Gillette A. Elvgren attended University High School. After graduation he began studying art at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. He subsequently moved to Chicago to study at the American Academy of Art. He graduated from the Academy during the depression at the age of twenty-two. Elvgren joined the stable of artists at Stevens and Gross, Chicago's most prestigious advertising agency. He became a protege of the talented artist, Haddon Sundblom.
Elvgren was a classical American illustrator. He was a master of portraying the all-American ideal feminine[, but he wasn't limited to the calendar pin-up industry. He was strongly influenced by the early "pretty girl" illustrators, such as Charles Dana Gibson, Andrew Loomis, and Howard Chandler Christy. Other influences included the Brandywine School founded by Howard Pyle.
In 1937, Gil began painting calendar pin-ups for Louis F. Dow, one of America's leading publishing companies, during which time he created about 60 works. Around 1944, Gil was approached by Brown and Bigelow, a firm that still dominates the field in producing calendars and advertising specialties. He was associated with Brown and Bigelow from 1945 to 1972.
Elvgren was a commercial success. Elvgren lived in various locations, and was active from the 1930s to 1970s. His clients ranged from Brown and Bigelow and Coca-Cola to General Electric and Sealy Mattress Company. In addition, during the 1940s and 1950s he illustrated stories for a host of magazines, such as The Saturday Evening Post and Good Housekeeping.