.Since my previous blog of March, I have been able to acquire an even more desirable Nash hood ornament, a 1950-51 flying lady with the signature of the designer imprinted in the cast metal. George Petty was an illustrator of the early 1900s in the vein of Norman Rockwell and Alberto Vargas. Of course, while Rockwell did homey, wholesome art for Saturday Evening Post, Petty and Vargas became famous for their sexy pin-up girls. Petty’s fame grew in the 1930s with his illustrations in the newly created Esquire magazine. In the ’40s his fame as pin-up artist spread as his art was copied onto the nose of military aircraft. The leggy gal on the plane below was perhaps the most famous of many. Notice that her legs are more than half of her total height. While Petty did not invent women’s legs, you might say he reinvented them by stretching them out in his art. (In Playboy magazine, Hugh Hefner did somewhat the same with breasts. His centerfolds of the ‘50s and 60s all featured women with much larger than average bosoms.
Crew of the Memphis Belle with the Petty Girl nose art
Nash Motors was founded in 1916 by former General Motors president Charles W. Nash who acquired the Thomas B. Jeffery Company. Jeffery's best-known automobile was the Rambler whose mass production from a plant in Kenosha, Wisconsin began in 1902. Curiously, the Rambler model name outlasted two manufacturers (Jeffries and Nash) and soldiered on into the 1960s with American Motors. AMC was created in 1954 by the merger of Nash-Kelvinator and Hudson Motor Car Co.
Evidently. Post-war Nash decided that hood ornaments, which often featured animals and made a particular brand or model more distinctive, would be a good marketing strategy for them. Before the war there had been a few Art Deco hood ornaments featuring highly stylized women’s forms, but Nash took this to the next level by commissioning realistic figures bereft of clothing. And who better to design such ornaments than George Petty, creator of the Petty Girl of Esquire and WWII airplane nose art fame? Returning soldiers were generally all familiar with his art work. Nash was clever enough to not only commission several designs by Petty, but also to use his widely recognized signature on the ornaments themselves.
Following the war, Nash automobiles offered optional hood ornaments that featured a female figure posed as if flying down the road with the wind blowing her hair with cape flowing behind her. I have so far acquired only one of these ornaments. Depicted below are a 1950-51 Nash hood ornament and two examples of Petty pin-up art. More hood ornament pictures are available for viewing under the “automobilia” tab of this website.
For more detailed information on George Petty & Nash go to the following websites:
Overview of Petty’s hood ornament work:
New York Times article on George Petty’s pin-up art:
Photo history of the Nash automobile:
I am still trying new show venues to find those that provide the most effective exposure for my works.