James Mellow (1926 – 1997)
“Writing about the past is like attempting to restore an old house: you can never bring it back to what it once was, but you can hope to make it livable again.” – James Mellow
James “Jim” Mellow was born in Gloucester, MA, and graduated from Gloucester High School. He attended college at Northwestern University after spending two years in the US Air Force. In1950, he moved to New York City and started writing on art and literature for the Commonweal, Art News, and Art Magazine were he would become the editor for many years.
During the late 1960’s and most of the 1970’s, Mellow was an art critic and book reviewer for the New York Times, where he wrote many profiles including ones on Gertrude Stein, Picasso, and Jim Dine, which sparked his interest in writing biographies.
Mr. Mellow wrote four biographies: Gertrude Stein and Company (1974), Nathaniel Hawthorne in His Time (1983), Invented Lives: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (1984), and Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences (1992). His biographies were known for their extensive research and historical content, as well as their artist’s view on the artists and their time.
Deirdre Bair of the Times Book Review had this to say about Mellow’s book on Hemingway: “Mr. Mellow’s love affair with Paris is positively tactile. His knowledge of what happened culturally and intellectually during the 20’s is so deep that even the most casual sentence about Hemingway’s life conveys related knowledge of his surroundings.”
James Mellow died in his home in Rockport when he was 71 of a heart attack. His companion of 46 years Augie Capaccion and long time editor Don Fehr finished his last work on Walker Evans after his death.
Personal note: I was lucky enough to know Jim and Augie as they often walked Bearskin Neck. At the time, I had been working at Half Moon Harry, and they would often stop in to see what new works we had in the gallery. Jim was very supportive of the creative spirit, and he understood the hardship of the artist trying to find a voice. The last time I saw him was at a book signing for his Hemingway biography.
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