In conjunction with In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States, LACMA offered a lecture by writer Myra Bairstow on Frida's painting El suicidio de Dorothy Hale (The Suicide of Dorothy Hale).
In 1938 actress and art dealer Dorothy Hale plunged sixteen stories to her death from her apartment in Central Park South. Ruled a suicide, playwright and editor of Vanity Fair Clare Boothe Luce commissioned Frida Kahlo to paint a portrait of Dorothy Hale as a gift for her mother.
Intrigued by the painting, playwright Myra Bairstow embarked on a ten year journey of research that led her very far from the story told by Clare Boothe Luce to a Frida Kahlo biographer. Apparently, Clare could not have been in touch with Dorothy's mother as she was long deceased. Also it seems that Harry Hopkins, advisor to President Roosevelt and ex boyfriend of Dorothy's, seems to have been involved in covering up details after she died. To learn more about what she found, please visit http://www.dorothyhale.com.
When Clare received the painting she had commissioned of Dorothy, she put it into storage for almost thirty years, eventually donating it anonymously to the Phoenix Art Museum. She also had her name taken out of the writing Frida had put in the bottom of the painting as well as had painted over an angel that was in the top right corner.
Created in oil on masonite with the frame painted, the painting is not much larger than eleven by fourteen inches, but it is extremely powerful. I think Frida was very brave and did not flinch from following her artistic vision, even when painting a commission that I think Clare expected to be very different. This painting is only one of many works at the In Wonderland exhibit that I intend to share, but I felt it merited its own post.
I think Frida is very inspiring, so I am sharing this at Inspire Me Monday. Oh, in case you're wondering, that last image is of an altar to Dorothy Hale created by one of her family members in a Louis Vitton suitcase and that tiny little form to the left of it is the author Myra Bairstow.