Charles Atlas

Charles Atlas
The New Yorker's "Profiles" essay became justly famous for its unexpected subjects and lively writing. The celebrity of the week for the January 3, 1942, issue was Charles Atlas, the internationally acclaimed muscle-builder. Atlas, as notable for his brilliant public relations and marketing techniques as for his magnificent physique, developed a successful mail-order business for his "dynamic tension" course. He started his career by modeling for such sculptors as Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, and his subsequent willingness to put on exhibitions of his prowess did wonders for his business. He peeled off his clothes at Elsa Schiaparelli's dinner party in Paris, the "Profiles" essay reported, when the hostess asked if it was true that he had a stunning body. The inmates at Sing Sing prison were equally charmed when he demonstrated his strength by breaking iron bars with his bare hands. Atlas always lectured on health and exercise; even Mahatma Gandhi, the article disclosed, solicited his advice.

Charles Atlas 1892-1972
Paolo Garretto (1903-1989)
Airbrushed gouache, ink, and pencil on board, 1941, for New Yorker, January 3, 1942
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

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