Creole Cognac, Perfect Popovers, Abu Ben Goulash Sugar Cake and Cabbage Soup. 1970’s nude sketches and recipes from “The Newd Cookbook” featuring Cleo Dorman, perhaps the world’s longest serving nude artist’s model.

Dorman posing, possibly for a class of Louie Ritman at the Art Institute of Chicago
(a nearby notation reads “posing for Louie Ritman’s class – 1942”). Cleo Dorman papers, c. 1930s-1990.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Cover artwork: “The Newd Cook Book; sketched, compiled and published by artists of Torana Art League, Santa Ana, California.” 1971. Cover by Corrinne Shminke.
Cleo Dorman papers, c. 1930s-1990. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

The very little known Cleo Dorman, (1908-1990) was an artist’s model in Los Angeles, California.

The subject of paintings and sculpture by artists ranging from the famous (Sister Mary Corita Kent) to those known best for other talents (Peter Falk and Nelson Eddy), Cleo amassed a small fortune by accumulating some of those works. She would often accept a painting or piece of sculpture in lieu of a fee.

She was born Essie Cleo Dorman, May 16, 1908 and was forced into modeling as a teen-ager by her family’s economic straits. She began work in Chicago in the early 1930s and modelled at a number of art schools, among them the Cranbrook Academy, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Art Student’s League, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, the Otis Art Institue in Los Angeles and at various university art schools.

In a modeling career that extended through six decades, Cleo displayed her supple figure to literally tens of thousands of wanna-be and actual artists. In 1971, she collaborated (at age 63) with artists from the Torana Art League in Santa Ana, California to model for and produce her own artistic work – “The Newd Cook Book” from which the following drawings are (‘scuse the pun) drawn.

Cleo had what is surely the longest nude artist’s modelling career in history. The Smithsonian hold 50 (currently unavailable unfortunately) photographs of Cleo and friends at an exhibition called “Cleo: Fifty Years as an Artist’s Model” held at Otis/Parsons Art Institute, Los Angeles, in 1990, and 3 photographs of Cleo modeling, age 72 in 1980!

“I was like an actress,” said Cleo in a 1989 interview with The LA Times, shortly after she announced she would sell her personal accumulation of art treasures to finance art scholarships for minority students.

“The artists were my audience.”

“My paintings are like my children,” said Cleo who, married and divorced twice, had no children. “When I am on the model’s stand, there is a spirit that comes over me. To be needed after all these years. I cannot think of anything more wonderful.”

Dorman posing, possibly for a class of Louie Ritman at the Art Institute of Chicago
(a nearby notation reads “posing for Louie Ritman’s class – 1942”). Cleo Dorman papers, c. 1930s-1990.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
C R E O L E C O G N A C .
Cleo by Corrinne Shminke.
Cleo Dorman papers, c. 1930s-1990. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
S U G A R C A K E .
Cleo by Jean Horn. Cleo Dorman papers, c. 1930s-1990.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
H O T T O M A T O D I S H .
Cleo by “Grammatica.”
Cleo Dorman papers, c. 1930s-1990. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
V I E R S H L I G O U L A S H F O R 2 .
Cleo by Pauline Falk. Cleo Dorman papers, c. 1930s-1990.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
P E R F E C T P O P O V E R S .
Cleo, unsigned.
Cleo Dorman papers, c. 1930s-1990.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
A B U B E N G O U L A S H .
Unsigned.
Cleo Dorman papers, c. 1930s-1990.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
W A L L Y ‘ S M A R G A R I T A S .
Unsigned.
Cleo Dorman papers, c. 1930s-1990.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
M E R R Y O L D E N G L I S H P U N C H .
Sylvia Paulus.
Cleo Dorman papers, c. 1930s-1990.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
S T R I N G B E A N S .
Cleo by Jean Aber.
Cleo Dorman papers, c. 1930s-1990.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
C H E E S E & B R E A D S O U F L E .
Unsigned.
Cleo Dorman papers, c. 1930s-1990.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
C A B B A G E S O U P .
Unsigned.
Cleo Dorman papers, c. 1930s-1990.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

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