This article is in essence a chapter of a book in progress on the familial relationships between the Schindler and Weston families and their bohemian social circles between 1920 through 1938. For now I plan to end the book in 1938 when Weston married Charis Wilson and built his home in Carmel Highlands and the Schindlers divorced and began living separate lives under the same roof in their iconic RMS-designed Kings Road House. My working title for the book is The Schindlers and the Westons: An Avant-Garde Friendship, 1920-1938. Their fascinatingly interwoven lives and relationships remained avant-garde to the end. As always, I welcome your feedback on any of my pieces.
Taos Pueblo, October 1915. Photograph by R. M. Schindler. Courtesy UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection.
R. M. Schindler in Taos, 1915. Photographer possibly Victor Higgins. Courtesy UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection.
Longtime Edward Weston friend R. M. Schindler “discovered” Taos Pueblo, New Mexico a full two years before the now legendary dowager of Taos, Mabel Dodge Luhan and seven years before the arrival of her muse D. H. Lawrence. Schindler’s images (see above for example) taken on the last leg of his fateful 1915 six-week sojourn to the West Coast to view the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco and Panama-California Exposition in San Diego provided inspiration for his earliest Southern California work including the 1923 El Pueblo Ribera Court in La Jolla, the 1922 Popenoe Cabin in Coachella, a commission obtained through his familial friendship with the Westons, and his now iconic personal residence on Kings Road in West Hollywood on which he began design in late 1921.
“When I speak of American architecture I must say at once that there is none. . .The only buildings which testify to the deep feeling for soil on which they stand are the sun-baked adobe buildings of the ﬁrst immigrants and their successors — Spanish and Mexican — in the south-western part of the country.” (Letter from RMS to Richard Neutra, Los Angeles, California, ca. January, 1921: quoted in E. McCoy, Vienna to Los Angeles: Two Journeys (Santa Monica, Arts & Architecture Press,1979), p.129).
Schindler Residence, 835 Kings Road, West Hollywood. Courtesy UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection.
Akin to the process used in formingg and curing the indigenous organic straw-reinforced clay adobe bricks in Taos, forms for encasing the the steel mesh-reinforced concrete wall slabs for Kings Road were also supported by the construction site’s floor slabs during the curing process. (See above).
“Doc” Martin, and unidentified child, Taos, November 1915. R. M. Schindler photo. Courtesy UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection.
Victor Higgins in his studio, Taos, ca. 1920. From New Mexico’s Digital Collections.
RMS’s visit to Taos was prompted by a letter he received from Chicago friend and fellow Pallette and Chisel Club member Victor Higgins (see above) the previous summer which read in part, “Taos is a very fine place – the layout of the pueblos – and one of the most Indian in character. The pueblo runs four and five stories high and if the primitive appeals to you, you will be delighted.” Higgins concluded that the pueblo is “the only naturally American architecture in the nation today” and that its “strong primitive appeal calls out the side of art that is not derivative.” (Victor Higgins to RMS letter, July 30, 1915. Courtesy UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection. See also Scheine, p. 27).
Letter from “Doc” Martin, Taos to R. M. Schindler, Chicago, November 14, 1915. Courtesy UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection.
Doc Martin, no date, photographer unknown. Image scanned from Edge of Taos Desert by Mabel Dodge Luhan, Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1937, p. 40. (From my collection).
During his spiritual Taos awakening, Higgins showed Schindler around Taos and the Pueblo and introduced him to the now legendary Thomas “Doc” Martin with whom he possibly stayed. (See above). Also having met Martin on her first day in Taos in December 1917, Luhan writes at length about the prominent town gossip in Edge of Taos Desert, the fourth volume of her autobiography Intimate Memories. Martin was so taken by Schindler that he immediately commissioned him to design a personal residence near his beloved Taos where he had lived since 1890. Schindler gathered his design inspiration from the nearby Pueblo he had recently photographed. Schindler had not been back to Chicago a week when he received a brief letter from Martin expressing his anxiousness to view the preliminary design sketches. (See above). Martin referenced the Chicago artists [Walter] Ufer and [Victor] Higgins who had recently made their own discoveries of Taos in the above letter.
Victor Higgins, Summer Day at Taos Pueblo, 1915. From
Dividing their time between Taos and Chicago by 1915, Ufer and Higgins (see above) both exhibited their award-winning Taos work in annual exhibitions at the Chicago Art Institute and were also Pallette and Chisel Club officers. (See above). Their work was also jointly exhibited with the Los Angeles Modern Art Society as early as 1916. (Antony Anderson, “Of Art and Artists,” Los Angeles Times, December 3, 1916, p. IX-12). Higgins was also a member of the Chicago Society of Artists and, like Frank Lloyd Wright and his mentor Louis Sullivan, the Cliff Dwellers Club. Schindler was taking life drawing classes from Higgins and others at the club and frequently attended and participated in club outings and group exhibitions. The activities of the club, which then met at the Athenaeum Building in the Loop (see below), seemed just the ticket for the 1914 emigre from Vienna. (See further below).
R. M. Schindler at an outing of the Pallette and Chisel Club, Chicago, 1915. Photographer unknown. Courtesy UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection.
Ufer and Higgins would both permanently relocate from Chicago and by 1917 become influential members of the Taos Society of Artists. Coincidentally, the inaugural meeting of the Society was in the home of “Doc” Martin about the time Higgins invited Schindler to visit Taos. The two Chicago transplants would also become intertwined within the social circle of Mabel Dodge Luhan shortly after her permanent move to Taos in 1919. (For example see group portrait below and Taos and It’s Artists by Mabel Dodge Luhan, Duall, Sloan & Pierce, 1947 which also featured the work of Ufer and Higgins).
“Ourselves and Taos Neighbors (New Mexico Interior or New Mexican Interior),” Ernest L. Blumenschein, 1931. In the foreground Blumenschein, his wife and daughter. Grouped behind them are Bert Geer Phillips, Oscar E. Berninghaus, Walter Ufer, Leon Gaspard, Victor Higgins, D.H. Lawrence, Joseph Henry Sharp, Kenneth Adams, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Tony Luhan, Mary Austin and others. Courtesy of Stark Museum of Art, Orange, Texas. (From Antiques & the Arts On-line).
Martin Residence, Taos, 1915, R. M. Schindler. Courtesy UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection.
Schindler sent Martin the colorful project renderings (see above and below) a few weeks later along with a four-page letter describing the thought process behind his “monumental” design. One can’t help but wonder if these renderings were painted at the Pallette and Chisel Club. Schindler wrote,
“The whole building is to be carried out with the most expressive materials Taos can furnish, to give it the deepest possible rooting in the soil which has to bear it, but I will avoid by all means to copy a few ornamental forms of any old imported style even if formerly used on the place. The building has to show that it is conceived by the head of the twentieth century and it has to serve a man which is not dressed in an old Spanish uniform.”
Martin Residence, Taos, 1915, R. M. Schindler. Courtesy UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection.
Schindler closed by asking Martin for a safe return of the drawings as soon as he reached a conclusion closing with, “I consider them and the ideas contained therein as my spiritual and material property.” (RMS to “Doc” Martin, 12-14-1915, UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection). The project never came to fruition but Schindler successfully exhibited the drawings in the Thirtieth Annual Chicago Architectural Exhibition in April 1917 (see below) about a year before he finally achieved his goal of working for Wright. The above view of the courtyard was featured prominently as the first illustration following the foreword in the above exhibition catalog and also in the April 1917 issue of Western Architect devoted to the exhibition.
Thirtieth Annual Chicago Architectural Exhibition, Art Institue of Chicago, 1917.
The cosmic forces of Taos eventually brought together the Schindlers, Mabel Dodge Luhan and her husband Tony, Ella Young, Robinson Jeffers, Lincoln Steffens, Edward Weston, the ghost of D. H. Lawrence and others to Carmel in the spring of 1930 providing the nexus for this story.
Tony Lujan, Taos, summer, 1929. Ansel Adams photograph. Collection Center for Creative Photography. ©1981 Arizona Board of Regents.
The news of Lawrence’s untimely March 3, 1930 death in France reached Carmel a few days later. At the time, his early 1920s patron, Mabel Dodge Luhan and her husband Tony (see above), intimates and patrons of the vagabond Lawrence during his Taos sojourns between 1922 and 1925, were wintering in Carmel. Luhan was working on her Lorenzo in Taos manuscript which was written in the form of a novel length letter to longtime Carmel resident Robinson Jeffers (see below) describing her unflagging efforts to lure Lawrence to Taos and their dysfunctional relationship after his 1922 arrival with wife Frieda. Luhan would use her paean to Lawrence to also lure Jeffers into spending many succeeding summers in Taos in an attempt to fulfill her need for a literary champion she could orchestrate to extol the virtues of her beloved region.
Ella Young, Carmel, March 31, 1930. Edward Weston portrait. Collection Center for Creative Photography. ©1981 Arizona Board of Regents.
Luhan and her entourage also included Ella Young (see above), an Irish revolutionary, poet and mystic who captivated everyone she came in contact with. In a piece on the little town of Halcyon a year earlier for The Carmelite, the preferred organ of the town’s avant-garde community, the then creative force and modernist publisher and editor Pauline Schindler wrote,
“Ella Young, the Irish poetess, sits on the doorstep of her cabin on a sunny morning in Halcyon, and tells of strange knowledges. Children understand her deeply; the common intellectual is too much overlaid with incrustations of logical habits. She is like a seer; she feels her knowledges through the symbols which outward life presents. She lives within a reality so intense (and probably so true) that the reality in which most Americans live can be compared to it as the empty carapace of the living animal who has already left it behind.” (Schindler, Pauline Gibling, “Utopia Found,” The Carmelite, March 6, 1929, pp. 8-9. See also my Pauline Gibling Schindler: Vagabond Agent for Modernism (hereinafter PGS) for more on The Carmelite and its contributing editors.).
The Luhan’s likely picked up Young at her home (see above) near the Oceano Dunes on their way to Carmel. Young was also a close friend of Irish San Francisco arts patron Albert Bender whose portrait Weston took in in San Francisco in 1928. (See below). (See The Daybooks of Edward Weston, Vol. II. California, September 9, 1928, p. 72 for details behind the Bender portrait sitting and PGS).
Albert Bender, San Francisco, 1928. Edward Weston Photograph scanned from The Daybooks of Edward Weston. Collection Center for Creative Photography. ©1981 Arizona Board of Regents.
Ella Young aboard Mabel Dodge Luhan’s horse Jocko, Taos, summer 1929. Photographer unknown. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. (See also The Flowering Dusk by Ella Young, Longman’s, Green & Co., New York, 1945, p. 260).
Like Luhan, Bender loved to surround himself with, and cross-pollinate the activities of, artists, poets, musicians, actors, writers and intelligentsia at his legendary San Francisco soirees. Luhan met Young and Weston friend Ansel Adams and his wife Virginia (see above) through another Bender associate, Mary Austin (see below) with whom they stayed during part of their New Mexico visit in the summer of 1929. Young wrote of her introduction to the Luhans and her first of what would become many visits to their Taos compound,
“How did I come to be here? I had no thought of it when my friends, Ansel and Virginia Adams, proposed that I motor with them from Halcyon to Santa Fe in New Mexico where they had the loan of Mary Austin‘s house. I lectured in Santa Fe. Mabel Luhan and her Indian husband, Tony, came to the lecture, and as a result I find myself Mabel’s guest. (See below). She has a houseful of guests: Ansel and Virginia are here, so is Georgia O’Keefe (see portrait and studio photo below), the noted artist, and Rebecca Strand (see below) who works so cleverly in pastel. John Marin, whose fame is noised about America and beyond it, is here too.” (Young, p. ).
Mabel Dodge Luhan House, “Los Gallos,” Taos, 1929. Ansel Adams photo. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
Luhan compound guest artist studio. Photograph by Georgia O’Keeffe, ca. June 1929. Included in a June 3, 1929 letter from O’Keefe to Alfred Stieglitz.Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
Rebecca “Beck” Strand, Taos, 1932. Photograph by Paul Strand.
In letters written on her way back to New York to Rebecca (see above) and Mabel, whom she did not say goodbye to before leaving, O’Keeffe described her painting “D. H. Lawrence’s Tree” (see below) completed during a couple week stay at his Kiowa Ranch with Dorothy Brett,
“…I also got a painting of the big pine tree as you see it lying on that table under it at night — it looks as tho it is standing on its head with all the stars around – Pretty good – for me…” (Letter to Rebecca Strand [James] while on train from New Mexico to New York, 24 August 1929.)
“I had one particular painting — that tree in Lawrences front yard as you see it when you lie under it on the table – with stars – it looks as tho it is standing on its head…” (Letter to Mabel Dodge Luhan from Taos, August 1929. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.).
D. H. Lawrence’s Tree,” Georgia O’Keeffe, Kiowa Ranch, summer 1929.
“Such a nerve-racking experience falls to the lot of the few – to go out with Georgia driving her Ford the first month she had it! Beck Strand had the dubious joy of teaching her and we all watched her lovely silver hair grow more silvery day by day…Finally we recognized that Georgia was destined to become a demon driver!” (Luhan, Mabel Dodge, “Georgia O’Keeffe in Taos,” Creative Art, June 1931, pp. 409).
Taos Pueblo, 1929. Georgia O’Keeffe.
Luhan continues, “She doesn’t make whoopee like other people do, but she makes it just the same. Her whoopee is of the finer nerves, the more poignant vision, awarenesses few others even dream of and perceptions that have to remain esoteric to the majority.” She prophetically ends with, “You better let her come again, Stieglitz.” (ibid, p. 410).
Mary Austin, Taos, 1929. Ansel Adams photograph. From Owens Valley History.
Lincoln Steffens, Carmel, 1929. Edward Weston portrait from Weston’s Westons: Portraits and Nudes by Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr. (From my collection).
Ella Winter, Carmel, 1929. Edward Weston photograph. Collection Center for Creative Photography. ©1981 Arizona Board of Regents.
“Why have we, all of us, foregathered? Why did Mabel suddenly decide that she must see the West Coast? We have slid together like beads on a string! Perhaps it is not wholly by chance. Perhaps there is a design somewhere, a pattern could we disentangle it! Who knows?” (Young, p. 299).
“Composite of ethers, oceans, mountains and plains, we need, for our continued sense of life, to share them all from one time to another; we need occasionally to go from cities of the plain to the high peaks above the clouds lest our mountain cells grow too hungry from living exclusively where the great marketing is carried on. And those who live overlong in the upper ether need, sometimes, the sea and, descending to it, “suffer a sea change,” an alteration of rhythm, a moistening of the tissues after aridity, an expansion of the heart accustomed to beat high but not broad.” (Luhan, Mabel Dodge, “Georgia O’Keeffe in Taos,” Creative Art, June 1931, pp. 407).
John and Molly O’Shea Residence, Wildcat Cove, Carmel Highlands, 1925. Photographer unknown. Image scanned from John O’Shea, 1876-1956: The Artist’s Life as I Know It by Walter A. Nelson-Rees, WIM, 1985, p. 44.
Weston met the Luhans and Young at a get together at the house of John and Molly O’Shea (see above), longtime friends with fellow Irishmen Young and Bender, a week before Lawrence’s death. Of his first encounter with Luhan and her coterie, Weston wrote,
“At the O’Sheas’ Monday late, we met Mabel Dodge Luhan and her Indian husband. One might expect a young, handsome, dashing sort of buck,- instead of the rather stolid, heavy old Indian we met. With them was Ella Young, who impressed me more than any of the party. They will come here today. Sean showed a number of paintings I had not seen. He has a dazzling color sense, and often achieves fine form.” (Daybooks, February 25, 1930, p. 143).
“A night in that house by the sea that John O’Shea’s pictures and Molly’s rose-damasks and blue enamels made so colourful. Firelight glinting on copper bowls and hammered silver, a wind in the twisted cypress trees, a wave-murmur from the cliff-foot. The sound of a strange instrument on which a young composer is playing, fingering the strings of it lovingly: the long-necked rich-voiced instrument that his hands had made. He is singing, or rather chanting, as he plays. He is singing for Molly. She is like a lady in some far-off time. Firelight makes the only colour in her face. Her long straight gown is rose-red.” (Young, p. 329).
Approximate view from the site of the future O’Shea Residence, ca. 1923. To the right, the James Residence, 1922, by Charles Sumner Greene. Point Lobos at the top left.
Dan James, son of D. L. James, 1932, Edward Weston photograph.
Presaging his and Weston’s nearby seminal Point Lobos work, Ansel Adams reminisced of the magical setting of the O’Shea house (see above) on his first visit with Bender in June 1926,
“They lived in a massive home built of local stone and huge timbers. … As the fog lifted, windows were opened and the sound of the sea came over me, different than the mountain magic of the Sierra, but unforgettable.” (Adams, p. 85-6).
“Thursday I went to photograph Molly and John O’Shea, at their Highlands home: real persons both of them! Evidently well-to-do which hasn’t hurt them, indeed they are amongst the few, one might say, whom money has enriched, – added to their inherent charm. I did Molly first, in John’s (or Shawn’s – is that the Irish spelling? – I think not, but like the sound better) studio. She is difficult to work with, camera shy to a degree, – why I cannot see, being a beautiful woman of fine carriage. While working I noted Leda, their police-dog, asleep in a most beautiful posture, and made three negatives, which I look forward to with great interest. After lunch, and cocktails, too many for me not used to drink, Sean (I think this correct) took me to see their rocks. I was amazed at the concentrated drama and strength of that point.” (Daybooks, February 22, 1930, p. 142).
Molly O’Shea, Carmel, May 1, 1929 or February 20, 1930. Edward Weston portrait. Daybooks, p. 119 and/or p. 142. Image scanned from Nelson-Rees, p. 64.
After experiencing the hospitality of the O’Sheas for a few months and shortly before returning to Taos for the summer, Luhan wrote in her “review” of Molly’s homemaking skills in The Carmelite,
“Well I am going to write a review of someone who is not called accomplished in the usual sense of the word, but who is, in reality, very gifted, indeed. A gifted woman is one who sheds a gentle light all around her – and that is what Molly O’Shea does. She knows how to create a pleasant atmosphere by a kind of radiation. Perhaps it is instinctive and comes from her natural kindness – for thoughts are generous and never mean.” (Luhan, Mabel Dodge, “Molly O’Shea, The Carmelite, May 15, 1930).
“Here is one clearly related to the leprechauns and the djinns it seems. Here is one who believes in the fairies. She believes so strongly in the fairies that she convinces others about them. One evening she was lecturing to an extremely sophisticated audience in Santa Fe. Behind her sat Mary Austin, raking the faces before her for possible smiles – ready to deal with them – for she suspected what Ella Young might tell and she feared what might happen. But it didn’t! Ella Young so entranced those listeners – who had heard all other things – with the Fairy Folk that at the end, one world-worn painter rose and asked wistfully, “Miss Young, can you tell us any technique one might employ to develop the faculty for seeing fairies?” Even Mary Austin herself smiled at that. …she is one of the very few of those who are dwellers of two worlds: and is equally at home in each.” (Luhan, Mabel Dodge, “Friend of the Fairies,” The Carmelite, March 5, 1929, p. 5).Edward Weston and Margarethe Mather, “Max Eastman at Water’s Edge”, 1921. Platinum-palladium print, tipped to a mount, signed by Mather and signed and dated by Weston in pencil on the mount, matted, a Museum of Modern Art label on the reverse, 1921. (From Sotheby’s: Photographs from the Museum of Modern Art : April 25, 2001 : Sale NY7632, p. 140. See also my Oceano Dunes and the Westons).
In the same issue Mabel wrote a feature on her and Steffen’s visiting mutual friend and salon-mate and Pauline Schindler idol, Max Eastman (see above), who stating that he would like to come back to Carmel to live for a while. (Luhan, Mabel Dodge, “Max Eastman in Carmel,” The Carmelite, March 5, 1930, p. 7). Also accompanying Luhan’s piece was the poem ”To Max Eastman” by another Luhan New York salon-mate, John Reed. (See below). Coincidentally, the very next issue included a lengthy review of Weston’s exhibition then on display at the Denny-Watrous Gallery. (Lyon, Ernest, “Edward Weston – Creative Artist,” The Carmelite, March 12, 1929, p. 7).
Movers and Shakers, Volume Three of Intimate Memories by Mabel Dodge Luhan, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1936.
The Luhan’s and Ella Young visited Weston again on March 25th after which he entered,
“Mable [sic] Dodge Luhan in, and bought two more heads of Lawrence and one of Jeffers: a nice birthday present. Ella Young with her and I asked for a sitting, because I admire her and because her portraits may sell. Ella Young believes in fairies, – and of course that would appeal to me, anything unorthodox does. I told her that I had slept during most of her talk [at the Denny-Watrous Gallery], but felt that my subconscious self had listened very attentively. She was not surprised, in fact she was pleased, and said this often happened when the subconscious mind wished to especially listen in. This partial understanding of my desire to sleep through important evenings, came to me as I told her of my nap during her talk. I knew she would not mind, or rather would understand and be complimented. ” (Daybooks, Vol. II, March 25, 1930, p. 149. Weston is referring to Young’s lecture at the Denny Watrous Gallery which was reported upon in The Carmelite).
Ella Young, Carmel, March 31, 1930. Edward Weston photograph. Collection Center for Creative Photography. ©1981 Arizona Board of Regents.
Young sat for her portrait (see above) on March 31st. Weston wrote of the occasion, “Then I did that fairy-like person, Ella Young, with good results.” (Daybooks, March 31, 1930, p. 149).
“Galka Scheyer and Michael Schindler have been here and we have seen much of them these two days past. A stimulating contact it has been. Galka repelled me at the very start of our acquaintance but now I find myself wishing she would drop in once more before leaving. She is a dynamo of energy. She would wear me out in a few days,-but insight of unusual clarity, and an ability to express herself in words, brilliantly, forcefully, to hit the nail cleanly, buoys me up for the time. She is an ideal “go-between” for the artist and his public. She and Michael had a two day controversy over one of my prints,whether or no it could legitimately be hung upside down, both of them agreeing that it was stronger upside down but Michael insisting that the objectivity of photography required the print to be shown as originally seen: she protesting the imposed limitation, insisting that no rule should bind one’s freedom of expression. I inclined to Michael’s side, at least in the case of the print in question, fish and kelp, for one cannot get away from objective rendering of perspective and the fish turned upside down gave me a disagreeable feeling of falling out of the print, maybe only because I made the negative. Granted the lines, pattern, etc., became more dynamic reversed, art must be more than pattern, form, for otherwise anyone could learn to compose by rule and be an artist,-which
could never be.” (Daybooks, April 7, 1930, p. 151). (Author’s note: About this time Pauline Schindler wrote a review of Robinson Jeffer’s latest book of poems, “Dear Judas” for Survey Graphic and was busily curating the “Contemporary Creative Architecture of California” exhibition at UCLA which opened on April 20th and traveled to the Denny-Watrous Gallery from May 1st through 15th (See Schindler, Pauline, “Contemporary Architecture,” The Carmelite, May 1, 1930, p. 6). See also PGS for more details.)
Luhan would later use her purchases of Weston’s Lawrence and Jeffers portraits to illustrate Lorenzo in Taos along with one of Tony taken a couple weeks later. (See above). Weston wrote of the occasion, ”Yesterday, lunch with the Luhans. And after, Don Antonio – “Tony” – was persuaded to go out on the rocks with me and my Graflex. I made three dozen negatives, and some brilliant ones.” (Daybooks, April 9, 1930, p. 152). A few days later he wrote,
“I printed a head of Tony Luhan to have ready when they came after proofs. The print was extraordinary, – about the limit in brilliance of chemical quality, and powerful in presentation of the person. I was more than happy. Now Tony is a rather flabby Indian, settled down into a life of ease, well-fed, middle-aged inactivity. In my print, I gave him a heroic strength he does not possess. So when he lumbered in, I got out the enlargement, anticipating at least a grunt of approval. Silence - Well, I thought, Indians are never ecstatic. Mable [sic] Luhan was in the car. We took the print and proofs to her. She responded, exclaiming, “Like a head of bronze.” “How do you like it Tony?” “I don’t like.” “Why?” I ventured at last. “I look too old, – a hundred years maybe.” !!!!! – Collapse of the photographer – ” (Daybooks, April 12, 1930, pp. 152-3).
D. H. Lawrence Special Issue, The Carmelite, March 19, 1930. p. 1. Linoleum cut by W. Johnstone after the 1924 Weston portrait at the beginning of this article. Courtesy Harrison Memorial Library, Carmel.
The news of Lawrence’s passing was felt deeply among the literati of Carmel. Ella Winter wrote in the foreword to a special 16-page Lawrence tribute in The Carmelite (see above) shortly after Lawrence’s death,
“In the afternoon [the day before being notified of Lawrence's death] we had talked about Lawrence at the Jeffers house; Mabel Luhan had told of his days at Taos, of his ranch, of his trips to Mexico and had described his childhood and youth in England.” (Winter, Ella, “D. H. Lawrence, Introduction,” The Carmelite, Special Supplement, March 19, 1930, p. II). See more at Pauline Gibling Schindler: Vagabond Agent for Modernism).
Knowing of Weston’s 1924 meeting and portrait of Lawrence and that other writers then in Carmel had also known him well, Winter collaborated with the group to produce a special 16-page tribute, “D. H. Lawrence.” Weston contributed, “Lawrence in Mexico,” Mabel Dodge Luhan, “The Lawrence I Knew,” Orrick Johns, “Lawrence in Italy,” Jeanne d’Orge, , “Lawrence the Wayfarer,” and Carmelite contributing editor Dora Hagemeyer, “The Lover of Flowers.” (“D. H. Lawrence,” The Carmelite, Special Supplement, March 19, 1930, pp. I-XVI). (Author’s note: D’Orge met Lawrence while viewing a solar eclipse with her husband in Lompoc in 1923. (Better Than Beauty: The Life and Work of Jeanne d’Orge by Jane Wilgress, Park Place Publications, Pacific Grove, 2004, p. 42).
“Lawrence in Mexico,” by Edward Weston, The Carmelite, March 19, 1930, Special Supplement, pp. IX-XI.
Using excerpts from his Daybooks and additional remembrances, Weston cobbled together a fascinating piece (see excerpt above) centered around his impressions of Lawrence and a critique of his The Plumed Serpent which was not very well regarded by Weston’s Mexican circle of friends including the muralist Diego Rivera. In early November 1924 Weston wrote in his Daybook, “D. H. Lawrence, English author and poet, in with Luis Quintanilla. My first impression was a most agreeable one. He will sit for me Tuesday.” (Daybooks, November 2, 1924, Vol. I, p. 101).
“Tomorrow I dine at a luncheon in honor of the United States Ambassador to Mexico. God knows his name – I don’t – but duty calls. In preparation I trimmed the fringe from my trousers and borrowed a hat from Rafael [Sala]. Now to buy a collar and I shall be ready for the fray.” (Monday, November 3, p. 101).
For The Carmelite Weston wrote of his afterthoughts regarding the luncheon,
“I wish I had cancelled my date, and spent the time with Lawrence. But evidently I was considering business before pleasure, and from the condition of my wardrobe, I must have needed business!”
Weston recollected for The Carmelite that Lawrence came to the sitting with his wife Freida and a Miss [Dorothy] Brett who he was given to understand was Lawrence’s secretary. His Tuesday evening Daybook entry read,
“The sitting of Lawrence this morning. A tall, slender, rather reserved individual, with reddish beard. He was amiable enough and we parted in a friendly way, but the contact was too brief for either of us to penetrate more than superficially the other: no way to make a sitting. Perhaps I should not have attempted it; now I actually lack sufficient interest to develop my plates.” (Daybooks, November 4, 1924, Mexico, p. 102)
Weston further recalled,
“My memory carries more than I wrote down [in my Daybooks] about Lawrence: a walk in el bosque de Chapultepec, the famous park, – “woods,” the Mexicans call it, – Lawrence, Tina, and myself, - and certain bits of conversation. His first visit to Mexico not long before had thrilled him, but now he was frankly upset, distressed, – he wished to leave the city for Oaxaca, where he might quietly write. Had Mexico changed, or was Lawrence in a highly neurotic state? Obviously the latter. His resulting book, “The Plumed Serpent,” gave evidence. We read the book aloud during a period of travel through Mexico, a five months trip, which made me see vividly and feel deeply, an itinerary which took us far away from tourist tracks. I recall one place, where the Indians had seen foreigners only once before. So I offer these notes, not as literary criticism, but as my intense reactions against Lawrence’s.”
D. H. Lawrence, Mexico City, November 4, 1924. Edward Weston portrait. Copyright Center for Creative Photography, Weston Collection.
As mentioned earlier, Lawrence liked the two portraits Weston forwarded to him in Oaxaca a few weeks after his sitting, preferring the one seen above. In his grateful thank you letter Lawrence described how they, and other work Weston had shown him, might be published and lead to him becoming better known. He wrote, “Vanity Fair might like some of your less startling nude studies, if you could stand seeing them reproduced and ruined,” and added, “Let me know if I can help in any way.” (See D. H. Lawrence: Dying Game, 1922-1930 by David Ellis, Cambridge University Press, pp. 207-8). In a similar sincere gesture of goodwill, after editing an essay sent to him by his Weston introductor Luis Quintanilla, Lawrence wrote back saying he had received Weston’s portraits and thought them quite good. He wondered whether they might serve for a little article Quintanilla might write “on Mexico, D. F. – and me thrown in – and Weston thrown in – for Vanity Fair.” (ibid, p. 221).
Weston acknowledged Lawrence’s letter in his Carmelite remembrance, “Lawrence wrote a kindly, sympathetic letter from Oaxaca, thanking me for his proofs, the best he had ever had, offering to help me in every possible way with publishers, giving suggestions for business, admitting that he could not apply them himself. Nor could I!”
The Plumed Serpent by D. H. Lawrence, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1926. Jacket Artist: Dorothy Brett.
Weston included in his Carmelite piece numerous quotes from his Daybooks negatively critiquing The Plumed Serpent (see above) after its 1926 publication. The quotes, in synch with the thoughts of his Mexican friends, were originally recorded as he read the book while travelling with Tina Modotti and his son Brett on their commission to photograph Mexican vernacular art for illustration of Anita Brenner’s Idols Behind Altars. (See below).
A related critique of The Plumed Serpent from Weston’s close friend Robinson Jeffers indicates a wide reading and discussion of the book among the Carmel literati. When Jeffers was asked what he thought of the book by Lawrence Clark Powell in a feature story in Westways a few years later, Jeffers replied, “It certainly contains some fine descriptive writing, but I don’t think it comes off. Somehow it’s not real. I mean, I can believe of Lawrence wanting to revive the dead gods, but I can’t believe it of Mexicans.” (Powell, Lawrence Clark, Photographs by Edward Weston, “Robinson Jeffers on Life & Letters,” Westways, March 1934, pp. 20-21, 34-35).
Idols Behind Altars by Anita Brenner, Harcourt Brace and Co., 1929. Frontispiece photo “Hand of potter Amado Galvan” by Edward Weston. (From my collection).
Weston had previously read Lawrence’s Women in Love while in San Francisco in the spring of 1925 and gave the following critique in the Daybooks which he apparently overlooked while writing “Lawrence in Mexico” for The Carmelite.
“There’s too much ‘swooning’ in Lawrence – too much ‘sweat’ and ’surging’ – overemphasis on ‘vibrations’ and ‘anticipations’ – repetitions of ’white fury’ – ‘voluptuous ecstasy’ – ‘sardonic look’ – ‘demonical soul’ – ‘fine hate’ – ‘convulsed moment’ – ‘drugged eyelids’ – the writer of Nick Carter’s Weekly never rose to such melodramatic heights. His characters are overdrawn - for instance, ‘Hermione’ – he’s too anxious to make plain their pathology. Better to write a book of facts and statistics on sex psychology. Lawrence is unrelieved by a single laugh, which might, by contrast, strengthen his drama.
“He is keen indeed – has much to say on ‘love.’ He sees, he feels, he knows: his baring of impulses, his revealment of the cause, the why and wherefor is profound. But in the telling, in the words, he loses by repetition and obvious statement of fact.
“But I do not attempt to criticism of Lawrence! I am indulging in passing thoughts. To me he is a head higher than contemporary novelists that I happen to know. But my reading is limited, so after all I don’t know much!” (Daybooks, April 1925, p. 120)
Mabel and Tony Luhan, ca. 1920s, photographer and location unknown.
In early May Ella Young penned a feature story for The Carmelite on fellow mystic Tony Luhan’s singing and by then legendary drum playing (see above) as a prelude to his upcoming concert at the Carmel Playhouse,
“Tony is a wonderful exponent of this ancient singing art, for he knows the very strange and antique songs of his people, the songs the young folk are beginning to lose and forget. When I first heard this music in Taos, it reminded me of what is known about old Ireland and the earliest civilization there because the whole communal and ceremonial life of the Indians is the same as it was in Taos a thousand years ago, and the very same as the ancient Gaelic civilization, and the ceremonial life was in Ireland a thousand years ago. And this made me feel that this Indian culture is international in its roots – that all cultures may possibly be the same in their beginnings.(Young, Ella, “When Tony Luhan Sings,” The Carmelite, May 1, 1930, p. 5).
“Voice of the Tribes: Tony Luhan ‘Trades’ Songs for His People,” Tony Luhan, linoleum cut by Lane Wood. The Carmelite, May 8, 1930, pp. 1, 6.
The lengthy review of Tony’s performance in the May 8th issue of The Carmelite (see above), discussed a plea for support for improving the plight of the Indians, with which Pauline would certainly have been in agreement, and stated that he performed to a packed audience with the excited children (including the Schindler’s son Mark?) filling the front rows of the theater. Therefore it seems likely that the Schindlers would have crossed paths with the Luhan-Weston circles at one of the numerous gatherings in conjunction with either of these events. Coincidentally Tony’s concert took place while Pauline Schindler’s earlier-mentioned “Contemporary Creative Architecture” exhibition was on view at the Denny Watrous Gallery. It is tantalizing to speculate whether RMS and Tony compared notes on building techniques at the architecture exhibition.
Mabel Dodge Luhan, 1912. Jo Davidson sculpture.
Prominent sculptor Jo Davidson, yet another Luhan early New York salon-mate along with Steffens and Eastman, was also in Carmel at the time for what appeared to have been a “Movers and Shakers” reunion. Davidson had previously done a bust of Mabel in 1912 (see above) as well as one of Steffens and son Peter in Paris in 1926. While staying at the Steffens-Winter household, Davidson was holding court while working on a bust of Jeffers. Winter recalled in her autobiography,
“Mabel was frantic when Jo Davidson chose to sculpt Robin on our balcony (see below) instead of in the house she had especially rented, and sought daily to lure me away from artist and model on any pretext. She would drive by in that domineering Cadillac and peremptorily order me to accompany her uptown – on one occasion to send fourteen telegrams inviting guests to Carmel, only to cancel them the next day. “How boring if they should all show up,” she wailed.” (And Not to Yield: An Autobiography by Ella Winter, Harcourt, Brace and World, 1963, p. 135)(Author’s note: The house Luhan rented was “just across the hollow” from Jeffers’ Tor House. See The Selected Letters of Robinson Jeffers edited by Ann N. Ridgway, 179: To Arthur Davison Ficke, April 19, 1930, p. 171).
Steffens-Winter Residence “The Getaway,” San Antonio Ave. two houses south of Ocean Ave.,Carmel, 1927-36. Winter, p. 148. Note Jo Davidson statue of Pete Steffens in front yard.
Historic Site in Journalism marker in front of “The Getaway.” From Steinbeck Country.
Jo Davidson, Steffens Residence, Carmel, May18, 1930. Edward Weston portrait. From Edward Weston Portraits, essay by Susan Morgan, Aperture, 1995, p. 57. Copyright Center for Creative Photography, Weston Collection.
Ella asked Weston to come over to photograph Davidson at work for an article she was writing for The Carmelite. (See above). Hearing of Davidson’s dislike of his portrait work evoked one his most poignant Daybooks entries. Realizing he couldn’t make a scene and possibly offend his patronage among Carmel’s “movers and shakers,” he waited until the following day to vent his feelings of Davidson’s condescending, boorish behavior,
“…At first meeting I was amused, he had a disarming way, his exhibitionism, his pose, the antics of this droll, pot-bellied, bewhiskered little monkey were really funny. But later when I got a taste of his crude arrogance, not the dignified sureness of one who really knows they are great, – the quiet poise of Jeffers what a contrast between those two men! The real – the artificial! If I had wished to cartoon Davidson, I would have photographed the two heads together, – no intentional caricature could have been more revealing: perhaps I have caught this contrast in the group. … Davidson was jealous of my work, his aggressiveness was a defense. My portraits of Jeffers made his bust of Jeffers look weak. That’s the whole story. He had to keep his exalted position on a shaky pedestal.” (Daybooks, May 19, 1930, pp. 160-1).
Lincoln Steffens. Jo Davidson sculpture. Photographer unknown. Wings, Vol. 5, No. 10, October 1931, front cover.
Lincoln Steffens. Jo Davidson sculpture. From Between Sittings: An Informal Autobiography of Jo Davidson, Dial Press, New York, 1951, p. 86.
Jo Davidson at the Steffens’ home “The Getaway” beside his statue of Pete Steffens made in Paris in 1926. From And Not to Yield: An Autobiography by Ella Winter, Harcourt, Brace and World, 1963, p. 148).
Ella Winter reported on the two-day gathering in The Carmelite a few days later, commenting on Davidson’s recent exhibition at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco which included his bust of Lincoln Steffens (see above) and a life-size statue of their son Peter at two years of age. (See above).
Thus her slant on the comings and goings of Carmel’s writers and artists to view Davidson’s work in progress while regaling his audience in the party-like atmosphere in the Steffens household was much more receptive than Weston’s irate Daybooks entry. For example she reported,
“A few days ago this robust, vigorous, massive sculptor, a black-bearded humorous mass of energy, arrived in Carmel. Before he had been here twenty four hours Robinson Jeffers was sitting to him in the studio of Lincoln Steffens. … Jeffers sitting, Davidson singing snatches of song, opera arias, telling stories, anecdotes, jokes. Every phrase reminds him of some tale. So it went for two days. … Edward Weston photographed the bust with the sculptor and sitter (see below) and without. … Jo Davidson and Weston the center of a group, vociferously arguing what in photography was chance, what artistry, and what choice. … At one time Mabel Luhan called from her armchair in the corner called the hostess aside. “Just look at the room now!” she laughed. “Couldn’t Weston take that? Look at everything that’s going on here.” (Winter, Ella, “The Poet of Stone in Stone,” The Carmelite, May 22, 1930, p. 3).
Jo Davidson and Robinson Jeffers beside Jeffers’ bust on “The Getaway” balcony, Carmel, May 1930. From The Letters of Lincoln Steffens: Volume II: 1920-1936 edited by Ella Winter and Granville Hicks, Harcourt, Brace, New York, 1938, p. 899.
D. H. Lawrence, 1930. Jo Davidson sculpture. Photo by Kollar. From Between Sittings: An Informal Autobiography of Jo Davidson, Dial Press, New York, 1951, p. 214.
Winter also referenced Davidson’s busts of Mabel’s erstwhile protaganists D. H. Lawrence (see above) and Gertrude Stein (see below). One of the stories Davidson undoubtedly regaled the festive group with was his meeting Lawrence in France and completing his bust just five days before his untimely death. Recommended to Lawrence by H. G. Wells, another of his recent sitters, he completed the bust in two brief sessions surrounding a nap by the very tired Lawrence. He later related to Julian and Juliette Huxley, “it was not a bad head; but who could ever fix that face…Lawrence was waiting for Aldous and Maria – talked only of that, waiting to die when they had come.” (The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, Volume VII, 1928-1930 edited by Keith Sagar and James T. Boulton, Cambridge University Press, 1993, pp. 14).
Man Ray, Gertrude Stein posing for Jo Davidson, 1922, gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, © 2010 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris. From the Huff Post.
Luhan possibly had a hand in bringing Davidson to Carmel as the bust was seemingly part of her well-orchestrated strategy to seduce Jeffers into coming to Taos where she could work on him full-time to perform her literary bidding. Like Weston, she did not think much of Davidson’s finished product remarking, “He hasn’t caught the spiritual quality in the eyes or the poetry of the nostrils.” (Lincoln Steffens: A Biography by Justin Kaplan, Simon & Shuster, 1974, p. 294). Shortly after Davidson’s departure, Steffens wrote his longtime friend and house-guest,
“Your bust of Jeffers has come and it has conquered. All the family like it; they are a bit emotional about it; and their visitors are caught by the bust or by the atmosphere of approval. But of course, you and I know that Mabel Dodge is to be credited with some of your success. She is not here now to steer people’s judgment with her reason for not liking the bust. You remember her reason? You made the damn thing in our house, not in hers. A better reason than most people’s for an attitude on a work of art.” (Between Sittings: An Informal Autobiography of Jo Davidson, Dial Press, New York, 1951, p. 260).
I could not locate the Weston photograph of the work in progress but the completed bust of Jeffers was photographed by Johan Hagemeyer two years later. (See below).
Jo Davidson bust of Robinson Jeffers. Photo by Johan Hagemeyer, June 3, 1932. Courtesy UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library, Johan Hagemeyer Collection.
A week after Jeffers’ Davidson sitting Weston kept a long-standing promise to photograph him with his twin sons Garth and Dannan just days before the family left to spend the summer in Taos. (See below). Mabel must have been thrilled that her plan seemed to be succeeding. At the Jeffers going away party a couple days later Steffens showed Davidson much more of Weston’s work. The sculptor now recognized his “intention” as art and liked one of the peppers so much that Steffens presented it to him as a gift. When informed of this change of events, Weston in turn softened his feelings for Davidson and his work. (Daybooks, May 24-25, 1930, pp. 163-4).
Dannan, Garth and Robinson Jeffers at Tor House, May 25, 1930. Edward Weston portrait. Copyright Center for Creative Photography, Weston Collection.
From left, Dorothy Thompson, Lincoln Steffens, Una Jeffers, Ella Winter, John O’Shea, Albert Bender, Robinson Jeffers and Sinclair Lewis, picnic at the O’Shea Residence, Carmel Highlands, ca. early 1930s possibly in celebration of Lewis’s Nobel Prize in literature. Photographer possibly Molly O’Shea or Ella Winter. Courtesy San Francisco Public Library. I wish to thank reader and Albert Bender biographer Ann Harlow for bringing this important image to my attention.
Just before returning to Taos for the summer, the Luhans, along with Ella Young, Robinson and Una Jeffers, Lincoln Steffens and Ella Winter, and Sinclair Lewis and Dorothy Thompson, attended a picnic hosted by John and Molly O’Shea on the rocky shoreline near their Carmel Highlands home. Of the event Young eloquently wrote,
“John and Molly O’Shea are giving a luncheon. They are having it on the cliff-edge at the end of their peninsula in Carmel Highlands. Nature seems to have known in advance about John and Molly, royal dispensers of hospitality, known that one day they would own this peninsula reaching into the sea… Everyone has to descend about a hundred steps cut in the rocks. Arrived, one might be on a desert island. No sound of a motor-horn, no glimpse of a roadway or of a house. A sound of the sea makes itself felt, the sea advancing in great waves and churning among the rocks. Far off, on Lobos magnificently thrust upon the horizon, there is the barking of sea lions… It is a gay party, as gay as the sunshine, as gay as the coloured stripes on the awning, as light of heart as the circling sea-swallows. Sinclair Lewis is raying out the wittiest and most fantastic remarks. John O’Shea replies in kind. Lincoln Steffens is even more dazzling. So lightning-quick is thrust and riposte in this rapier play of wit that I find myself bewildered by it. Una Jeffers, at the other end of the table, is telling amusing anecdotes. Tony, tired of it all, is standing on a rock. He stands majestic in a scarlet serape. The sea curls in waves behind him, sapphire-blue except where churning foam transfigures it to chalcedony. Molly O’Shea, beautiful and gracious, is smiling and spreading that atmosphere of joyousness that makes her so renowned a hostess. ”What do you think of America?” asks Sinclair Lewis. ”America,” I reply, “is a tawny lioness, beautiful, alert, and sinewy-muscled.” ”And England?” ”England is a heavy-flanked bull: too long stall-fed.” ”But Ireland,” says Sinclair Lewis, with an air of believing it, “Ireland is a white unicorn!” (Young, pp. 300-1).
Robinson Jeffers and sons Dannan and Garth, and Mabel Dodge Luhan at the Luhan compound, Taos, summer 1930. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
The Carmelite published an excerpt of a letter from the Jeffers who had arrived in Taos around June 1st which read in part, “This is georgeous country and this house is most beautiful – dozens and dozens of rooms rambling about a great courtyard. The Luhans have got the boys into sombreros and bandannas and overalls and they look native. This house is filled with most exquisite Italian and Spanish and Mexican furniture.” (“The Jeffers at Taos,” The Carmelite, June 5, 1930, p. 2).
Valdez, New Mexico, 1928 by Esther Bruton, The Carmelite, December 26, 1928, p. 1. (From my collection).
O’Shea’s inspiration for choosing this particular scene could likely have come from Monterey artist Esther Bruton’s woodblock print from a similar vantage point published by Pauline Schindler on the cover of The Carmelite the year before. (See above). Luhan described the scene depicted by O’Shea and Bruton thusly, “We drove down the mountain into Valdez, that village that from the brow of the hill looks like a child’s toy: a tiny plaza with an old church in the center, and houses on either side.” Bruton and her sisters, Helen and Margaret and their mother had also spent considerable time in New Mexico in late 1928. (Lorenzo in Taos, p. 243). Esther would also have an affair with Pauline’s husband RMS around this time. (See undated love letter from Esther Bruton to R. M. Schindler Courtesy UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection).
Rendering of Schindler’s Wolfe House on Catalina Island announcing Schindler’s upcoming lecture at the Denny-Watrous Gallery. “In the Vanguard of Modern Architecture,” The Carmelite, September 4, 1930, p. 1.
Shortly after the Jeffers and O’Sheas returned from their summer in Taos, Pauline Schindler booked a lecture for her estranged husband at the Denny-Watrous Gallery. Acting as agent for Neutra and Schindler, she had had been trying for a while to arrange lectures for them. Hazel Watrous guaranteed either a $25 fee, replying, “Schindler has a mastery and charm, Neutra has ideas about mass production. I’ll leave the choice to you…We have arranged with Galka Scheyer to have her exhibit here in June. Edward Weston has been showing his prints for several weeks.” (McCoy, p. 60). Pauline then booked a lecture for RMS on September 6th. (See ad below). (See also my PGS for more details on Pauline and her time at The Carmelite).
Schindler lecture announcement. The Carmelite, September 4, 1930, p. 4.
Not one to hold a grudge in her relentless pursuit to further the cause of Modernism and still a frequent contributor since her ouster by the Steffens “gang,” Pauline introduced Carmelite readers to Schindler with an introductory article in which she wrote,
“Of the three architects [Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra and R. M. Schindler] it is often said that Schindler is most the creative genius. He sees first the pure form. His designs are uncompromising as far as period architecture is concerned. Those who have wondered why the modernist does not build himself a “Spanish house” will have an opportunity to hear the basic principles back of modern building when Schindler speaks on Saturday. An opportunity for questions will also be given, and slides of Schindler’s and Neutra’s buildings will accompany the talk.” (Schindler, Pauline, “Schindler, Modern, Speaks on Architecture,” The Carmelite, September 4, 1930, p. 7).
“Schindler bore himself with dignity, he was a gentleman, the others were not. I admit John O’Shea had been drinking, good, – one’s character is revealed with a few drinks. After the lecture he made disparaging remarks, even indulging in personalities in a loud voice standing near Schindler, head turned toward him, face in a leering mask. Disgusting! I sat down and wrote The Carmelite an article giving full vent to my feelings, not using names, but several offenders were plainly enough indicated.” (Daybooks, September 17, 1930, p. 187).
“Always the new in art, science, philosophy, has been ridiculed. But this time the joke is on the persecutors, for the new architecture has long ago been accepted, is spreading all over the world. It is for those who live today. Future generations, looking back upon the beginnings of the American Renaissance, which we are in, and being so close cannot recognize, will point out such names as Wright, Neutra, Schindler, who in the face of smirks and guffaws, went their own way – building with foreesight, faith and hard work.” (Weston, Edward, ”Schindler,” The Carmelite, September 11, 1930, p. 6.
“I spent my evening trying to keep them off art and keep my temper. Dickinson said, “Weston is too serious!” But they were the serious ones – that [Carmelite] article had a sting! I was sober enough to sit back and watch the others, especially John: and his face revealed much. I saw a man, soured, cynical, negative. Perhaps he knows he can never reach the heights he tried for. A fine painter, but nowhere near a great artist. I feel sorry for him, but that does not excuse his childish nonsense.” (Author’s note: Schindler had known [Henry F.] Dickinson from his Chicago days and corresponded with mutual friend Ralph Fletcher Seymour in 1924 about designing him a house in Carmel across the street from Dickinson’s. See my R. M. Schindler, Richard Neutra and Louis Sullivan’s “Kindergarten Chats” and “The Schindlers in Carmel, 1924” for more details).
The cross-pollination of the artist colonies of Carmel and Taos was evidenced by the late 1920s and early 1930s summer visits to Taos by Albert Bender, John and Molly O’Shea, the Jeffers family (see above), Ansel and Virginia Adams and Ella Young, and the early 1930s visits to Carmel by Mabel Dodge Luhan and husband Tony and others. Fellow Group f/64 members with Adams, Edward Weston, Sonya Noskowiak and Willard Van Dyke first visited Taos and Luhan in the summer of 1933 and Weston and Charis Wilson would visit twice more in 1937 and 1941.
Lorenzo in Taos by Mabel Dodge Luhan, Knopf, 1932. Cover portrait by Edward Weston, Mexico City, November 4, 1924.
Upon the 1932 release of Luhan’s Lorenzo in Taos (see above), Weston wrote,
“Mabel Luhan’s book on D. H. Lawrence just out, with most of illustrations by myself, - Lawrence, Tony, Jeffers. I was angry and disgusted to find they had changed the shape of my portraits to fit the page of the book. They would not have done this with paintings! – but just photographs. - The quality of the reproductions is quite good. I am not at all proud of the Lawrence portrait. I certainly did a poor technical job that day.
My portrait of Lincoln Steffens used as frontispiece in the autobiography (see below), though very popular, did not please me. It was soft, moved. I can only blame myself for letting it go out, giving them a chance to choose it, in my desire to please others.
The Lawrence book was interesting and amusing, quite as revealing of Mabel Luhan as of Lawrence.” (Daybooks, March 2, 1932, p. 247).
The Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens, Harcourt Brace and Co., 1932. Edward Weston frontispiece of Lincoln Steffens, Carmel, ca. 1930.
A couple weeks later he followed with, “In Mabel Luhan’s book I like very much her thoughts on the artist as the transformer, or, “Man is the transforming animal,” – to quote her correctly: and “unless he gives back to life as much as he takes from it, his acute reception faculty fails him.” (Daybooks, March 15, 1932, p. 249).
D. H. Lawrence, self-portrait, 1929. From flickr.
Lawrence and Brett: A Friendship by Dorothy Brett, J. B. Lippincott, 1933. Front cover art includes a reproduction of Brett’s 1928 portrait of Lawrence.
The Luhans returned to Carmel to visit the Jeffers during the winter of 1933, this time accompanied by Lady Dorothy Brett, whom Weston originally met along with Frieda at the November 1924 Lawrence portrait session in Mexico City. About this time Lawrence and Brett (see above), Brett’s account of her relationship with Lawrence was published. (See above). Brett’s book was praised by critics as well as the general public upon its release. Alfred Stieglitz’s jacket blurb stated,
“It was a rare spiritual experience – no student of Lawrence can afford to miss this book. Brett has avoided all hearsay – she gives her own picture of her friendship with Lawrence in simple terms. There is an integrity in the book – a sense of the eternal – a sense of Light – which raises it above all the other books I have read about Lawrence – his letters excepted.” (Lawrence and Brett back jacket blurb).
Mabel Dodge Luhan, Freida Lawrence and Dorothy Brett at Kiowa Ranch, ca. 1938. Photo by Cady Wells. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
The book was written at Kiowa Ranch (later named “Flying Heart” by Lawrence and now known as D. H. Lawrence Ranch) which Luhan had given to the Lawrences in 1924 in an attempt to keep D. H. in Taos. Brett was living as caretaker of the ranch after the Lawrences left for Italy in 1925 until the return of Frieda in 1934. (See above). Frieda had insisted that Mabel accept the manuscripts for Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers as payment for the ranch. She later wrote to Mabel of an unsolicited appraisal of the manuscripts by Walter Ufer, ”The Ufers came in one day, said the MSS of Sons and Lovers, they had “heard” I had given to you (they hear so much) was worth at least $50,000, at least! Swinburne Hale had told them!! It gave me a shock to think of it in terms of dollars – a bit of one’s life!” (Lorenzo in Taos, p. 250).
Weston wrote of his early 1933 reunion with Luhan and Brett,
“Last evening we had tea with Mabel Luhan and Lady [Dorothy] Brett (see below); a really good time. I had not seen Brett (one can hardly think or speak of her otherwise) since our meeting in Mexico with Lawrence and Frieda. That meeting was no more than a greeting. I feel I will like her; in fact I do. When Mable Luhan asked Brett to show her paintings, I had mixed feelings of curiosity and dread. It’s not easy, as a guest, to be honest! But I found to my relief, imagination, a very individual viewpoint, and a feeling for form. Brett does not know my work, other than a few portraits. She has promised to come here soon.” (Daybooks, February 7, 1933, p. 271).
Lady Dorothy Brett with ear trumpet “Toby”, Carmel, 1933. Edward Weston portrait. From Edward Weston: Photographs from the Collection of the Center for Creative Photography by Amy Conger, Figure 736. Copyright Center for Creative Photography, Weston Collection.
Brett sat for Weston a couple weeks later. Weston took 20 negatives during a wet day on the beach at Point Lobos. After describing in lucid detail his first sexual liaison with Xenia Kashevaroff in the same Daybooks entry, he wrote of the occasion, “But now for the work I have been doing: sittings for portraits of Dorothy Brett, … The sitting of Brett (we have discovered that we are related) with her ear trumpet was a great success.” (See above). (Daybooks, February 26, 1933, p. 272). (See also my Schindlers-Westons-Kashevaroff-Cage for much more on Xenia).
The Boy in the Bush by D. H. Lawrence and M. L. Skinner, Seltzer, 1924. Cover art by Dorothy Brett.
Brett had previously contributed the cover art for Lawrence’s The Boy in the Bush (see above) the summer before she first met Weston at the above-referenced Lawrence portrait session in Mexico City .
Around that same time as his reunion with Luhan and Brett, most of the participants Ella Young described in attendance at the previously-mentioned 1930 O’Shea Carmel Highlands cliff-top picnic had another reunion of sorts on the bluff near the O’Shea house on Wildcat Cove. (See below).
On the beach near the O’Shea House, spring, 1933. Artist William Ritschel‘s Castle in the background. Photographer unknown. From left to tright are Tony Luhan, Hazel Watrous, Lincoln Steffens, Ella Young, unidentified friend, Dorothy Thompson, John O’Shea, Sinclair Lewis, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Richard Buhlig and Ella Winter. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
At Luhan’s invitation, the following June Weston, Noskowiak, and Van Dyke traveled to Taos to photograph the region Weston had heard her expound so eloquently about. Van Dyke chronicled their trip in his unpublished memoirs, excerpts of which read,
“I was delighted to be there with my friends and I looked forward to a period of work with my camera in an atmosphere of intelligent dedication to art. Mabel’s house was in a compound surrounded by smaller dwellings for guests and servants. Though comfortable the houses had no particular distinction. We had our evening meals in the large house, but otherwise we were left on our own. … We visited Dorothy Brett, a painter and writer who had been a friend of D. H. Lawrence on his visits to Taos. Edward photographer her with the ear trumpet she called Toby. … Photographers, intent upon their own work are sometimes quite boring and I think Mabel was not amused by us. One night she called for dessert before Edward had finished his main course and when someone called her attention to this her reply was that Edward did not want dessert. That night we decided to move on and the next morning we bade goodbye to a relieved hostess and drove to Santa Fe.” (Willard Van Dyke: Changing the World Through Photography and Film by James Enyeart, p. 82).
The trio met and befriended local photographer Ernest Knee during their stopover in Santa Fe whom Van Dyke described as “a photographer whose approach and sensibilities were consistent with ours.” (Enyeart, p. 83). Luhan, who was likely working on her Winter in Taos (see below) around the time of their visit purchased many of Weston’s and Knee’s prints to illustrate the book.
Sonya Noskowiak photographing cloud formation, Taos Pueblo, June 1933. Photograph by Willard Van Dyke. (Enyeart, p. 106).
Weston did not mention his dessert “encounter” with Luhan in the Daybooks but fondly wrote of his trip experiences,
“We, Willard, Sonya and I, have returned from N. Mexico. Gone but two weeks, counting traveling time, I feel the time and expense well-spent. Besides the visual memories brought back of a magnificent country -Arizona, New Mexico and my own California – I have some fine new work; landscapes with gorgeous heavens – I was continuously reminded of old Mexico – details of various pueblos, – the old church at Laguna, the perfectly formed and functional ovens against equally perfect walls of adobe, some few rock details and one of a juniper; but mostly open landscape, – for in N. Mexico the heavens and earth become one…” (Daybooks, July 7, 1933, p. 275).
Edge of Taos Desert: An Escape to Reality by Mabel Dodge Luhan, Harcourt, Brace and Co., New York, 1937. Cover photo, “Dancing Boy,” by Ernest Knee.
Upon returning to Tesuque after the latest Luhan debacle, the Knee’s informed Edward that the current issue of Life featuring his Guggenheim work was on the newsstands so they immediately ran out and got a copy. (“Speaking of Pictures…These are Edward Weston’s Westerns,” Life Magazine, December 27, 1937, pp. 5-6). Disappointed by the quality of the images and layout, this motivated Edward and Charis to immediately get to work on the application to renew his Guggenheim Fellowship for another year. After completing the application they spent New Years Eve in Albuquerque with Willard Nash, yet another old Taos painter friend known as “The American Cezanne.”
They photographed their way back to Los Angeles, with a five day stopover with photographer Frederick Sommer in Prescott, Arizona. They arrived at Chandler’s place on January 11th where they learned that Brett and Cicely’s's daughter Ericka was born that morning, making Edward a grandfather for the second time. (Wilson, p. 170).
Tony Luhan portrait by Sally Flavin, no date. From Edge of Taos Desert: An Escape to Reality by Mabel Dodge Luhan, Harcourt, Brace and Co., New York, 1937, frontispiece.
Another eerily coincidental event occurred while they were on their trip. Sally Flavin, whose portrait of Tony was selected by Mabel for the frontispiece (see above) of the book Knee had just showed him, had had a tragic accident. On December 7th, the day the Weston’s left for New Mexico she had fallen off the cliff while photographing near her and husband Martin’s Charles Sumner Greene-remodeled Carmel Highlands home ”Spindrift”. (See earlier above). The house was directly across Wildcat Cove from John and Molly O’Shea’s home and just across the Highway One from the estate of Charis’s father, noted author Harry Leon Wilson seen below with some of his old Carmel writing cronies. Her body washed ashore at nearby Point Lobos on January 5th about a week before Edward and Charis got back to Los Angeles.
Upon returning from their annual vacation in Taos in late 1937 (see above), possibly crossing paths with Edward and Charis on their return trip, Una Jeffers wrote to Mabel of Sally’s tragic death,
“I must tell you of Sally [Flavin]. No trace of her altho’ hundred CCC patrol constantly. Apparently she focused her camera on a tripod at edge of cliff & then backing away from it fell backwards into the sea—That is the way they have reconstructed it but no one saw her fall. They found her camera there on tripod & a day after her shoe & sock washed in. The pictures were developed in camera—all of sea. She had never taken seascapes before & had just gotten the assignment to take some from the camera club. She was gone 5 hrs. before they began to search. Martin [Flavin] sent for R & me to come out yesterday & talked 2 hrs. about it.” (“Una Jeffers Correspondent: The Luhan Letters, Excerpts, 1938″ in Robinson Jeffers Newsletter, Number 88, Autumn 1993, p. 29).
Los Angeles Times, December 8, 1937, p. 3.
Martin Flavin Residence, “Spindrift,” Yankee Point, Carmel Highlands. Raymond E. Bates photo. Courtesy California Views. (Author’s note: In background can be seen the John O’Shea, William Rirschel, Harry Wilson and D. L. James Residences).
Martin Flavin, Carmel, ca. 1930. Edward Weston portrait. The Carmelite, February 12, 1930, p. 1.
Martin Flavin Residence, “Spindrift,” Yankee Point, Carmel Highlands, ca. 1928. Lewis Josselyn photo. Courtesy California Views.
Weston first met the noted playwright and 1944 Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Martin Flavin (see above) and his wife Sarah [aka "Sally"] at a July 20, 1929 party at their previously illustrated Charles Sumner Greene-remodeled Carmel Highlands home ”Spindrift”. Like the O’Shea’s, the Flavins were also close to Robinson and Una Jeffers and their circle. He wrote of the occasion,
“Then – Saturday last a party was planned at the Flavin’s - Ramiel [McGehee] to dance, Vasia [Anikeef] to sing. In comparison the affair was flat. The setting was perfect, the drinks real, the service perfect, – food such as only the wealthy can find time to prepare: but it was planned, – certain ones to perform at a given time, and the spontaneity of the other party was lacking. The Flavins I like, – and their home on the coast, with a miniature Point Lobos, is a place of wonder.” (Daybooks, July 22, 1929, p. 129).
Weston Residence, Wildcat Hill, 1942. Edward Weston photograph.
A few months after returning from New Mexico and bolstered with the renewal of his Guggenheim Fellowship, Edward and Charis called upon son Neil, by then an expert carpenter, to build their new home on Wildcat Hill in Carmel Highlands. The site was a 2-acre portion of Charis’s father Harry’s former estate they were able to salvage through his foreclosure proceedings. (See above). Work was begun in May while Edward and Charis were back on the road for more Guggenheim work and was finished by the time of their return in August at a cost of $1,500 including Neil’s labor. (Wilson, p. 189).
Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman, Limited Editions Club. Photographs by Edward Weston.
Weston’s last visit to New Mexico came in 1941 during an eight-month odyssey photographing America for illustrations for the Limited Editions Club edition of Walt Whitman‘s Leaves of Grass. (See above). Charis and Edward again hooked up one last time with Gina and Ernie Knee who took the below photo of Edward at work near the Lawrence Ranch.
Edward Weston, San Cristobal, New Mexico, 1941. Photograph by Ernest Knee.
This article is in essence a chapter of a book in progress on the familial relationships between the Schindler and Weston families and their bohemian social circles between late 1920 through 1938. For now I plan to end the book in 1938 when Weston built his home in Carmel Highlands and married Charis and the Schindlers divorced and began living separate lives under the same roof in RMS’s iconic Kings Road House. My working title for the book is The Schindlers and the Westons: An Avant-Garde Friendship, 1920-1938. Their fascinatingly interwoven lives and relationships remained avant-garde to the end. As always, I welcome your feedback on any of my pieces.