Mike Ludlow is an American illustrator of no small talent. Although his artistic skills are varied (he spent much of his career crafting wonderfully clean and detailed advertisements) his deft hand with the ‘pin-up girl’ is where his great gift becomes apparent. For many years he painted the widely popular Esquire pin-up girls– completing the entire 12 month calender in 1957 by himself. Biographical details on this American Icon are very difficult to find, though I located tributes to Mr. Ludlow on various specialty blogs like my own (see bottom of post).
Here is what I borrowed: (Thanks KillerCoversofTheWeek!)
According to a brief biography from The Great American Pin-Up (1996), by Charles G. Martignette and Louis K. Meisel:
Ludlow was a glamour illustrator who did much pin-up work in the late 1950s for Esquire. He painted the entire twelve-page calendar for 1957–the last published by the magazine. His pin-ups also appeared in the series of three-page centerfolds known as Esquire’s Lady Fair. For these works, Ludlow often called on actresses like Virginia Mayo and popular personalities like Betsy Von Furstenberg in addition to professional models.
Besides painting his Esquire pin-ups, Ludlow had another entire career as an illustrator of romance articles, providing pictures of beautiful women to mainstream magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, Good Housekeeping, Collier’s, and Family Circle. From 1950 to 1960, he also painted many front covers for paperback novels, including among his clients Pocket Books, Dell Books, and Bantam Books. All his paperback covers had a strong air of sensuality and featured sexy pin-up girls as the main figures.
Ludlow was born in 1921 and grew up in Buffalo, New York. He attended the Art Students League, where he studied with William McNulty. His first commercial art assignment, for the Sunday supplement of the [New York] Journal American, came in 1948. From the beginning, Ludlow has specialized in glamorous subjects and made beautiful women his trademark.
The title image for this article was the very first that I’d seen of Ludlow’s work, and I was instantly captured. Whenever I look at it, I always want to know what she’s saying, but I simultaneously feel that somehow it won’t matter–it’s too late anyway. He’s one of my favorite noir artists, and it’s a shame that he isn’t more widely known.