Maaron (Mabel) Glemby

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Maaron (Mabel, née Miller) Glemby (American, 1907-1997) painter, illustrator and fashion model primarily known for her Native American and South American Indian paintings, illustrations and artwork for travel posters. Mabel Glemby was born January 24, 1907, and her first name is often identified as ‘Maaron Glemby’ on much of her artwork, due to the first initial of her actual first name of ‘Mabel’ in combination with presumably her husband’s first name of ‘Aaron’ (For Aaron Saul Glemby). She typically signed her paintings with either ‘Maaron Glemby’ or sometimes her real name of ‘Mabel Glemby’, which has led to some confusion about this artist over the years, and finding little info about her as a result.

Glemby studied painting with the famous listed portrait painter and graphic designer F. Winold Reiss (German-born American, 1886-1953), known for his portraits of Native American Indians and illustration work for the Great Northern Railway. In the summers of 1934-1935, Glemby studied with Reiss at his art studio in Glacier National Park, Montana. She also traveled to South America on commission from The Grace Line to portray primitive peoples in places such as Peru and Chile, and much of her artwork had been purchased by the Northern Pacific Railway. In addition, she was commissioned by the American Museum of Natural History to paint scenes of Western life and portraits of various Native American Indians, which she also exhibited at the Museum. Many of her Indian portrait paintings from the Museum were included in the May, 1936 edition of the their Natural History magazine in the photo-spread section titled, “Indian Types” (Cover plus pgs. 435-440), as well as used on the cover of the issue—and five of those portraits were also used on the large 1936 Northern Pacific Railway/North Coast Limited travel poster titled “The Indian Country”, which is now rare to find and highly collectible. In June of 1946, she exhibited her paintings at the Churchill’s Pershing Square restaurant, sponsored by M.F. Drinkhouse, president of the Churchill’s restaurant chain.

She enjoyed hunting and fishing, and was known as one of the sharpest female rifle shots in the world and also set a fishing record by catching a 460-pound grouper, according to one newspaper account in 1946. The article also mentioned that she was an honorary princess of the Blackfoot Indian tribe, and it was also purported that she spoke nine different Indian dialects and was once known to have subdued a mountain lion armed with nothing more formidable than a rolled-up copy of the Saturday Evening Post. She interacted and painted many of the assorted Indian tribes such as: Blackfeet, Navajo, Sioux, Apache, Kootenai (AKA Kutenai), Kickapoo, Flathead, Salishe (AKA Selish), Pueblo, Blood and Peruvian Indians.

As a fashion model, Glemby was described as blond, blue-eyed and petite, and was a favorite of world renowned French fashion designer Christian Dior (1905-1957). She would travel to Paris twice a year to model for his New York collections, while also painting in her spare time. She once said that she didn’t care about clothes at all and was more interested in painting the Indians of Peru. She modeled up until the age of fifty, though many had never known her real age, and it was stated that she appeared ageless like many of the younger fashion models. Glemby married the wealthy industrialist Aaron S. Glemby in 1931, noted for his hairnet and hair-goods importing business as well as  beauty salon company called Glemby Co., Inc. that he ran with his brothers (Previously known as Sophia Hair Goods Co.). Mabel Glemby died on June 12, 1997 at the age of ninety in Scottsdale, AZ.

(Written & compiled by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, East Aurora, NY, 14052, meibohmfinearts.com.)

This Vintage Travel Poster was featured in our 2006 exhibition “The Art of Travel”. Please follow the link to our exhibition page to see the Catalog of the Exhibition and additional information.

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