KEARNEY — Most known for her iconic 1959 Coppertone advertisement, Joyce Ballantyne had a career as an illustrator and artist spanning over six decades.
Born in Norfolk and raised in Omaha, Ballantyne’s artistic endeavors ranged from creating calendar pin-up images and illustrations for Sports Afield magazine for nearly 20 years to painting murals in local theaters.
The bare-bottomed Coppertone Girl painting shows a black puppy pulling on a little girl’s swim trunk bottoms. It was still featured in ads in the 1960s and 1970s.
The Museum of Nebraska Art in Kearney will spotlight Ballantyne through Feb. 16, 2020.
In 1932, the midst of the Depression Era, Ballantyne’s father, who owned a movie theater, incorporated The Ballantyne Co., leading to family prominence, wealth and continued business name recognition into the 21st century. The company began as manufacturers of sound and air conditioning equipment for movie theaters.
After World War II, it began providing all the necessary equipment from fryers to food service and hundreds of film developers across the country for drive-in theaters.
In 1941, when family friends bought the Empress Theatre in Kearney after a fire, they asked Joyce to paint murals for the building. Agreeing, she spent time on site and painted Indian Encampment and Wagon Train for the newly renovated and renamed Fort Theater.
While enrolled at the University of Omaha, and showing a work ethic tied to making money from her youth, she sold handmade paper dolls for a dollar apiece.
At the age of 23, Joyce married Eddie Augustini, an artist, whom she later divorced. They moved to Chicago, where she studied commercial art for two years at the American Academy of Art.
She joined Kling Studios, which had been founded in 1934 and was one of the most prestigious illustration art firms in the United States. She also painted road maps for Rand McNally and spent 10 years working for the Stevens/Gross Studio.
Joyce was influenced and then touted by Chicago illustrator Haddon Sundblom (Coca Cola Santa painter) and the circle around him including Gil Elvgren (noted pin-up illustrator). Elvgren recommended Ballantyne to Brown and Bigelow Calendar Co., based in St. Paul, Minnesota, which marketed her work and included a novelty-fold direct mail pin-up brochure and a 12-page “Artist Sketch Pad” calendar.
Described early in her career as a bright young star in illustration art, Ballantyne gained national fame for diverse subjects ranging from pin-up calendar girl images to wholesome Ovaltine ads. She was showcased for the quality of her work and for pioneering pin-up art, which as an art form had been dominated by male illustrators.
She married Jack Brand, a television executive in 1951 when she was 33.
Success continued, including the iconic Coppertone ad, sleeping baby image for Pamper diapers, a series of pin-ups for Shaw-Barton Co. and illustrations in Sports Afield magazine for more than 20 years.
Although illustration art brought her the most attention, she later referred to it as “just another baby ad. Kind of boring.”
Of special interest to her was portraiture, something that became a primary interest during her later years. She received commissions from numerous, well-known people including comedian Jonathan Winters and Gen. John Leonard Hines of the U.S. Army.
* * *
Want to learn more?
For more information, contact the museum at 308-865-8559.