Charles Grand DeFeo was born June 9, 1891 in New Castle, Delaware, just south of Wilmington. His parents were of Italian ancestry.
At age sixteen DeFeo apprenticed with Howard Pyle, and then went on to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art.
He moved to New York City in 1912 and worked at an advertising agency, while attending night classes at the Art Students League.
DeFeo's first freelance assignments were interior story illustrations for Cosmopolitan, Liberty, Today's Woman, and McCall's Magazine. He sold cover illustrations to Field & Stream.
Charles DeFeo sold freelance pulp covers to Argosy, Clues, Detective Action, Dime Sports, Knockout, Love Story, The Popular, Railroad Magazine, and Sports Novels.
DeFeo taught at the Grand Central School of Art during the 1930s, at the same time as Harvey Dunn, another disciple of Howard Pyle.
Defeo was too old for military service in WW2. During the 1940's Charles DeFeo illustrated several children's books that were written by R.L. Haig-Brown, such as Return to the River, and Starbuck Valley Winter.
After the war he did a few illustrations for men's adventure magazines such as Argosy, True, and Outdoor Life.
The artist retired in the 1960s, but his hobby of making ornate hand-tied flies for fishermen soon developed into a second career. DeFeo's flies were renowned for their colorful artistry and are now highly prized by collectors.
According to the cognoscenti, "Charles DeFeo developed more techniques and created more salmon-fly patterns and pattern variations than any other tier in the five hundred year history of fly tying. In fact, by popularizing his low, mixed-wing style of tying, enhanced by an uncanny ability to blend colors, DeFeo laid a foundation that would determine the direction of the modern hairwing Atlantic salmon fly."
Charles DeFeo never married. He died in his apartment at 33 West 67th Street on the upper west side of Manhattan, at age 86 on February 6, 1978.
© David Saunders 2009