THE ART OF ZOË MOZERT
Illustration|Illustration No. 73
Zoë Mozert was born Alice Adelaide Moser in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on April 27, 1907. Her father was Fred William Moser, a mechanical engineer of German ancestry, and her mother was Jessie Mable Hatfield of Ohio.
Daniel Zimmer

Pulp cover illustration, 1935. Pastel on board, 21.25 x 18.5. Photo courtesy Heritage Auctions, HA.com

The family name had originally been Motzar, but that was changed to Moser when her grandfather emigrated to America. Her parents married in 1906, and Alice was their first child. It’s been said that she revealed her first artistic inclinations at the age of two when her mother placed a Bible, a silver dollar, and a pencil in front of her. Alice grabbed the pencil and began making marks. She never stopped.

By 1910, Alice’s father was hired to work as a pattern-maker at a metal foundry in Beaver Dam City, Wisconsin. A few years later, the family moved to Newark, Ohio, where Fred Moser founded the Moser Pattern & Foundry Co. in 1914. It was here where sister Helen was born in 1915, and brother Bruce followed in 1916.

Moser Pattern & Foundry Co. merged with the Newark Stamping & Foundry Co. in 1916, a company that manufactured hose clamps for the growing automotive industry. Fred Moser became the Vice President.

In 1921, the family moved to Roaring Brook Township, where Fred had been appointed Superintendent of Scranton Stove Works, after having invented and patented a new design for a cast-iron stove vent. During her teenage years, with growing prosperity, her family could afford to send her to a private girl’s boarding school in Waynesboro, Virginia, called Fairfax Hall.

By 1924, Alice had completed high school and returned to live with her family. She began to study art at the LaFrance Art School, a local trade school also attended by John W. Scott, a fellow student who went on to become a noted pulp artist and a slick magazine illustrator.

From 1925 to 1928, Alice studied at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art, where she took classes with Thornton Oakley in 1927 and 1928. The future pulp artist, H.J. Ward, was also a student in the class. Alice paid for her tuition by modeling at the school, where she most likely posed for H.J. Ward, several of whose paintings from this period portray a woman with strikingly similar features. She began her career as an artist in 1927, working for the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company. She soon began her own window display business.

In 1932, she moved to New York City to look for entry-level freelance work in the magazine industry. Her first illustration jobs were for Bernarr Macfadden’s True Story, who purchased one of her pastel portraits of her sister Marcia for $75.

True Story, October 1933

True Confessions, August 1940

In 1933, she won a scholarship in a talent contest to study at the Art Students League, and from 1934 to 1937, she created many covers for pulp magazines, such as Smart Love Stories, Love Revels, and Night Life Tales.

It was during 1936 that Alice Adelaide Moser decided to adopt the professional name “Zoë Mozert.” According to the artist, her given name was simply too much of a handicap. “I looked through a name dictionary for a new first name and when there were finally no pages leftI settled on Zoë.”

The earliest published use of the name appeared on the February 1936 cover of Modern Romances. The same signature appears on the May 1936 cover of the Street & Smith Co. title, Ainslee’s Smart Love Stories. But even in 1938, when Fawcett featured a series of “Typical American Beauties” on the True Confessions covers, accompanied by inside write-ups about the cover images, some of those images were attributed only to “Mozart, famous pastel cover artist.” It wasn’t until the June 1938 cover that Zoë’s fame had grown strong enough that Fawcett would publish “Zoë Mozert” on the cover.

Fawcett Publications hired her to work full-time as a staff artist on True Confessions, but she continued to freelance in her off-hours. In this way, her work appeared on a wide range of magazine covers, such as American Weekly, Romantic Movie Stories, Romantic Stories, and Screen Stories. At one point, she had nine covers on nine different magazines on the news-stands at the same time.

Zoë was now a prosperous and busy illustrator, and she had grown beyond the low-paying pulp magazine industry. On January 9, 1937, she rented a nicer apartment at 29 West 12th Street, in the fashionable Greenwich Village. By this time her glamorous magazine covers had caught the eye of Hollywood, and she was hired by Paramount Pictures to create the first of her many movie poster designs, this one for the film True Confession starring Carole Lombard.

At this time she also began working in advertising, illustrating for such products as Dr. Pepper, Kool Cigarettes, Irresistible Beauty Aids, Mentolatum, and Raleigh Cigarettes. Central to many of these ads were her pastel portraits of famous movie stars who were paid to endorse the products.

When Zoë got a gig painting cosmetics ads, her brother Bruce and sister Marcia would pose for her. The three were written up in an article published in Click, May 1941, as “The Royal Family of Art”, given that they descended from Robert the Bruce of Scotland. As recounted in the story:

Sister Marcia is known as Marcia Manning when she works as a professional model. She poses for Zoë when the wholesome, pretty girl type is needed. Marcia is also studying dress designing. Since her recent marriage, she also illustrates.

Zoë is lucky to have a brother handsome enough to lend male glamour to her art. “Those lips you love to kiss” in many of Mozert’s calendar paintings are really the lips of her brother Robert, who she says has a more definite, better outline than her own or Marcia’s. Robert is now a photographer in Silver Springs, Florida, where her father assists him and his mother color tints his photos.

With Robert and Marcia as her models, she turns out love-smitten couples who help sell cosmetics to numerous love-hungry girls. Zoë started to use herself and her family as models because she works at night—when models sleep.

True Confession one sheet poster, 1937

True Story, February 1935

True Story advertising card, June 1935

Romantic Movie Stories, June 1936

Screen Book, October 1936

Motion Picture, April 1937

Screen Book, February 1937

Movie poster illustration for The Outlaw, 1943. Pastel on board, 44 x 30. Photo courtesy Heritage Auctions, HA.com

Zoë at work on The Outlaw one sheet poster, 1943

The Outlaw one sheet movie poster, 1946

American Beauty, 1943. Calendar illustration

On February 19, 1940, Zoë sailed on the steam ship Argentine to Buenos Aires, her passport listing her legal name—Alice Adelaide Moser. She had taken a job as a photographer’s assistant, and upon arrival she painted her first nude, using a photo of her friend Swann Marlowe. The picture was hung in Mendelssohn's Gallery in New York two years later. The success of this nude inspired Mozart, at age 33, to take up pin-up art. Studying the work of Petty and Elvgren, she made several more nudes, which she sent to David Smart of Esquire.

“I thought Mr. Smart was terribly handsome and he was attracted to me, too.” Mozert told pin-up historian Marrianne Ohl Phillips when she interviewed the artist for an article in pin-up-centric fan magazine The Betty Pages, in 1991. “You could feel it in the air. Esquire was considering me as a replacement for Vargas and Petty.” While Smart did commission more paintings from her, eventually buying 12 of them, none ever ran in the publication.

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