Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Helen Liello (1879-1968)

Née Helen A. Green
Born November 9, 1879, Bergen, New Jersey
Died March 2, 1968, Naples, Italy

Helen Liello, daughter of a clerk and farmer, was born Helen A. Green on November 9, 1879, in Bergen, New Jersey. In 1900, she was living in Thompson, Connecticut, with her widowed father, her sister, and her cousin, Clarence Ward. By 1910, she was boarding in Brooklyn and studying music. That was probably the last time a federal census taker found her living in the United States, for she had by 1920 married and begun her travels abroad.

Helen Liello came by her Italian last name by marrying Giuseppe John Liello (1892-1967). Born in Stromboli, Italy, Liello emigrated to the United States in 1901. Settling in Brooklyn, he became a naturalized citizen in September 1919. A budding painter and graphic artist, Liello studied at the Art Students League and applied for a passport in October 1919--only weeks after becoming a citizen--so that he could study art in Holland and France. With him on that trip was his wife, Helen A. Green Liello. The couple would travel to Europe many more times over the next decade.

During that time, Helen Liello wrote. Weird Tales was one of her markets. She sold just one story to the magazine, "For Sale, A Country Seat," printed in the February 1925 issue. (1) Also during the 1920s, she wrote for Young's Realistic Stories Magazine and Breezy Stories, later for The Yellow Book. Many of her husband's works, created in Europe and Africa, date from the same period.

Over the course of her long life, Helen Liello corresponded with her cousin, Clarence Ward (1884-1973). Born in Brooklyn, Ward earned three degrees from Princeton University (the last in 1914) before landing a position in the art department of Oberlin College. In his three decades at Oberlin, Ward built an impressive résumé: teacher, architect, pastor, founder of the art library, chair of the art department, and director of the Allen Memorial Art Museum. Ward retired in 1947, yet Oberlin College still remembers him with its Annual Clarence Ward Birthday Party and Student Exhibition.

A noteworthy artist and a member of the Society of Independent Artists, John Liello died in Florida in April 1967. His last residence was Altamonte Springs. Less than a year later, on March 2, 1868, Helen Liello passed away in Naples, Italy, where she had lived for many years. She was eighty-eight years old. Burial was at the British Cemetery in Naples.

Helen Liello's Story in Weird Tales
"For Sale, A Country Seat" (Feb. 1925)

Further Reading
Helen Liello's correspondence with her cousin Clarence Ward is in the collections of Oberlin College.

(1) The 1925 New York State Census, ostensibly dated June 1, 1925, has John and Helen Liello residing at 261 West 22nd Street, New York. He was an artist, she was a writer.

Giuseppe John Liello and Helen Liello, passport photographs, 1919. Symbolically or not, they are turned away from each other. Did they separate or divorce in later years? 
Rue Tourbet-El-Bey, Tunis (1923), a charcoal drawing by John Liello.
Another work by Liello, from Africa.

Postscript (Dec. 6, 2012): A family member writes that Giuseppe John Liello and Helen Green Liello were indeed divorced and that she returned from overseas, to Brooklyn, and alone, dates unknown. He remarried after that.

Thanks to Randal Everts for locating Helen Green's birth record. Thanks to Alan Husby for a correction to publication dates.
Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley


  1. Giuseppe is actually translated as Joseph (Giovanni is John) Joe Liello was my mother's great uncle.

    1. Dave,

      The name I have used here, Giuseppe John Liello, is the one I have found in various sources, including on the website of Richard Norton Gallery at this URL:

      On that website, his names are reversed as: John (Giuseppe) Liello. I assume that Liello took the name John not as a translation of his given name but as a simple American name to replace an obviously Italian name. I did not mean to imply and hope I didn't imply that "John" is my translation of "Giuseppe."

      Thanks for writing.