Alberto Vargas, a renowned Peruvian painter of pin-up girls, was born February 9, 1896 in Arequipa. His father was photographer Max T. Vargas and Alberto started out trying to follow in his footsteps. With his fathers encouragement he turned more to airbrushing and painting, studying in Europe, Zurich and Geneva prior to World War I. A French magazine cover by Raphael Kirchner, on a La Vie Parisienne issue is said to be his main influence.
He became a noted artist in the 1940’s with his World War II era pin-ups in Esquire magazine, producing 180 paintings, some which were adapted for American and Allied Aircraft nose art.
In 1959 he began his Playboy career, producing 152 paintings for the magazine in the next 16 years. After his wife died in 1974 he pretty much retired. His autobiography came out in 1976 bringing him out of retirement briefly to do a few works, like The Cars and Bernadette Peters album covers.
He died of a stroke, at age 86, on December 30, 1982. His work was mostly a combination of airbrush and watercolor. His mastery, with the airbrush, is acknowledged by the founding of the Vargas Award awarded every year by Airbrush Action Magazine. Most of his Esquire works are held at the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas.