As the venue for over 95% of the fine art sales of his work globally, San Francisco Art Exchange’s mission has been to maintain and further the historic value and impact his paintings, his “Vargas Girls”, have had on 20th century art and culture.
We began as a gallery in 1983 and over the years have made it our goal to acknowledge and praise popular iconography as artistic expression, visual communication and cultural language. The Vargas Girl became an indelible symbol, first in the United States during World War II when Vargas’ painting were called “Varga Girls”. In the years during the war, every month a new Varga Girl would appear printed on her own page in each issue of Esquire Magazine. The pages were torn out of the magazines and pinned up on barracks walls or folded up and tucked into the inside pocket of a flack jacket. The images that smiled back at their admirers became treasured emblems that were eventually reproduced by hand by devoted airmen, soldiers and sailors on the fuselages of aircraft, on tanks and ships, on pilots’ jackets.
Ironically, these American icons were also valued trophies for German soldiers who collected them as they passed through villages where American soldiers had formerly been. The comparable dreams, hopes and aspirations of enemies were expressed in a common language in the form of Vargas’ smiling, kind and non-judgmental Varga Girls.
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We are excited about the incredible opportunity this blog offers us. It allows us to share stories about Alberto, his models, his life and technique, the things he valued and experiences of a career that began before 1920 and carried on until his death in 1982. Having a running dialog with you here is as exciting as it is every day at our gallery and we truly look forward to your comments and questions going forward.
“One day I will paint a picture that can be shown anywhere in the world and, without my signature, people seeing it will say ‘that is a painting by Vargas.’” - Alberto Vargas