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Celebrating Illustration, Design, Cartoon and Comic Art of the Mid-20th Century

Female Illustrators of the 50's: Evaline Ness

Monday, August 31, 2009

Every now and then I'm asked about female illustrators of the 50's. Its true that illustration was very much a male dominated profession back in the mid-century period... but there were actually quite a few prominent female illustrators. We've looked a some over the past few years, and this week we'll look at a few more. Unfortunately, as with many of the male illustrators, biographical details are not always readily available. Happily, in the case of Evaline Ness (thanks to a feature article in the January 1956 American Artist magazine) I actually have quite a bit of information.

First, and perhaps most remarkable, Evaline Ness was the wife of famous FBI investigator Elliot Ness.

Before her marriage she was a fashion model... then a fashion illustrator.

Her marriage to Ness lasted only nine years, after which she travelled extensively to Asia and Europe, living for a time in Italy. There she spent 18 months sketching - until her funds were nearly exhausted. When Ness returned to the U.S. she first tried to settle in San Francisco, but found there was not enough work. She returned to New York and received assignments doing fashion, advertising and editorial art.

At a later date, I plan to spend a week on Evaline Ness. For those interested in seeing more of her work right away, a Google Image Search will turn up many examples of her charming children's book artwork.

* My Evaline Ness Flickr set.


  1. And if they ever make a movie about her, Cate Blanchett would be the obvious choice to play the lead. Quite the resemblance.

  2. Eveline Ness's life & marriage to that most infamous of G-men must have shadowed her professionally in ways she probably didn't want...

  3. Wow, yes Rich, you're absolutely right!

  4. The article certainly suggested that, Zach - hence the divorce - but in that typical 50's way, it sort of tries to smooth over those wrinkles.

  5. Charlie Allen3:26 PM

    Nice gentle illustrations, and and a nice sense of humor. Hadn't seen her work. I've mentioned that at Art Center in 1947, classes were at least one third female....maybe more. When I worked in S.F., P&H would interview young artists at four in the afternoon. Maybe one out of 25 applicants were female, if that many. Strange....

  6. I have a nice children's book "Pierino and the Bell"
    illustrated by Evaline Ness. It is a 1966 book I bought
    for my daughters and myself. Very nice woodcut style & good design.

  7. I see Carl Ericksons influence on her in the first image (the hands).

  8. Her work for children looks fantastic, I hope you'll be able to include scans from those in future posts.

  9. That's a great idea, ZackRock. I'll do my best to locate some examples locally... and perhaps Harald will share some scans with us from his 1966 book...?

  10. Harley4:09 PM

    I love the style of the black lines with large areas of wash applied to select places.

    I particularly like how the how the geometric formality of the church contrasts with the loose treatment of Prankster Henry's suit.

  11. Wow, I just did a quick search of Ness's work on Google. Fabulous! She really could handle different media and styles, but yet it all seems to share some common element that is unique to her.





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