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    Description

    Alberto Vargas (Peruvian/American, 1896-1982)
    Ruth Fallows, Ziegfeld Follies, 1925
    Watercolor on board
    17-1/4 x 14 inches (43.8 x 35.6 cm) (sight)
    Signed and dated lower left

    The portrait of Ruth Fallows by famed pin-up artist, Alberto Vargas, was first seen in public in the January 1964 issue of Playboy Magazine. Fallows was an actress and singer of the New York stage during the 1920's and was later in several minor films of the 1930's. Vargas would have met her when she performed in the Ziegfeld Follies. From 1919 to 1930 Alberto painted portraits of stars under contract with Florenz Ziegfeld. Among his subjects were Olive Thomas, Nita Naldi, Fanny Brice, W. C. Fields, Eddie Cantor, Billie Burke, and many others.

    In addition to scores of paintings Vargas created for the theatre's lobby, he also painted private work posed by various dancers and actresses from Ziegfeld's stage. Among those who posed at Alberto's studio was Ruth Fallows. This 1925 watercolor is one of the most beautiful from the period and remained in the artist's personal collection until he died in 1982.

    In 1960 Hugh Hefner commissioned Vargas to paint one nude per month to be reproduced as a full page in each issue of Playboy Magazine, the last appearing in the 1978 issue. The "Vargas Girl" became one of the most popular features in the magazine and by 1967, the year of the Summer of Love, Playboy was near its peak of global distribution.

    In 1964, Playboy published a multi-page article about Alberto Vargas and his artistic career. Pictured as a full page at the beginning of the article was "Ruth Fallows", a beautiful introduction to Vargas' story. The feature was largely a pictorial that included numerous mesmerizing watercolors from his Ziegfeld Follies and Hollywood periods to his famous pin-ups for Esquire and Playboy. This issue was surely seen and remembered by many, including the Beatles and Sir Peter Blake, most likely inspiring them to include Vargas' portrait of Ruth Fallows in the tableau on the cover of their album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. She can be found in the top row, fourth image from the right.

    As a footnote, Ruth Fallows was 59 years old when her portrait, along with her name, appeared as a full page in Playboy Magazine in 1964. After she discovered this "exposure" her attorney sent a threatening letter to the magazine. The resulting agreement was that Playboy would never again include her name with any publication of the painting during her lifetime. The full portrait, which is not shown on the cover of Sgt. Pepper, was posed by Ruth Fallows wearing a sheer white taffeta gown and a large bow - with her left breast exposed. As a precaution, Vargas titled the painting "Girl with White Taffeta Bow" soon after the episode with Playboy.

    We would like to thank © Theron Kabrich, San Francisco Art Exchange for the above essay and his invaluable assistance in cataloging this lot.


    More information about Alberto Vargas, also known as Vargas, Alberto, Alberto Vargas.



    Condition Report*: Moderate overall discoloration; a few scattered spots of more notable discoloration in background; a tear at top left edge; linear impressions along upper edge - not affecting figure; framed under acrylic.
    Framed Dimensions 29.5 X 25 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2021
    30th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 11
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