"Ice Follies"   Lot no. 3516

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By Fritz Willis (1907 - 1979)

1960s (Estimated)
23.5" x 18"
Gouache on Paper
Signed Lower Left



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A well-crafted, stylish, and eye-catching cover painting by the renowned pin up calendar artist and commercial illustrator Fritz Willis. This was used as a cover for a Shipstads & Johnson Ice Follies program in the early 1960s. In many regards Willis was the last of the great American pin up artists; he brought pin up imagery, poses, and styles into the mod era and embraced changing ideals of femininity without being revisionist or nostalgic. In all regards, Willis shone in these yearly Ice Follies commissions as he excelled at costuming and seemed to enjoy capturing the evolving pop culture styles of the moment.

Explore related art collections: Women as Subjects / Pin-Ups & Nudes / $5,000 - $20,000

See all original artwork by Fritz Willis



Fritz Willis attended the Vesper George Art School and gravitated toward the film industry in California. As a handsome young man, he landed some small roles as an actor, including a part in Alice Adams with Katherine Hepburn. Art was his prime interest, however, and he found work at Warner Brothers Studio in publicity and in making compositional set designs. He worked alongside another ambitious young artist, Joe DeMers, and they began to collaborate, often doing parts of the same drawing. They continued the practice after Esquire asked them to create a series of pin-ups for a new “Esquire Gallery” series to which both signed their names. The pin-ups were a great popular success, but eventually the two went their separate ways.

   Willis went on to illustrate for Collier’s, Redbook, The Saturday Evening Post, and for many advertisers, such as Pepsi Cola, Springmaid Cotton Mills, Gilbert Quality Papers, Max Factor, Crown Zellerbach, Rose Marie Reid, and the Ice Follies program covers. He did a fifteen-year series of calendars for Brown & Bigelow, including an “Artist’s Sketchbook” pin-up series. Among his books were instruction titles for Walter Foster publishers, such as Art Shortcuts, Secret to Still-life Painting, and Faces and Features. He also wrote and illustrated a children’s book, Me, Too.