Nell Brinkley

(1886-1944) American Illustrator.

Nell Brinkley made a splash almost from the get-go. After two years of art school and an apprenticeship at the Denver Post, this small town Colorado girl made her way to New York, to work for William Randolph Hearst and the New York Evening Journal. A 1908 Denver Post story narrated her entry, as told by Arthur Brisbane, Journal editor. Brisbane wanted to put her to work making comics, then a (relatively) newfangled rage in daily newspapering. Brinkley objected. "But that's not what I came here to do," said she. Brisbane nodded and said, "But that's what we want you to do, little girl, and you must do what we want." Nell replied, "But I won't make comics...I've got a good daddy back in Denver and I'll go back there to him." As it happened, Brisbane relented, though Brinkley would go on to create her name as an illustrative cartoonist, a creator of entertainments.

The anecdote is recounted in Trina Robbins' Nell Brinkley and the New Woman in the Early 20th Century. (McFarland and Company, 2001.) If you have the slightest interest in the subject, track it down.

Nell Brinkley's first big assignment for the Journal involved onsite reportage. She covered the 1908 "Trial of the Century." The proceedings in question concerned the killing of architect Stanford White by Henry K. Thaw–over the honor of Thaw's wife, the beautiful Evelyn Nesbitt, cultural icon and early sex symbol. Nesbitt had worked as a model for the biggest artists of the day, and was reputed to be the model for Charles Dana Gibson's "Gibson Girl," the first it girl of a long line. 

Nell Brinkley–all of 21 years old–joined a battery of female journalists covering the trial, including the Journal's Dorothy Dix. 

Brinkley's drawings of Nesbitt became a sensation. These and subsequent images of fashionable, breezy, curly-haired working girls were dubbed “Brinkley Girls,” and supplanted Gibson's then-current model. 

Brinkley moved to New Rochelle, New York–well-known artist colony and illustrator hangout. (J.C. Leyendecker and Norman Rockwell both operated studios there.) Brinkley also became known for her writing, which took the form of text that accompanied her own column of daily commentary about women, profiles of young women in society, and illustrated theatre reviews. She also drew the covers of American Weekly, for which she supplied her own written and illustrated story series (Betty and Billy, again and again). The stories were overblown stylistically, yet pleasingly romantic.

Nell Brinkley, "The Dark Side and the Fair Side".

Nell Brinkley, print ad for the Nell Brinkley Bob Curler.

Nell Brinkley, "The Honey-Moon: A Wordless Story". 1914.

Nell Brinkley, cover for the Sunday Dayton Journal. July 26, 1936.

Nell Brinkley, "The Adventures of Cupid". American Sunday Monthly Magazine.

Nell Brinkley, "The Adventures of Cupid". American Sunday Monthly Magazine.

Nell Brinkley, "Golden Eyes and Her Hero Bill Over There". Cover of the American Weekly supplement within the Los Angeles Examiner. January 19, 1919.

Nell Brinkley, "Betty and Billy and their Love Through the Ages". Cover of the American Weekly supplement within the Sunday Milwaukee Telegram. April 2, 1922.

Nell Brinkley. 1924.