Bunny and Bettie: The Photographer Who Immortalized a ’50s Sex Goddess

photographer Bunny Yeager
Pinup photographer and model Bunny Yeager Miami Herald—MCT/Getty Images

Bunny Yeager, who died this week, turned from cheesecake modeling to Playboy photographer — and captured Bettie Page in her most incandescent moments

She was your basic gorgeous postwar blond: long-limbed and bosomy, with an inviting smile framed by cascading hair. Getting plenty of work as a cheesecake model (no nudity, please) in Miami in the late ’40s, she was almost Marilyn before Marilyn.

But what Bunny Yeager really wanted to do was direct — go behind the camera to take alluring pictures of other women, usually undressed. So in 1953 she took a night class in photography. Yeager’s timing was exquisite: this was just when a young Chicagoan named Hugh Hefner was making female nudity acceptable to the mainstream with a Monroe centerfold in the first issue of his Playboy magazine. And just when an out-of-work actress named Bettie Page was ready for her glamour closeup.

Jungle Bettie
American pin-up model Bettie Page feeds a young Eland calf while on a modeling assignment at Africa USA, a wildlife park in Boca Raton, Fl. Bunny Yeager—Popperfoto/Getty Images

(READ: Corliss on Bettie Page, the Garbo of Bondage)

Yeager, who died Sunday at 85 in North Miami of congestive heart failure, photographed hundreds of attractive women, herself included. Of these, the most memorable — we have to say iconic — was Page. In New York City, Page “starred” in tatty, furtive 8mm bondage loops (Dominant Betty Dances With Whip, Hobbled in Kid Leather Harness) that her Svengali, Irving Klaw, sold in plain brown wrappers at his Movie Star News shop. But in Miami, under Yeager’s congenial tutelage, Page bloomed as the girl next door with the bedroom shades up, or the beach bombshell with the seraphic grin. Between them, the Blond Bunny and brunette Bettie made nudity look both sexy and healthy.

Born Mar. 13, 1929 (her website says 1930) in Wilkinsburg, Pa., Linnea Eleanor Yeager moved to Miami with her folks when he was 17 and quickly became a favorite of the local photographers. For that night class she took some of her model friends to a Boca Raton zoo and photographed them with the cheetahs — the same milieu that Page would famously pose in, wearing (sometimes) a leopard-print bathing suit.

Bunny and Bettie worked together in 1954 and instantly struck gold: the Jan. 1955 Playboy featured a Page centerfold shot by Yeager. It was one of the first centerfold photos submitted directly to the magazine; Hefner had bought the Monroe nude and most of the following year’s foldouts in a batch for $5,000. He paid Yeager $100 for the Bettie pic.

(READ: How Playboy changed America)

Yeager used Miami sunlight as the accoutrement of radiance for her subjects; they seemed utterly at ease posing a woman every bit as beautiful as they. In retrospect, her work seems a picture of innocence. That’s why it fell out of fashion as Playboy and its rivals went more explicit in the ’70s and beyond. It’s also why Yeager’s reputation recently bloomed, with gallery showings and coffee-table retrospectives. For some admirers, her photos are a flashback to first loves, and first lusts — nudity as the purest form of nostalgia.

TIME Design

Interactive Map: Explore America’s Most Innovative Spaces

From Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater to Walter De Maria’s Lightning Field, get off the beaten path to visit these 24 works of inspired design this summer. See an interactive map of these incredible locations here.



TIME Starbucks

These Are the Most Beautiful, Hand-Drawn Starbucks Cups You’ll Ever See

Gabriel Nkweti Lafitte

Artist and barista Gabriel Nkweti Lafitte spends some 40 hours creating each one

Gabriel Nkweti Lafitte is an artist and barista who works at the Starbucks across from the British Museum in London. He takes the chain’s “name on a cup” policy to the extreme with custom, hand-drawn line art. Some are so intricate they take as long at 40 hours to complete. Starbucks tells Metro U.K. “it’s fantastic how he takes our iconic cup design and makes it his own.” Here are some favorites; there’s full gallery on his Facebook page.

Gabriel Nkweti Lafitte
Gabriel Nkweti Lafitte
Gabriel Nkweti Lafitte
Gabriel Nkweti Lafitte

[Metro U.K.]

TIME museums

The 5 Best Museum Heists in History

Travel Destination: Paris
Visitors take pictures of Leonardo da Vinci 'Mona Lisa' inside the Louvre museum on Feb. 28, 2014 in Paris. Christian Marquardt—Getty Images

Talk about a sinking feeling in your stomach

In honor of International Museum Day, we collected the five best museum heists in history. Just thank your lucky stars you weren’t a museum director during any of these thefts.

1) The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, The United States: On March 18, 1990, two thieves disguised as Boston Police officers demanded entrance to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. They told the guard on patrol that they were responding to a disturbance, then drew him away from the alarm button and asked him to call his partner. The thieves then handcuffed both of them and threw them in the basement, where they duct-taped their hands and feet to pipes.

The bandits then stole around $500 million worth of priceless art, the largest art heist in history. Priceless works like Vermeer’s The Concert, Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee, and Manet’s Chez Tortoni were taken, never to be found again. Empty frames currently hang in some rooms of the Gardner museum where the paintings originally hung, and tourists visit to see the scene of the crime.

2) The Stockholm Museum, Sweden: Armed burglars stole $30 million worth of art by Renoir and Rembrandt from the Stockholm Museum on December 22, 2000. They staged two car explosions nearby to distract police, then a gunman with a semiautomatic terrorized the museum while his accomplishes grabbed a Rembrandt self-portrait and two Renoirs. Then the thieves escaped in a small boat.

3) The Kunstahl Museum, The Netherlands: Romanian gang members stole seven paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Gaugin and Monet in under three minutes from the Kunhstahl Museum in Rotterdam on October 16, 2012. The thieves got away with the artworks, worth more than $24 million, even though they tripped the small museum’s alarm system — probably because the small museum had no guards.

Last year, the mother of one of the alleged thieves claimed to have burned the paintings, perhaps to protect her son from prosecution. Olga Dogaru’s son was the alleged ringleader of the heist, and his and his accomplices had already been arrested. Dogaru first buried the paintings in different locations, then burned them so the police could never find them. The two thieves have been sentenced to 6-8 years in prison.

4) National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico: Robbers stole 140 precious objects from Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology on Christmas Eve, 1985, in the largest heist of pre-Colombian objects in history. The bandits picked a sleepy time when they knew the guards would be distracted by holiday cheer, and grabbed several gold, turquoise, and jade objects, as well as an obsidian monkey-shaped-vase worth over $20 million. Most of the stolen objects were very small and easy to transport, making them especially difficult to track down.

5) The Louvre, France: Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is now the most famous painting in the Louvre, but it wasn’t always that way. In fact, getting stolen might have been the best thing that ever happened to this tiny Renaissance portrait. On August 21, 1911, three Italian handymen hid in a supply closet overnight in order to sneak into the museum and steal the Mona Lisa. One of them, Vincenzo Perugia, was the man who had installed the protective glass over the Mona Lisa in the first place. The theft was all over the French newspapers, since many people feared that German or American businessmen were buying up all the good art from their museums. The painting became so famous that he couldn’t sell it without getting caught. So he hid it in the false bottom of his trunk until over two years later, when he finally tried to sell the painting. Of course, the police showed up, Perugia was arrested, and the painting was returned, more famous than ever.

TIME celebrities

Inside The Surreal World of H.R. Giger, The Maker of Alien’s Alien

Swiss surreal artist H.R. Giger died Monday at 74. The artist was famous for his nightmarish movie landscapes and creatures. See work from the man behind the creature in Ridley Scott's "Alien."


Artist Creates Crayola Crayon Sculptures of Everyone From Darth Vader to Daria

Hoang Tran

He does pop culture icons along with custom-made special requests, and they're all impressively precise

We all knew crayons could be used to draw beautiful art, but who knew crayons could also themselves be art?

Behold Wax Nostalgic, a project which features the work of artist Hoang Tran, who creates incredibly detailed sculptures made from nothing other than good old Crayola crayons.

Tran mainly takes inspiration from pop culture — he’s recreated characters from shows like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad along with those from movies like Star Wars and Beauty and the Beast. He also takes custom orders, which means he could totally create a sculpture of your dog (He sells his work on Etsy).

Tran emphasizes that the sculptures — even the multicolored ones — are made entirely from crayons.

“Painting would probably be a lot easier but I’m a purist and want the entire carving to be made of crayon wax,” Tran told Lost At E Minor in a recent interview. “I don’t want to reveal the exact technique but I basically melt wax from one crayon and carefully apply it drop by drop to the main crayon I’m working on.”

Here are some of our favorites:

Hoang Tran
Hoang Tran
Hoang Tran
Hoang Tran
Hoang Tran



Sotheby’s Sells Secret Miró Works for $9.3M

Miro, Sans titre Sotheby's
Sans titre by Joan Miró Estate of Diane Bouchard/Sotheby's

Sotheby's sold three previously unknown paintings after they were discovered in a vault where they had been hidden for more than 50 years

Sotheby’s sold three previously unknown works by Spanish surrealist Joan Miró this week. The paintings were discovered in a vault where they had been hidden for half a century. Miró had given them to Thomas Bouchard and his daughter Diane. Bouchard filmed Miró for his undistributed documentary Around and About Joan Miró.

The work displayed above sold for $1.3 million at the Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale on Thursday, over two times its highest estimate. Another was sold for $8 million Wednesday night. Altogether, the three works sold for a total of $9.3 million.



Nazi-Era Art Collection Bequeathed to Swiss Museum

Kunstmuseum Bern
The facade of the Kunstmuseum Bern art museum is seen in the Swiss capital of Bern on May 7, 2014. Arnd Wiegmann—Reuters

Officials at the Kunstmuseum in Bern described the gift of more than 1,000 works previously considered lost or destroyed in World War II as both a "delight" and a "burden," due to its abundance of masterpieces and murky ethical implications

Cornelius Gurlitt, son of a Nazi-era art collector, bequeathed his controversial collection of modernist masterpieces to a museum in Bern, Switzerland, according to a statement from the Kunstmuseum.

The vast collection — which includes works by Picasso, Chagall and Matisse — contains some 1300 works previously thought to have been lost or destroyed in World War II, NBC reports, but which were actually hidden in an apartment and home in Austria. Matthias Frehner, director of the Kunstmuseum, released a public statement stating that a lawyer to Cornelius Gurlitt, who died on Tuesday at age 81, contacted the museum with the news that it had been listed as Gurlitt’s sole heir.

Calling it a “bolt from the blue,” museum officials expressed delight with the bequest, while acknowledging its murky legal and ethical standing. The biggest concern is whether the art was rightfully owned by the Gurlitt family or if some of the collection was stolen and sold on the black market. Potential claimants are being directed to a website should they believe that any of the works legally belong to them.

“This magnificent bequest brings with it a considerable burden of responsibility and a wealth of questions of the most difficult and sensitive kind,” the museum wrote in a public statement.




Cornelius Gurlitt, Son of Nazi-Era Art Hoarder, Dies at 81

The House Of Art Collector Cornelius Gurlitt In Salzburg
A name-plate on the door of the house of Cornelius Gurlitt which stands in the well-to-do Aigen district on November 18, 2013 in Salzburg, Austria. Joerg Koch—Getty Images

The son of a Nazi-era art collector died amid an international dispute over ownership of the priceless works

Cornelius Gurlitt, son of a Nazi-era art collector who amassed a stunning collection of modernist masterpieces, died on Tuesday at age 81, the New York Times reports.

Gurlitt died in his Munich apartment, according to his spokesman, who did not provide further details on the cause of his death. Gurlitt underwent surgery for heart problems last year.

Gurlitt’s collection of some 1,280 artworks were seized by German police last year during a tax evasion investigation. The collection includes priceless paintings and sketches by Picasso, Matisse and Chagall. Much of it was classified as “degenerate” art by the Nazis.

[New York Times]

TIME celebrity

Here’s Ai Weiwei’s Selfie with Martha Stewart

The domestic arts diva met up with the artist, political activist and prolific selfie snapper during her recent trip to China

What do Martha Stewart and Elton John have in common? They’ve both taken selfies with Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei, Shanghaiist notes.

Stewart traveled to China this weekend to take part in a women’s empowerment conference where she encouraged women to bake at home, Wall Street Journal reports. “I don’t see why China, with its huge population, wouldn’t have people who enjoy a cupcake,” she said during her third-ever visit to the country, where the majority of homes and apartments do not have ovens.

During the trip, she crossed paths with Weiwei, whose Instagram feed makes a strong case for the use of selfies as an art form.


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