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Sex sells.

This is a sad fact of life. But while this may be true, when it comes to art, what sells isn’t always what’s best for business.

I’d like to elaborate a bit on a particular point I made in my last post, “The Art of the Pin-up“: That nudity in pin-ups is not only unnecessary, but that it also takes away from the sexiness of the girl.

It’s one thing to understand a concept. I can tell you that clothed pin-up girls are sexier than nude ones. Then I can list all my reasons explaining my point of view. I’ll say that everyone loves a good mystery. That it’s more enjoyable to wonder what’s under her skirt than to just have the goods paraded in front of you.

But sometimes you really need to SEE something to truly get it. You need to witness the concept executed in a practical way. So instead of just telling you that nude pin-ups aren’t as sexy, I’m going to SHOW you.

Vargas Bride1

Here is a classic pin-up girl by Alberto Vargas. A blushing bride nonetheless. And she should be blushing with her breast exposed like that. Technically speaking, this is a gorgeous painting. The girl is beautifully rendered with long, lean legs, slender fingers, and brilliant blue eyes. Her veil is creating a lovely, subtle backdrop for her perfect body, painted with less detail so that the cloth isn’t competing with the main focus of the piece — the girl herself.

Vargas was a true artist. There’s no denying his talent. This painting is breathtaking. From her detailed bridal bouquet and shoes, to her diamond earrings; the soft pinks and whites of the fabric, to the peachy glow of her skin, and the deliciously contrasting black of her hair… it’s a masterpiece.

But as we’re taking in the piece in all its subtle glory, suddenly we become aware of the elephant in the room. That breast. That breast that, for all intents and purposes, shouldn’t be visible.

Study her posture and the position her body is in. Think about the anatomy of the female body and you’ll realize how awkward and unnatural it is for her to be sitting this way, with her breasts straddling her leg. Can she actually sit like this? Yes, but it’s not something that a woman would do naturally. And how simple would it have been to have her breast covered by her leg? It would make more sense, AND it would look better, my bias against nudity aside.

Right here we have the perfect example of something I hate: Gratuitous nudity. Vargas is baring her breast not because it makes sense for the pin-up, but simply because he can. It’s completely forced. It’s one thing to have a nude pin-up that would require a prop or a piece of clothing to hide the nudity. But it’s quite another thing when the pin-up is in prime position to have her lady parts strategically hidden (a key to good composition in this type of art) … and you create a way to show them off regardless.

As I looked at this pin-up, it was so obvious to me that simply covering that breast would take the piece from “eh” to “Wow”. And in an effort to show all of you, I did just that. Here is Vargas’ pin-up with a little alteration.

Vargas Bride2

Now, for my money? THIS is sexy.

This to me, is what a pin-up should be. “Subtle sexy”, as I said in the previous post. The point of pin-up art is to tease the viewer. Pin-ups are not porn. You admire a pin-up girl, you don’t drool over her. She’s not a centerfold. She’s a work of art. To be savoured, not salivated over.

Such a small change, but it makes a world of difference. Pin-ups are about the thrill of the chase. Of getting that little glimpse that makes you want more. Just a bit, not TOO much, but just enough. We can still see her breast, but not all of it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it’s my opinion that the covered version is sexier than the original.

Vargas Bride Before and After

So what do you think? To bare, or not to bare? That’s the breast, er, best question of all.