Charles DeFeo grew up on Madison Street in Wilmington, Delaware. He attended Williams School and Willard Hall. His contact with Howard Pyle was on an informal basis; before he was 16, Charles worked for Pyle at his studio. In his personal reminiscences of Pyle, DNFeo related: My job at that time, was to clean the palette, reset it with fresh color, wash the brushes and take Bijou, his French poodle for a walk. I naturally heard criticisms and quotes because I happened to be fortunate enough to be in the class.
So, early on, DeFeco was exposed to Pyle as an illustrator and Pyle as a teacher. In addition, the young boy came to know many of Pyle’s students.
At 16, DeFeo began his illustration career with a cover for Outdoor Life. By 1909, he was studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fire Arts. Soon after. he moved to New York to study at the Art Students League. The artist continued his studies in Provincetown, Massachussetts, and participated in the artist colony there. In Provincetown, DeFeo met and married Bessie Slade. New York became their permanent home.
Flom 1920 to 1940. DeFeo was very active as an illustrator. Sporting and adventure stories were his most important subjects. DeFeo himself was an avid sportsman and an authority on fishing. The artist also illustrated books, including several by Roderick Haig Brown, with whom Defeo travelled extensively. Yet, adventure sports were net DeFeo’s ony subject; he often illustrated the life of the flapper in Liberty, McCall’s, and Cosmopolitan.
After 1940, DeFeo devoted his time to easel painting, predominately of wildlife.
DeFeo’s style shows a debt to Harvey Dunn, with whom he is reported to have studied. Like Door, DeFeo relied on bold coloration to express the impact of the scene being illustrated.
DeFeo was active in many artist associations in New York, including the American Water Color Society, the National Academy of Design, and the Salmagundi Club. He died in New York in 1978.