Who were the Aero Girls?

September 18th, 2013
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Right in time for Chocolate Week, we join in the discussion surrounding the mystery of the Aero Girls. The Borthwick Institute, a research facility based on campus at the University of York, has raised the question (and so do we): Who were the Aero Girls?

Aero chocolate is still made in York to this day by Nestlé, who acquired Rowntree’s in 1988. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s the adverts for Aero chocolate featured photographic images of women, so why did Rowntree’s decide to use images of painted women in print and TV from 1951 to 1957?

Esteemed portrait painters and illustrators of the day such as Anthony DevasHenry Marvell CarrVasco LazzoloNorman Hepple and Fleetwood Walker created the girls’ portraits in oil paint but very little is known about the sitters themselves. Some of the portraits are lost, some are untitled and once again others bear the names of the models. Anna, Audrey, Mary, Nancy, Elaine. Who were these women? What is their story? Are some of them still alive?

In order to present the issue to the public, the free exhibition Who were the Aero Girls? Discovering Hidden Art in the Archives at York Mansion House, St Helen’s Square can be visited from Saturday 12 to Sunday 20 October, from 11am – 4pm.

Nestlé archivist Alex Hutchinson said, “We’re delighted that some of our old treasures are being shared with a wider audience. (…) We’d love to know where the rest of the Aero artworks are now, and what happened to the painting’s sitters?”

For those who just can’t wait until October to get to the bottom of this mystery – you can already get a glimpse of the portraits on the interactive image map at http://borthwickinstitute.blogspot.co.uk.

If any of our readers knows more about the Aero girls, the Rowntree’s advertising history or especially if they themselves were an Aero Girl in the past, please get in contact with The Borthwick Institute.

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