Artist Neysa McMein

I discovered Neysa McMein through Harpo Marx’s autobiography “Harpo Speaks” and I looked up her artwork. I’ve seen her art plenty of times by reading and collecting 20’s and 30’s magazines but never knew the artist. She was also a member of the famed Algonquin Round Table.

She sold millions of magazines with her covers for McCall’s, Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s, McClure’s, Woman’s Home Companion, Photoplay, Liberty, Associated Sunday Magazine, Ladies World. Ad work: memorably for Palmolive; also Cadillac, Lucky Strike, Adam’s Gum, Coke, Hummingbird Hosiery, Gainsborough Hair Nets, Colgate.

She painted portraits of two sitting presidents, Warren G. Harding, and Herbert Hoover.

She also created the first Betty Crocker and updated her through the years.

 

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Neysa marching in 1917 in a Suffrage Parade.

Harpo Marx said this about Neysa: The biggest love affair in New York City was between me—along with two dozen other guys—and Neysa McMein. Like me, Neysa was an unliterary, semi-illiterate gate-crasher at the Algonquin. But unlike me, she was beautiful and bursting with talk and talent. A lot of us agreed she was the sexiest gal in town. Everybody agreed she was the best portrait and cover artist of the times.

She taught Harpo Marx how to paint and according to Harpo she only had one failing as a teacher: Neysa had one failing as an art instructor. It was, as far as I knew, her only failing, period. That was her passion for fires. If a siren or bell should sound during one of our late-night seminars, that was the end of the seminar. Neysa was such a fire buff that she once dashed to Penn Station and jumped on a train when she heard there was a four-alarm fire burning in Philadelphia.

The Harpo quotes are from his autobiography “Harpo Speaks.”

Neysa died in 1949 and was inducted into the Society of Illustrators’ Hall of Fame in 1984.

To see more of her artwork check out this from Pinterest. 

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Author: badfinger20

Guitar, Bass, song writer,

14 thoughts on “Artist Neysa McMein”

  1. Good artist, I’d never heard of her. I like looking through the vintage magazines of that era for the old ads and of course those covers (as best personified I guess by the Norman Rockwell ones)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Honorary non-com in the Marines, talented painter (something I would love to be), gate-crasher, creator of Betty Crocker and a closet pyro…what a woman. I just read that she and her hubby had an ‘open marriage.’

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes I saw that also…had an affair with Charlie Chaplin…but who didn’t back then. I would have thought she would have been too old for him.
        The Harpo Speaks book really opened up that world to me. Alec, Ruth Gordon, Kaufman…Funny he mentions Dorthy Parker but not much interaction with her.

        Liked by 1 person

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