Joyce Ballantyne Brand, the artist who created the bare-bottomed Coppertone Girl who came to be regarded as a piece of commercial Americana, has died. She was 88.
Brand, who had recently suffered a heart attack, died Monday at her home in Ocala, Fla., said her daughter Cheri Brand Irwin.
For a model, Brand turned to her daughter, who was 3 in 1959.
“She worked cheap and was convenient,” Brand once recalled. So was the ad’s cocker spaniel, based on her Bronxville, N.Y., neighbor’s dog.
The resulting image showed a pigtailed blond girl with a dog pulling down the bottom of her swimsuit. When it debuted on billboards, it was considered somewhat risque.
As the illustration became synonymous with the suntan lotion, the little girl grew up to endure much teasing about having the world’s most famous tan lines. Yet she came to appreciate what the icon meant to others.
“People tell me how they used to see it on the way to their summer vacation, that it was a symbol of summer,” Irwin told People magazine in 1993.
Brand said she was paid $2,500 for the artworks of the girl and dog -- about $17,000 today -- and $2,000 more when she had to re-create them after the originals were destroyed in a fire.
At first, the billboards carried the slogan “Don’t Be a Paleface.” Later, Schering-Plough Corp., now the maker of Coppertone, used “Tan, Don’t Burn” and other slogans. Over the years, the illustration was also altered for modesty.
As a commercial artist, Brand was credited with creating the baby sleeping on millions of Pampers boxes, and she worked on many national ad campaigns for food and automotive companies. For 20 years, she was also an illustrator for Sports Afield magazine.
Brand never quite understood the Coppertone billboard’s appeal and was mildly irked that it was her most famous work.
“It was hardly the only art I ever produced,” she told the St. Petersburg Times in 2004. “But that’s what everybody remembers.”
Born in 1918 in Norfolk, Neb., and raised in Omaha, Brand made and sold paper dolls for a dollar apiece during the Depression. She attended the University of Nebraska and the American Academy of Art in Chicago.
By the time she was 25, she was drawing pictures for dictionaries and maps for Rand McNally and painting murals for movie theaters. She also learned to fly a plane.
During World War II, one of her college professors -- Gil Elvgren, a well-known pinup artist -- got her a job at a studio known for producing such calendars. Brand’s women “always had some clothes on or at least a towel on,” she said in 2004. Today, her pinups are collectibles.
“She was an icon for women in a man’s world, especially when it came to her pinups,” her friend Ed Franklin told the Ocala Star-Banner. “She was beautiful and used herself as a model for many of the pinups.”
In the mid-1970s, Brand moved to Ocala with her second husband, Jack Brand, a television executive who died in the 1980s. Her first marriage ended in divorce.
In addition to Irwin, Brand is survived by another daughter, Coby Reichstadt of Omaha; two grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Brand never signed the Coppertone artwork, because she thought it was too cartoonish.
Through the years, others claimed credit for it, but Schering-Plough confirmed that Brand was responsible for designing the image that has endured for almost 50 years.