For a model, ten years in the business is impressive. A career that lasts 30 years is worthy of Guinness.
“I had a great run,” says Jane Carlson, who looks as if she still could get modeling jobs. “I think I broke the record.”
It was the classic restless-gal-goes-to-the-big-city tale: Jane was a 19-year-old student at the Massachusetts College of Art when someone suggested she try modeling in New York. She thought it would be a fun and lucrative summer job. Her parents thought otherwise.
“I’d been asking my father to buy me a red convertible,” she says. “He said, ‘Stay in Boston and I’ll buy you a red convertible.’ I told him, ‘I’ll go to New York and buy one for myself.’”
In seemingly no time, Jane landed on the cover of Life magazine (the magazine of the day), which anointed her “the most photogenic model in the United States.” Then came a contract with the Ford Agency and an endless stream of modeling gigs. She was probably relieved to collapse into bed for a few moments of rest in the photo that would become a classic Anne Taintor image (below).
After marrying Byron Carlson, a television spokesperson for Kodak and other brands, Jane settled down to a life of motherhood—and more modeling. In her 30s, she made the switch to T.V. and starred in dozens of commercials. By 1980, she’d had enough and decided to return to her first love: painting. Though modeling paid the bills, art was in her blood. Her great-grandfather David Claypool Johnston had painted a portrait of Abraham Lincoln and her father was a respected photographer. She inherited her easel from her grandmother, who was also a painter.
“If I’m not painting, I’m thinking about painting,” she says. Her watercolors have been exhibited in the U.S. Capitol building and at the National Academy of Design in New York City.
Now in her 80s (though looking much younger), Jane splits her time between Connecticut and Florida. She learned she was a Taintorette when friends started sending her cards with the popular image. “I think, ‘Who is that woman?’ she says of her former self. “It’s like looking at someone else.”
Like many of us, Jane enjoys the great outdoors—to a point. After getting her ideas from nature (the New England coastline is a favorite subject), she moves inside to paint.
“I’m a studio painter,” she says. “I need my radio and my sandwich.” In other words, she loves not camping.