Melissa Duillo-Gallo is a talented former romance cover artist and daughter of the famous John & Elaine Duillo. She now specializes in creating beautiful fine art portraits.
An Artist With Cover Art Pedigree
Daughter of Two Legendary Cover Artists
Melissa Gallo (née Duillo) has been a professional artist since the mid-1970s when she began her career as a successful romance cover artist.
Duillo-Gallo is the daughter of two of the most famous cover artists ever, John and Elaine Duillo. Her father, John, was renowned for his work on pulp and gothic covers. Elaine was a pioneer for female artists, painting many fictional covers, including pulps and Gothics. She had a successful career in romance and was known as “The Queen of Romance Covers.”
Melissa followed in her parent’s footsteps and went on to create over 200 romance covers, many of which featured the iconic Fabio.
Early Life and Education
She came into the world on August 16th, 1955, on Long Island, NY, and grew up in Huntington Station.
During her time at the State University of New York at Binghamton, Duillo-Gallo didn’t pursue any painting projects.
“I’ve been doing this…ever since my mother started me working on samples the summer after my senior year in high school…Aside from what my mother taught me, I really had no art training,”Sun Sentinel: Passion’s Palette
Following her college years, she tied the knot with Richard Gallo and relocated to Italy for his veterinary school. For over two decades, she was the sole provider for her family economically.
Melissa Duillo-Gallo’s artistic eye has been shaped by keenly examining and understanding her surroundings.
“We lived in Milan for six years and had the time of our lives. We went to the Dolomites and the Alps and found little out-of-the-way towns that were having art shows… It was a training period for me aesthetically. I would go into a town and watch how they designed the store windows. Then I’d come home and write in my notebook, ‘They put pale Naples yellow with gray.’ I got a lot of ideas from those six years.”Sun Sentinel: Passion’s Palette
The Evolution of Cover Art
In the 1970s, when Melissa started out in the cover industry, the clinch was popular, but it wasn’t overly sexual. Female characters were usually given a more traditional look.
“It was all very romantic. The women had high-necked dresses with wide-brimmed hats, a look out of the 1890s. When the man touched the woman, it was in a respectful manner, and when they looked at each other it was in a gentle, loving way. There was no cleavage.”Sun Sentinel: Passion’s Palette
That changed in the 1980s after Robert McGinnis began illustrating naked man covers for several authors, notably Johanna Lindsey and Laura Parker.
In the late 1980s, the romance book market revealed some interesting insights: readers chose novels based on how attractive they found the man on the cover. Hence, the rise of the male cover model, starting with Chad Deal, whom both Duillo-Gallo and her mother painted.
Melissa Duillo-Gallo Paints Fabio
She and her mother also painted the most famous cover model of them all: Fabio.
Melissa said of him:
“He started out as a model at the New York studio where my mother and I had always gone for our photo shoots… [He’s] a very sweet man. Most of my covers in the early ’80s are of Fabio because he was the most handsome model. Everybody used him.”Sun Sentinel: Passion’s Palette
Career as Romance Cover Artist
Duillo-Gallo produced about 200 covers for major romance-novel publishers such as Avon, Berkley, Pocket Books, and Zebra.
For most of her covers, the publisher’s art director would give Gallo a description with the details of what the main characters should look like, their clothing, and when and where the story was set. Gallo could choose the color scheme for clothing and the scenery.
She was fond of using eye shadow on the heroines—but not on the heroes, as her mother often did.
Duillo-Gallo was far more conservative in her covers than her mother, who never held back from salacious poses and nearly nude heroes.
“I was upset with her because she started a trend. A lot of covers featuring nudity appeared, but I told my publishers, ‘Don’t ever ask me to do one because I have four little kids at home.”‘Sun Sentinel: Passion’s Palette
Gallo believed graphic nudity went beyond the boundaries of fantasy and reality. Despite her passion for painting, Gallo never really felt at ease with her job as a creator of romance illustrations.
Melissa Duillo-Gallo Today
Duillo-Gallo quit working as a commercial illustrator in the mid-1990s. She then branched out into painting—both water and oils—as well as photography and digital artwork.
Melissa’s paintings are often inspired by her travels around the world. With years of experience working as a paperback romance illustrator for publishing houses in New York & Milan, Melissa has been able to use her creative eye to create stunning digitally mastered oil paintings that bring a sense of beauty and grace to any space.
Along with her fine art photography, she sells her paintings through prints and by commission. Her work has been exhibited in various exhibits. She has taught courses and written many articles about digital oil painting.
The mother of five grown children, Melissa Duillo-Gallo resides with her husband in Florida.