A serene and expertly rendered early original pastel from the Jazz Age female illustrator Neysa McMein. This illustration was created as the cover of the October 1921 issue of Woman’s Home Companion.
McMein gained notoriety in the 1920’s and 30’s as an independent, feminist minded free spirit. She roamed with that heavy drinking yet satirically dry group of New York City intelligentsia, the Algonquin Round Table.
McMein used art to counter the stereotypical popular pretty smiling glamour girl imagery. Instead, she portrayed a more gritty idealized confident spirit of femininity. So much, in fact, that present day archivist and writer Norman Platnick titled his reference book The Lady Seldom Smiles: A Collector’s Guide to Neysa McMein.
Pictured in this work is New York City blue blood debutante and silent movie star Mrs. Lydig (Julia) Hoyt.
A bio on the artist from Wikipedia
Neysa McMein (1888-1949) was an American artist.
She was born Margery Edna McMein on January 24, 1888 in Quincy, Illinois. She attended the Art Institute of Chicago and in 1913 went to New York City. After a brief stint as an actress she turned to commercial art. On the advice of a numerologist she adopted the name Neysa, and she thereafter credited the name change with her rapid success.
McMein studied at the Art Students’ League for a few months and in 1914 sold her first drawing to the Boston Star. The next year she sold a cover to the Saturday Evening Post. Her warm pastel drawings of chic, healthy American girls proved highly popular and brought her many commissions.
During World War I she drew posters for the United States and French governments and spent six months in France as a lecturer and entertainer. From 1923 through 1937 McMein provided all McCall’s covers. She also supplied work to McClure’s, Liberty, Woman’s Home Companion, Collier’s, Photoplay, and other magazines, and she created advertising graphics for such accounts as Palmolive soap and Lucky Strike cigarettes.
General Mills’s Marjorie C. Husted commissioned her to create the image of “Betty Crocker,” a fictional housewife whose brand name was intended to be a seal of solid middle-class domestic values.
Alongside a highly successful career as an illustrator and designer, McMein managed a brilliant social life. A lively and unselfconsciously beautiful woman, she became a regular member of the Algonquin Round Table set, with her closest friends including Alexander Woollcott, Alice Duer Miller, Harpo Marx, and Jascha Heifetz. Franklin Pierce Adams, Robert Benchley, Edna Ferber, Irving Berlin, and Bernard Baruch were also among her companions, and her West 57th Street studio was a popular gathering place.
In 1923 she made an unconventionally unrestrictive marriage with John C. Baragwanath, a mining engineer and author.
In 1921, McMein was among the first to join the Lucy Stone League, an organization that fought for women to preserve their maiden names after marriage.
McMein’s more private artistic ambitions lay in the field of portraiture, at first in pastels and later in oil. With the decline in popularity of her style of commercial art in the later 1930s, she turned increasingly to portraiture.
Among her subjects were Presidents Warren G. Harding and Herbert Hoover, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Dorothy Parker, Janet Flanner, Katharine Cornell, Helen Hayes, Dorothy Thompson, Anatole France, Charlie Chaplin, Charles Evans Hughes, and Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin (McMein had been one of the first women to fly in Zeppelin’s dirigible). McMein died in New York, New York, on May 12, 1949.