Wednesday, April 20, 2011

James Meese's Favorite Model

I’ve always considered James Meese one of the more under-rated vintage cover artists. He’s perhaps better known today as an illustrator of 1950s men’s magazines but his paperback covers are right up there with the best of them.

Meese was not one of the more melodramatic practitioners of the vintage cover art. His heart was was probably closest to the somber, realistic style of his great contemporary James Avati, but his covers never quite carried the emotional charge of Avati’s. This, along with his lack of a signature style despite proficiency in a variety of settings, may account for his somewhat obscure status in the vintage cover artists pantheon.

In any case, like so many practitioners of the paperback art in the glory years of the 1940s and 1950s, Meese specialized in covers which featured beautiful, frequently dangerous women. His beauties didn’t have the outright glamour of the women portrayed by Barye Phillips or Robert Maguire, or, in the case of Robert McGinnis's covers, the sexiness. Nevertheless, his sensitively wrought portraits revealed subtle insights into character which frequently eluded other artists of the era.

Of all the women which Meese portrayed, he seemed to have a favorite model; she appears again & again in various guises but always recognizable -- tall, brunette [1], with sharp, somewhat chiseled, vaguely exotic features. Quite the mystery woman, and quite the beauty .... does anyone know who she was?

[1] Meese's cover for Kiss Me Deadly is also included below. Although the woman on the cover is blonde she bears a slight resemblance to the model in the other covers and may well be the same person.

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