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Earl Moran (American, 1893-1984)


Birth Place: Belle Plaine, Iowa

Earl Moran (December 8, 1893 - January 17, 1984) was an American pinup and glamour artist. One of the elder statesmen of the famed Brown & Bigelow pack of artists, he is perhaps best known for his images of a young Marilyn Monroe -- a friendship and professional relationship that would thrust both of them into the national spotlight.

Earl Moran was born in Belle Plaine, Iowa. He was inspired by the early work of American illustrators like James Flagg and Charles Gibson. He moved to Chicago to study at the Chicago Institute of Art, then later at the Art Students League in New York City. While there he would soak up knowledge from muralists Vincent Drumond, Thomas Fogarty, and the famed figure portraiture artist, George Bridgman.

These influences would percolate in the mind of Moran as he moved back to Chicago in the 1930s to work as a commercial photographer and illustrator. While he succeeded in his business, Moran grew tired of the repetitive nature of the industry and decided to try his hand in the burgeoning pinup scene. Moran painted a few portraits of young women he knew and sent the results to competing calendar companies. Brown & Bigelow quickly saw Moran’s potential and snatched him up in 1932, signing him to a five-year contract.

Moran’s mature work and technique set himself apart from his peers. Aside from being technically sophisticated, Moran’s models were often posed in non-traditional ways, allowing for a more expressive and honest portrait. His confident brushstrokes and bold tones were extremely popular, and by the end of the decade, Moran had sold millions of calendars. Moran was so in-demand that Life magazine ran a feature article entitled, “Speaking of Pictures” which focused on Moran’s process and led to him becoming a national celebrity in his own right.

In 1941, Moran left Brown & Bigelow to join up with famed pinup magazine publisher, Robert Harrison. Together they launched Beauty Parade, Flirt, Wink, and Giggles. Aside from a truly amazing list of magazine titles, the work proved lucrative and soon Moran moved to Hollywood to paint young starlets for publicity posters. One of his favorite subjects was a young model named Norma Jean Dougherty who would soon become a household name in her own right -- as Marilyn Monroe. Monroe and Moran had a natural rapport and for the next four years Moran would create numerous pastels of her. His Marilyn series is still in-demand and is considered his most valuable work.

Eventually, Moran moved to Los Vegas. In the 1950s, he dedicated more and more time to painting fine-art subjects. He signed with the famed Aaron Brothers Galleries, he did mostly commission work until 1982, finally retiring at almost 100 years of age due to his failing eyesight. Thanks to his prolific career, Moran left behind an extremely large body of work and cemented his legacy as one of the founding fathers of the pinup painters.
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