His first big success in the slicks was painting two pin-ups for Esquire. They were bound with 10 other pin-ups by six different artists to form a calendar for 1952: “The Esquire Girls—a dozen visions to give the New Year a beautiful start.” This separately bound calendar was printed on card-stock and was “available at newsstands as both wall & desk sized.” Esquire produced this lucrative special interest publication only for sale during the New Year’s season, and featured it in their January issue to announce its release. Chiriacka’s “visions” were apparently the most beautiful because the following year, he was commissioned to paint all “12 timely toasts” for the 1953 Esquire Calendar Girls, and again in 1954, he painted all of the “12 lovely ladies—plus two for good luck—for the 1954 Esquire Calendar.” These pin-ups were boldly signed “E. Chiriaka,” omitting the second “c” to streamline his name for more pizzazz.
Chiriacka is best known today for his famous Esquire pin-ups. His sultry women have the dignity and proportions of a classic statue of Aphrodite. Unsatisfied with the complete perfection of any single model, the artist would hire as many as six different women to assemble his vision of an ideal beauty. They are as exotic and tastefully costumed as a playful strip tease by Gypsy Rose Lee. Their flesh is sculpted in the artist’s jaunty manner, so his women have a rough hewn earthiness. But the major reason Chiriacka is remembered for his pin-ups is simply because they are the major works the artist signed as “E. Chiriaka.”
Once again, my thanks to Dan Zimmer for granting me permission to excerpt David Saunders' text from his Ernest Chiriaka article in the 8th issue of Illustration. If you enjoyed these excerpts and would like to read the entire article, you can order it here.
*Don't forget, all of this week's images can be seen at full size in my Ernest Chiriaka Flickr set. Next week: When he was bad, he was really bad, but when he was good, he was great. Five of the hottest pieces I've ever seen by Coby Whitmore.