one of the most well known.