"The Unwritten History": Alexander Gumby's African America

Gumby's People > Maurice Hunter


Scrapbook 44:
"Morris Hunter,"
p. [12]

Gumby's inclusion of Maurice Hunter as a scrapbook subject (Gumby misspelled Hunter's first name in the volume title--he was a notoriously bad speller, though self-aware of the issue) is one of the most instructive examples of the drive that motivated Gumby to create the scrapbook project in the first place. While many of the other figures that Gumby documented have remained famous down to the present day, Hunter has largely been forgotten in precisely the same way that Gumby feared might happen to any of the other subjects of his curatorial devotion. Yet during his time and particularly in New York, Hunter enjoyed widespread fame as one of the most prominent artist's model of the 1920s, '30s, and '40s, posing for Charles Dana Gibson, Frank Godwin, and Dean Cornwell, among other noted artists. Illustrations that he modeled for appeared in publications like Cosmpolitan and The Saturday Evening Post, the cover art for numerous books, as well as in advertisements for well-known products like Maxwell House coffee. Hunter was engaged for lengthy periods to model at prominent art schools like the Yale School of Fine Arts and the Pratt Institute, and his fame impersonating a large assortment of characters in myriad costumes was widespread enough that he even had a minor stage career performing pantomime. An adopted New Yorker of South African birth, one of the keys to Hunter's success was his versatility: although he most often served as a model for African, African-American, or Middle Eastern subjects, early newspaper coverage of his fame noted that he was even sought out to serve as a template for artwork featuring white characters.


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