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Alberto Vargas papers, 1914-1985

Vargas, Alberto, 1896-1982


Collection Information

Size: 0.8 Linear feet

Summary: The papers of Peruvian born illustrator Alberto Vargas measure 0.8 linear feet and date from 1914 to 1985. The collection is comprised of awards and certificates; beauty pageant judging records; correspondence; a diary from 1915; a notebook and poems; pencil drawings; clippings, magazines, music album covers, and artwork reproductions; and photographs of Vargas, his family, at work related events, and works of art.

Biographical/Historical Note

Alberto Vargas (1896-1981) was an illustrator in Southern California. Vargas was born in Peru and studied in Switzerland. He moved to New York City in 1916, but did not reach prominence until he moved to Southern California in 1936, where he was employed to draw portraits for the major Hollywood studios. He later worked for Esquire Magazine and from the 1950s to the 1970s was a featured illustrator for Playboy . Vargas became famous for his illustrations of pin-up girls and his use of watercolor and airbrush combined. In 1974, Vargas's wife, Ana Mae, died. Her death affected him deeply and Vargas began working infrequently. In 1978, he published an autobiography that revived interest in his work. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Vargas illustrated music album covers for the band The Cars and Bernadette Peters. Vargas died in 1982.


The Alberto Vargas papers were donated in 1986 by Astrid Conte, Vargas's niece.

Language Note

The collection is in English and Spanish. A journal is in German and French.


The processing of this collection received Federal support from the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center.