Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Female Illustrators of the 50's: Mary Mayo

If Barbara Bradley was Charles E. Cooper's reigning "Queen of the Perkies and Cutes", then Mary Mayo must surely be recognized as her opposite number at rival art studio Fredman-Chaite. Despite having some of the hottest talents in New York on their roster (The young Bob Peak, for example) it was Mary Mayo who was chosen to represent F-C on the cover of the first issue of their promotional magazine, Portfolio.

Mayo's painting style suggests she might have trained under the tutelage of Haddon Sundblom, the great Chicago advertising art master responsible for launching the careers of so many other recognized mid-century illustrators.

That's pure speculation on my part, however. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any biographical information available on Mary Mayo, aside from her birth and death dates (1924-1985) at and the tiny tidbit of background info in the F-C Portfolio that Mayo began drawing at age 3.

What's clear is that she was a very accomplished mainstream illustrator who's abilities landed many advertising assignments for the Fredman-Chaite studios.

Whether these projects kept her too busy to pursue editorial work or if it was a conscious decision on her part to focus on advertising is unknown. I can tell you only that she is absent from the story pages of all the hundreds of 1940's and 50's magazines in my collection -- with this one exception below: a 1957 issue of Woman's Day credited to "Mary Mayot" (which has to be a typo).

What quickly becomes evident is that just as Barbara Schwinn's abilities lead to her becoming a specialist in portraiture, clients especially valued Mary Mayo's abilities in illustrating children. "This billboard child epitomizes Miss Mayo's gift for empathy... her ability not merely to express her subject, but to become her subject," says one blurb in the F-C Portfolio, "a quality especially forceful when Miss Mayo is working with children."

And another lists her many high profile clients who praise "the warm, humane understanding of people, their needs and dreams that come to life on the Mary Mayo drawing board."

My Mary Mayo Flickr set.


  1. "Unfortunately my schedule today doesn't allow me to write today's post at the moment."

    Your steadfast daily commitment to this blog warrants you to take a break as long as you need and want.

    And I love Mayo's paint style. It's got that strong luster that I dig. Red ruddy cheeks...thick single brush strokes for the hair...

  2. That style looks so familiar to me. did she happen to do the girl for Sunbeam Bread?

  3. Okay Ellen Segner painted Little Miss Sunbeam for the bread company but I know I've seen Mary's work before.

  4. i love her sense of character and expression! i will be adding her to my collection of favorite illustrators. thanks for posting.

  5. These people were some of the best ever! Thanks for posting this beautiful works.

  6. Anonymous9:58 PM

    I think I own a large oil painting by Mary Mayo (it is signed Mary Mayo). I cannot find any information on an artist by that name, so I thought I would try here. Any clue whether she dabbled in oil? It is a great landscape/seascape of the ocean crashing on rocks with trees on the coast. Thanks! Angela