The photograph you see across the top of the ZMAS website is one we love, showing Zoë Mozert with one of her paintings sometime in 1959. The photograph was probably taken in Mozert’s studio, given the paint-splattered linoleum floor, and Zoë is likely wearing what she actually wore while working and painting— a shirt with its sleeves rolled up and jaunty collar popped, dungarees, and comfortable moccasins—rather than the blouse with plunging neckline and voluminous sleeves, short shorts, and high heels of “I Must Learn Where to Draw the Line.” She joyously smiles at the viewer, cheekily shielding the breast of her painted nude with an outstretched hand. Her pose is both gleeful and somehow protective of the woman she has painted, her diminutive frame in stark contrast to the enormous painting behind her. Zoë herself jokingly described it as “‘…the world’s largest nude to be painted by the world’s smallest artist. It measured five-and-a-half feet high… which made it seven inches higher than I was!’”
Her agent (and husband), Herbert Rhodes, declared this to be “probably the largest nude in the world.” Painted in only six weeks, the canvas is ten feet long and five and a half feet wide. According to Rhodes, if the figure were to stand up, she would be eight feet tall!
This gigantic nude was commissioned by a Scottsdale, Arizona steakhouse and bar, the Red Dog. Size seems to have really mattered to the owners of the Red Dog, who consistently emphasized their 50-foot bar and “the world’s largest crystal chandelier.” Postcards from the period show Zoë’s nude, nicknamed “Red Dog Rosie,” reclining above the bar, languorously raising a glass to toast the viewer with a knowing smile.
There is a weird nostalgia at play in the promotional and decorative program of the Red Dog, which proclaimed itself to be “the West’s most Western eating and entertaining Show Place,” with “the happy atmosphere of a real ‘Rinky Tink Piano’ and authentic ‘Gay Nineties’ decor” (see verso of postcard below). Amidst the cavernous, modern interior, Colonial Revival club chairs are incongruously clustered around tables and separated by the turned wood of elaborate railings. Rosie herself reclines on a Victorian-inspired sofa or daybed, while potted palms hover over the curves of the sofa’s back. Yet her hairstyle (teased bangs/fringe), plentiful makeup, nail polish, and strappy shoes are all redolent of 20th-century style– an awkward mashup of a mid-century imagining of a 19th-century, always fictional and romanticized “Wild West.” (Similar anachronisms are at work in the 1947 film “Calendar Girl,” for which Zoë provided illustrations and art work– another post on that to come!)
Rhodes included the photograph of Mozert with “Red Dog Rosie” in a letter sent to the Pennsylvania Museum School (now The University of the Arts, Philadelphia), advocating for Mozert to receive an honorary degree. Although she attended the school in the mid-1920s and earned not only high marks but also two different prizes (including the Emma S. Crozier Prize for First year Color and Design in 1926, and the Mrs John Harrison Prize for Modeling [sculpture] in 1928), financial difficulties required her to withdraw before she could complete her degree (she was registered under her birth name, Alice Moser). The Pennsylvania School demurred, leaving Zoë Mozert with many professional accomplishments and commissions but no degree.
Although the Red Dog opened as a steakhouse that offered “nightly dancing,” an archival photograph from the Arizona Historical Society suggests it soon became a “Cowboy Discotheque Go-Go,” with Red Dog Rosie still benevolently looking down on the partiers below.
The Red Dog closed its doors in 1975, but “Red Dog Rosie” lives on. In the 1990s, an Arizona gallery produced a large-scale poster of the work; she now graces the walls of the Stock Exchange Saloon in Bisbee, Arizona.
– Ellery Foutch
Quotation from Zoë Mozert: Marianne Ohl Phillips, “Zoë Mozert: Pin-Up’s Leading Lady,” Tease 3 (1995), 37.
Letter from Herbert E. Rhodes to Pennsylvania Museum School of Art, 1 August 1960. University of the Arts Archives (Alice Moser file). With thanks to Jackie Manni, Office of the Registrar, The University of the Arts, Philadelphia (personal communication, 22 August 2018).
Zoë Mozert’s education and art school prizes (as Alice Moser): Commencement programs from the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art, Philadelphia, 1926 and 1928. Thanks to Sara MacDonald and Lillian Kinney, University Libraries, University of the Arts, for sharing more information about these prizes (personal communication, 23 August 2018).
Arizona History Project: https://azmemory.azlibrary.gov/digital/collection/splrem/id/87/