A Woman’s Artist: Olivia De Berardinis

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‘The eyes are the windows to the soul’

As a young girl into my adolescent years, I grew up in a house full of testosterone. Where every Monday night was wrestling night, their favorite war and action movies were constantly replayed, and I clearly remember smelling that distinct odor of sweat and feet coming from the room we once all shared. I would go to school and see my classmates with these little purses, their nails all polished up in bright colors, their lips sparkling from the over use their pink lip gloss and here I was wearing my uncle’s hand me down ‘Bulls’ shirt with a rip in the armpit, and wearing socks that were too big for me. All that changed the night I saw ‘How to Marry a Millionaire’ starting Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable, and Marilyn Monroe. It had been the makeup, the clothes, the way they looked so put together and beautiful that was just mesmerizing. They were the staple of what a real woman should look, act like, feel like. But it was not only beauty that struck me, but it was their confidence as well. It was then my love for the 1940s and the Golden Era came to life. As I grew and started becoming more aware of my sexuality, that’s when I came across Bettie Page. Known as the 1950’s fetish underground Queen of Pin-ups, she had become quite known as the girl you would not bring home to meet the parents. After much of her images were destroyed due to the ban in sexualized imagery, Bettie had disappeared and had been forgotten. It wasn’t until the early 1990’s with the work of Olivia De Berardinis that Bettie made her way back into mainstream and had truly found her home, capturing the eyes and imagination of people once again. What drew me most of Olivia’s artwork towards Bettie was the female expressiveness of it. In each painting that you see, Olivia brings out a certain emotion. It could range from happiness, to playfulness, and her most popular a seduction look. What I love about her work is the use of fantasy, bold colors, emotion, and the richness of being a woman. I find her work very liberating and pleasing to the eye, she uses women with such power and at the same time vulnerability that I personality would want to see in other females like myself.  Her styles are very versatile, Olivia plays with her imagination one minute using a portrait like style the next using more of an expressive approach. She plays with fantasy as well, for example subjecting her muses as mermaids, cowgirls, pirates, hybrid of an animal of sorts, and characters in stories or legends. Throughout the years I have always wondered why Olivia has never willingly painted men, her first and only had been for ‘Dita Von Teese’s Strip Strip Hooray’ tour which showcased a male French burlesque dancer name Romeo. She had drew him as he was performing his act (More of a James Bond kind of act), since then she has never once drawn a six pack again *laughs*.

  • Another question I would have for Olivia is throughout the years she has had many muses, but why does she most often always seem to go back to Bettie Page?
  • Is there something about her that Olivia just finds inspiration from? If so what?
  • And lastly how does Olivia get her inspiration? Where does she get most of her inspiration from?

Since the 90’s her artwork has grown much, just like any other artist, she has changed her technique and style often. I have noticed quite a pattern with her, in the beginning she started with much pigmentation, using bold colors. Then as the 2000’s hit she gathered much of her inspiration and style from Alberto Vargas, a 1940’s pin-up artist who had lived during the war of WW2 and had painted many successful paintings during that era. His paintings depicted women in a full body pose with a plain white background, but the concept had been quite ‘cheesecake’ meaning very feminine. Later Olivia went back to her color, but with this time more aggression, meaning her color was even more apparent. It wasn’t until last year that I had the privilege to see Olivia’s artwork in person. Dita Von Teese had a special gallery in the waiting room (before the seating for her burlesque show) dedicated to Olivia’s artwork of the show. She had paintings of each one of the performers during their acts, but none were more as extravagant as Dita’s paintings. Olivia’s signature color had made a comeback in her paintings that displayed Dita, maybe she found more of an inspiration within Dita? At the end of it all, Olivia is just one of the many artists out there that find their inspiration within women.

“Men admire imagery of women and women admire imagery of…women.”-Olivia De Berardinis

Olivia De Berardinis official website: http://eolivia.com/index.asp

Art Archives fan page dedicated to Olivia’s early work: http://www.arthistoryarchive.com/arthistory/pinupart/Olivia-De-Berardinis.html

Some of my favorite Bettie Page Paintings:





Portrait style paintings:




Expressive style paintings:



Dita Von Teese Strip Strip Hooray Tour paintings:








By Beatriz E. Trujillo


13 thoughts on “A Woman’s Artist: Olivia De Berardinis

  1. Bea, your blog is fantastic! I admire your openness about how you have come to admire the beauty and seductiveness of pin up art. I can imagine the excitement discovering all the fun rights of being a girl/woman. Growing up around a bunch of boys will make you appreciate that even more so. As for Olivia De Berardinis, maybe she has a similar story to yours? But honestly, there is so much more to a woman’s body and beauty than a mans. The curves, woman’s fashion, hair design, make up design and so much more. Personally, I can understand Olivia’s reasons for only wanting to use women for her work!

  2. Something I find very interesting is that a lot of these women in the photos have this glossy air brushed look to them with no flaws and perfect skin tone. They way the women are portrayed, which you described, is how women in modeling today are portrayed. I think this art work might have really played a role in influencing how women are portrayed seductive and powerful today. These paintings are very compelling to look at and beautiful.

  3. I love how your background story makes a connection to the artist and why you admire her work. It is clear that the artist has a vision of a perfect body and face for a female in her eyes, much like Leonardo Da Vinci constantly using “Mona Lisa’s” face on most of his paintings. It makes sense why the artist has so many female followers. Everyone has someone they look up to, an icon or celebrity, etc…In the field of the female beauty, Olivia’s work has gotten fame and still does. The artist not only shows beauty in the paintings, but also empowers the body of the female. In all paintings It is clear that the female is very confident with her body and what she wears. Women are a symbol of beauty and attractiveness, Olivia’s work clearly demonstrates it, as well as inner beauty in self confidence.

    • Oh my god I never thought Olivia’s vision of a perfect woman could be Bettie Page! Just like Leonardo had Mona Lisa, that is awesome! Thanks for the enlightenment 🙂

  4. These are wonderful paintings. I actually prefer the ones with only a touch of color, it adds to the drama of the piece. Although these women are portrayed as strong, the stylings remind me of the Playboy magazine photos of the 1960’s (which never offended me). In my opinion they are sexual but NOT pornographic. Your personal connection is terrific. Raised as a bit of a tomboy myself, I can relate!

  5. I find this work of art very intriging in my opinion. Olivia’s art work definitely captures that time period of the 1960s and 1970s of what beauty and art represented. I guess it is safe to say that she set the bar on what was considered as beauty. Through her art she expressed sexuality and I also feel that she wanted females to be comfortable in their own skin. I noticed her art work displayed an array of emotions through the facial expressions and the bold colors in each piece of art. I also did some research on her and found she did some work with playboy magazine which I found very interesting because her art work goes hand and hand with the image playboy magazine promotes.

    • She indeed does work for Playboy :). She actually got her start doing artwork for men’s magazines in the mid 80’s and her career took off from there :). She quotes working for Playboy, “it’s like coming home.”

  6. Bold choice, I like it. I think that a lot of people would find many of these paintings borderline pornographic, and while they are sexual, it conveys the sexuality in sort of a playful, less “dirty” way, not unlike burlesque. I think Olivia has a knack both for choosing her subjects and portraying them in an alluring manner. And I think with subjects like Bettie Page and Dita Von Teese, you can’t help but come across “retro,” and that definitely increases the cool factor for those of us who look fondly into the past.

  7. I really enjoyed reading your blog post. I’ve always found this time era very interesting and probably a fantastic time in history to live in. It’s crazy to see what was beautiful in women to what people think today. This art is something very unique and enjoyable. I loved your background story and detail. Great blog post!!

  8. Hi Beatriz! 😃

    I wanted to start by mentioning that you did a wonderful job and I really enjoyed reading your blog post. It was stunning. I am not a very artistic person or follow any specific artist or celebrity, but I really like the fact the some people do because they can find some connection with the artwork or the lifestyle of the artist. I loved the way you explained you background during your adolescence life. It reminded me when I was leaving with all my 6 female cousins at my grandmother’s house back in the days while I was the only male, but don’t worry, I didn’t get to wear any girls clothes, make up, or anything from them… hahaha. Instead, due to the long time we spent together, it made me appreciate women even more and it helped me understand them as well, but for some reason, I can still figure out how to understand my wife lol just kidding. I was very pleased to see all the pictures that you put in your blog and I was able to read some of the comments as well. I totally agree with my peers, Olivia De Berardinis is a great artist, and the way she paints women is very powerful. One characteristic that I observed, and maybe someone else already said it, was the way her paintings shows confidence and diversity. By looking at some of her paintings, I was able to see that it is not a just a perfect, skinny, beautiful Caucasian woman, but she also painted African American women and different body shapes, but on all her paintings, it shows self-confidence. It would of be interesting to see more males on her paintings but maybe she had her reasons why she didn’t paint them. Overall, you did a great job and thank you for sharing your story with us.

  9. Thank you for sharing these photos! I love how you tell us in your blog about you came to be the beautiful, strong woman you are today. 🙂 I too grew up as a tomboy so I know how what its like to finally break out of that shell. I always admire people that can paint realistic paintings of people. I think Olivia did a fantastic job of creating realistic paintings of Bettie Page. She definitely captured her beauty. I really love the picture of Bettie Page laying down on the what looks like a bed. The way her hair looks and how she was able to capture every curl just looks so pretty. I also really like the picture before that where she is wearing some sort of maid like outfit. The way that she painted her eyes almost like shes looking right at you. Also In this painting I think she captures her emotion so well.

  10. Love your life story connection in your blog. The art you have picked is really powerful and fun. Olivia’s work is so perfectly structured and painted that some of her pieces look exactly like a picture, not a portrait. Enjoyed the blog and art!

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