One of my favourite pinup artists was Minnesota-born Duane Bryers, creator of the famous Hilda, a pleasingly popular and plump pinup girl. Bryers’ background was as interesting as his illustrations. Born in northern Michigan, he excelled at acrobatics as a child. His family moved to Virginia, Minnesota, at 12, and he soon had the neighbourhood gang putting on the “Jingling Brothers circus, complete with burlap-sack sidewalls.
Art had always fascinated Byers, and he decided to make it his life work. He developed his talent for drawing by constantly sketching the immigrant miners and loggers of the region. He discovered in his hometown library the painters he admires: Degas, Innes, Manet, and Homer. He was encouraged by winning a national soap sculpturing contest, the number of positive responses he was given for his snow sculpturing efforts and a giant mural he painted for his High school. The mural gave him enough cash to go to New York in 1940 to plunge into commercial art. In 1943 he won a national war poster competition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). Then came a three-year stint in the armed services, where he created a GI Comic strip.
In 1957 he was chosen to paint Brown & Bigelow’s in-house calendar. In 1958 he created the sensational Hilda.