Contemporary Arts Center
Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center
for Contemporary Art
44 E. 6th Street,
Cincinnati, OH 45202
513 345 8400
Mary Petty (April 29, 1899 - March 6, 1976) was an illustrator of books and magazines best remembered for a series of covers done for The New Yorker featuring her invented Peabody family.
In 1922, Petty graduated from the Horace Mann School in New York City, and five years later she and cartoonist Alan Dunn were married. Petty first sold work to The New Yorker in 1927 under the encouragement of her husband, who had already sold cartoons to the magazine. Her style was characterized by her "gentle satirization of New York City's Victorian era society."
Petty was a naturally reticent person, and while her work began appearing in the lauded new magazine, Petty herself did not come to The New Yorker offices for some time and thus "for a long time nothing at all was known about her—except that she regularly submitted a new and distinctive kind of drawing." Even after becoming a part of the office scene, few knew her well. James Thurber said all he knew of her background was that she "was born in a brownstone house on West End Avenue. Her father was a professor. She did not have a particularly happy childhood. That's all, brother."