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 John Rea Neill  (1877 - 1943)

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Lived/Active: New York/Pennsylvania/New Jersey      Known for: book illustration, landscape painting

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Ad Code: 3
John R Neill
from Auction House Records.
Betsy Bobbin and Hank
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
John R. Neill was born November 12, 1877 in Philadelphia, PA, fifth in a family of eight children.  He grew up in Germantown, PA., his father died when he was 10 and his mother managed to keep the large family together and ran the family laundry business.  In 1895, he graduated from the Philadelphia Central High School and enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.  Neill dropped out of school after one semester because he said, "they have nothing to teach me".  In 1896, he worked as "cub reporter" for a Philadelphia newspaper doing sketches in Police Court.  Then moved to the Philadelphia Inquirer where he stayed for three years learning the trade.  He started working at the Philadelphia North American in 1898 and began receiving commissions.

In 1900, he moved to New York City to work for the Evening Journal.  He returned to Philadelphia and the North American in 1901.  In 1902 he married Elsie Barrows on October 7, 1904, and left the North American to work for the Public Ledger.  He was approached by Reilly & Britton to illustrate The Land of Oz.  Because he had so many assignments, Reilly & Britton had to hold three conferences with him before he was persuaded to accept the work.  He set up his studio at "Devil's Half Acre," a reconstructed colonial house in Lumberville, PA.  This is where he illustrated most of the early Oz books.  Neill also had a studio at 1020 Chestnut St. in Philadelphia. 1905.

Neill returned to the North American, where he remained for the next 7 years.  He continued to illustrate the Oz books and others, and developed his contacts for obtaining magazine illustration commissions.  In 1911, he resigned from the North American to freelance full time.  Two years later he moved back to New York City since most of the magazines he was illustrating were located there.  Elsie divorced John in 1915, and they had no children.  (He had been separated in NYC for two years.)  In 1919, he married actress Margaret Carroll, later nicknamed "Mommy Moy".  She was 30 and he was 42.  Over the years they raised a family of three daughters, Natalie, Annrea, and Joan.

In 1925 they moved to Kensington Gardens, Great Neck, Long Island.  The Depression brought hard times for illustrators as magazines and newspapers cut back on the expense of illustration and began to hire mostly photographers.  During the early 1930s the family moved many times.  First they moved south to Palm Island, near Miami, Florida, then for short periods in Townshend, Vermont, then New York City, and Scotland, CT.  In 1936 they bought the 130 acre "old Yaeger farm" on a mountain top in Flanders, New Jersey for $6000.  They renamed it "Endolane Farm,"and he lived there for the rest of his life.  John R. Neill died September 19, 1943 of heart problems at age 65.

Information submitted by Jory Mason, granddaughter of the artist,

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