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Fleur Cowles (1908–2009)

Author of The Best of Flair

Includes the names: Fleur Cowles

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Fleur Cowles was born Florence Freidman in New York City. Her siblings adopted the surname Freeman later in life. She attended high school in Bloomfield, New Jersey, and later the New York School of Fine and Applied Art (now Parsons School of Design). Her father Morris Friedman, a novelty salesman, deserted the family while she was still in school, and at age 15, she became an advertising copywriter for Gimbels department store. She was married four times: to Bertram Klapper, a shoe manufacturer; to Atherton Pettingell, Jr., an advertising executive; to Gardner Cowles, Jr., an heir to the Cowles Media Company -- she kept his surname professionally; and in 1955 to Tom Montague Meyer, a British timber executive. In the early and mid 1930s, Fleur wrote a weekly column for The New York World-Telegram. In 1937, with her second husband, she co-founded the advertising agency Pettingell & Fenton Inc., and served as its executive vice president. She became an associate editor at Look magazine, and a year later, an associate editor at Quick magazine. In 1950, she rose to fame when she launched Flair, an extravagant and innovative magazine that published stories by writers such as W. H. Auden, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Cocteau, Clare Booth Luce, and Tennessee Williams, and illustrations by Picasso, Dalí, Lucian Freud, and Winston Churchill. The 12 issues of Flair that were published between February 1950 and January 1951, when it folded, inspired generations of magazine editors and are now collectors’ items. In 1996, the book The Best of Flair collected much of the material from the magazine. Fleur was a renowned society hostess and friend of many of the world's wealthy and influential people. She also was a painter -- with works peopled by jungle beasts, huge flowers and overgrown birds -- and illustrator of books such as Tiger Flower (1969) and Lion and Blue (1974). She also designed tapestries, accessories, and china. Her memoir, She Made Friends and Kept Them (1996), was filled with anecdotes about the men and women who shaped 20th-century history. With Tom Montague Meyer, she assembled a major collection of art, furniture and sculpture.
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