Bettie Page as Artist’s Muse

“The story I am about to tell is as much a preservation of history as it is an entertaining recollection of just one of my experiences in New York City,” writes Jack Faragasso in the introduction to his new book, The Early Photographs of Bettie Page. Faragasso, who photographed Page at the beginning of his painting career, had studied at the Art Students League with Frank J. Reilly. Students in Reilly’s class were introduced to photography as a means of creating reference materials for paintings. They were taught to pose a model, light a subject, and develop and process prints that would provide enough information from which to produce a painting.

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Photograph by Jack Faragasso, the basis for the cover art of “Moran’s Woman” by Day Keene

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Photograph by Jack Faragasso

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Photograph by Jack Faragasso

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Photograph by Jack Faragasso

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A detail from a painting of Faragasso’s based on a photograph of Bettie Page

Faragasso’s book documents the events that led to the photo session, as well as the session itself, and includes dozens of photographs of Page, many of which have never been published before. Though Page had not yet risen to her status as a pin-up legend, by the time the photos were taken in 1951 she was a highly sought-after model in New York City, respected for her professionalism. As Faragasso recalls, “She was readily and constantly suggesting poses and ideas along with our own. She was completely at ease with her nudity and posing, none of us were the slightest bit conscious of that fact. We were only aware of her naturalness, and beautifully formed figure. After a few hours of taking various photographs with numerous poses and lighting, we finished our session. Each of us paid Bettie three dollars, amounting to a total of 9 dollars for her modeling for us.”

Though the photographs were not immediately developed into paintings, Faragasso did eventually develop a couple of them into paperback book covers. The new book is available for purchase from Binary Publications.

Photograph by Jack Faragasso, the basis for the cover art of “Moran’s Woman” by Day Keene
Photograph by Jack Faragasso
A detail from a painting of Faragasso’s based on a photograph of Bettie Page

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