Vincent Starrett in Portrait and Profile: The 1920s

A look at some of the familiar, and the more rare, images of Vincent Starrett from various publications of the 1920s, when Starrett was in his late 30s and early 40s.

Published in 1929 in a clothing catalog for the Michigan department store Oppenheim's, this image accompanied an essay entitled "Fashions in Fiction." The essay will be the subject of a future post. I've never seen this handsome profile photograph printed anywhere except in this obscure catalog, so I made it the icon for this blog.

From the January 1926 issue of The Blue Book Magazine, a pulp that ran Starrett's short story "The Zulu Assegai." The photo was taken by Eugene Hutchinson, who also shot the profile image of Starrett that was used for Oppenheim's clothing catalog and is shown on this page. The image quality is not great, but the pulp is printed on very poor paper.


There are a lot of photographs of Vincent Starrett, so we have a good sense of what he looked like from young adulthood to old age. Most of the images on this page have been reprinted, but a few are uncommon.

Starrett had a pretty good idea of his own self image. Here's how he saw himself as told in verse:

Self Portrait by Vincent Starrett

A faintly Jewish, somewhat Spanish visage:

Nose nearly Roman, Hairless lip and jowl,

And shaggy thatch; eyes that incline to prowl

Behind horn spectacles, in gentle quizzage,

Tall, but of proudly curing appetite,

Garments that hang like some grotesque conceit;

Abstracted manner, save when inward heat

Gives off in stream of talk, late in the night.

 

Kindly, indeed, except when roused to rages,

Soothed by tobacco and by skillful cooks;

Fond of the gallant company of books

and villains of all languages and ages,

Withal, a decent chap, who likes the ladies

And daily paves a goodish stretch of hades.

 

The Dying Poet photograph from 1924.

These images come from the 1920s, when Starrett was at the height of his powers as a writer. Although known largely for his mysteries and book reviews, Starrett desperately wanted to be known as one of the nation's great romantic poets.

One of the best known photos from this period was the "dying poet" photograph. Dated to 1924, the picture certainly matches Starrett's hopes of becoming a famous poet. The photograph appears to have been a favorite of his. It was used as the artist portrait for the dust jacket of his mystery novel The End of Mr. Garment, among other places.

When the picture was reprinted many years later in The Last Bookman, Starrett had this to say about the photograph:

Here I look like a dying poet. Dying poets have a habit of becoming famous, but somehow I have defied that tradition.


Finally, two sketches of Starrett, done by Gene Markey, a writer, producer and artist popular in the flapper era in Chicago. Markey's sketches were published in two books: Literary Lights: A Book of Caricatures, published in 1923 by Alfred A Knopf of New York; and Men About Town: A Book of 58 Caricatures, published in 1924 by Covici-McGee Co. of Chicago.

From Literary Lights: A Book of Caricatures by Gene Markey. Starrett is shown carrying a copy of The Wave, a little literary magazine that he edited and which had a spotty publishing history.

A 1924 sketch by Gene Markey published in Men About Town: A Book of 58 Caricatures. The sketch carries the accompanying subtitle: "Mr. Vincent Starrett, after witnessing a performance of "The Fool," throws away his spectacles."