Monday, February 17, 2014

Rare Photos of Gardner Hale's Mural Paintings in a Long Island Home

“A true cosmopolitan spirit, Gardner Hale combined the training and aesthetics of Europe with the soul and spirit of America. In everything he did the spirit of decoration was emphasized.” 

This is how Frank Crowninshield, the popular editor of Vanity Fair and a noted art collector himself, described artist Gardner Hale.

 Here are some photos that have resurfaced of Gardner’s exquisite work for a home in Long Island, New York around 1918. Gardner is credited for reintroducing the art of mural painting to America. He study extensively in Europe, but returned to New York in 1917. He was interested in the use of frescos in modern American homes where cement and concrete were being used as the new fashion during that time. He believed these houses should be decorated inside and outside with color. Gardner was the most enthusiastic about a commission that would allow him large wall spaces in which to work. He insisted on grinding his colors, which he always prepared himself to insure the best purity and luminosity.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Remembering Dorothy Donovan Hale

Dorothy Donovan Hale was born on January 11, 1905 in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania to Emma and James Patrick Donovan. Dorothy moved to New York City at age Eighteen and worked as a model, dancer and actress. In 1928, she married muralist Gardner Hale. Dorothy’s premature and tragic death in 1938 was hauntingly memorialized on canvas by iconic artist and friend, Frida Kahlo.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Remembering Gardner Hale: February 1, 1894 - December 28, 1931

In December of 1931, Dorothy and Gardner Hale enthusiastically arrived in California for a six-month stay. Known as one of America's foremost young painters of murals and frescoes, Gardner had been hired to paint numerous murals around the state.

During the holidays, the couple stayed with Gardner's cousin Dorothy McNamee and her husband Luke in Long Beach. On Monday, December 28, 1931, Gardner was driving from Long Beach to San Francisco for a meeting when he was tragically killed in an automobile accident. He was 36-years-old.

Here is a little known print of a Christmas card that Gardner designed for the McNamees during his stay in 1931.

Gardner was a member of the Society of Mural Painters, the ArchitecturalLeague, Salons of America and the Society of Independent Artists. His mural works and paintings were renown throughout Europe and America.

This unexpected tragedy was devastating to Dorothy Hale. She returned to their home in New York City to plan Gardner's funeral. Dorothy found great strength through her love for Gardner. She immediately began orchestrating a memorial exhibition to honor Gardner and his work. This exhibition, curated by Dorothy, would travel through New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Dresses of Frida Kahlo to be Featured in Mexico Museum

The colorful dresses, frocks and accessories of Frida Kahlo will be on display November 22, 2012 at the Frida Kahlo Museum in an exclusive exhibit titled “Appearances Can Be Deceiving: The Dresses of Frida Kahlo.”

Some of her most captivating, and infamous, outfits were kept hidden – at the request of her husband Diego Riveria – for more than 50 years and are now being viewed by the public for the first time in decades.

The collection, discovered in the Frida Kahlo archives, will include jewelry, headpieces, bathing suits, colorful dresses and more. This collection of clothing also explains why Kahlo chose to wear certain items that masked her disfigurements from childhood disease and trolley accident.

This exhibition is being sponsored by Vogue Mexico and the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City.

Friday, November 2, 2012

In Celebration of Día de los Muertos, November 1st-2nd: Frida Kahlo Style

By Myra Bairstow

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a beautiful Mexican holiday that has become one of my favorite celebrations ever since I was first introduced to it years ago. Growing up, I never knew about this exuberant fiesta. I learned about it while studying Frida Kahlo and have continued to celebrate its meaning ever since.

Mystery and memory mingle as death is celebrated as part of life and the continuum of time. Altars are created to honor loved ones who have passed away. These offerings can be humorous and nostalgic - and are said to guide the souls back to earth for a reunion.

Frida's Fiesta's: Recipes and Reminiscences of Life
with Frida Kahlo

One of my favorite books, which I highly recommend, is Frida’s Fiestas:Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo by Guadalupe Rivera and Marie-Pierre Colle. One section of this fascinating book tells personal details of how Frida celebrated Día de los Muertos and also includes her favorite recipes such as 'dead man's bread,' 'red tamales' and 'strawberry atole.'

Having great respect and love for Día de los Muertos, I found it eerie to learn that Frida Kahlo was hired to paint a beautiful portrait of the late actress Dorothy Donovan Hale on November 1, 1938. This coincided with the opening date of Frida’s first exhibition in the United States at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York City. Dorothy died in New York City at the age of 33 on October 21, 1938. I suspect Frida was thinking intensely of Dorothy, having been hired to paint her, on Day of the Dead, in 1938. Perhaps this beloved holiday influenced her to paint something different than the beautiful portrait she was hired to do? Today, "El Suicidio deDorothy Hale," is considered one of Frida’s most mysterious and haunting works of art.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Today in History: Frida Kahlo Debuts First Exhibition in the United States at the Julien Levy Gallery

On November 1, 1938, Frida Kahlo had her first exhibition in the United States at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York City. It was at this showing that Frida met Clare Boothe Luce and was commissioned by her to paint a beautiful portrait of the late Dorothy Donovan Hale. This commission would inspire Frida to paint one of her most renowned and haunting works, ‘El Suicidio de Dorothy Hale’.
Frida Kahlo, Featured in Time Magazine
Julien Levy Gallery Program from
Frida Kahlo Exhibition

Thursday, October 18, 2012

In Memory of Dorothy Donovan Hale: January 11, 1905 - October 21, 1938

Dorothy Hale
El Suicidio de Dorothy Hale
Myra Bairstow

By Myra Bairstow

The 21st of October is a date of personal reflection for me. I continue to support and be enthralled by the story of Dorothy Donovan Hale because the true narrative of her life is finally being pieced together, seventy-four years after her death.

The liberation of this story is unusual because it was unraveled through a painting. The odds were stacked against the survival of this particular painting. It was almost destroyed out of anger. Sections of the canvas were irreverently covered up and overpainted. The picture was crated and placed in storage for thirty years before unexpectedly resurfacing. Fortunately, it was donated to a museum where it resides today. The painting, ‘El Suicidio de Dorothy Hale’, is a survivor, like the icon who painted it, Frida Kahlo, and like the subject it depicts, Dorothy Donovan Hale.

When I first saw Frida’s haunting painting of Dorothy, I had no idea it would lead me on a fascinating and provocative journey that would unravel at its own pace and linger with me for over a decade of my life. As I write my book about Dorothy Hale and my experiences along the way, I am eager to share her unknown, yet deeply layered life as well as the mysteries I’ve discovered around her tragic and premature death. I am proud to be the first researcher to locate and contact the family of Dorothy and listen to their stories. I am grateful to Dorothy’s niece, Penny, who embraced my study of her aunt and who shared with me detailed aspects of the Donovan family history. Importantly, Penny lived with Dorothy’s father, James Donovan, for the first eleven years of her life and she grew up witnessing his grief and listening to his viewpoints.

During our numerous conversations and correspondences, Penny said that she wanted me to meet one of her cousins whom she thought had some personal items of Dorothy’s that might assist in my research. Unfortunately, she had lost contact with this particular cousin for over a decade. Until Penny’s death, she continued to search for her cousin, but the quest was unsuccessful.

It would take many, many years, but serendipitously and very unexpectedly I would cross paths with Penny’s cousin. This took place only last month. Thanks to the generosity and trust of Penny’s cousin, my book will be enriched with more documentation about Dorothy.

The first year we met, Penny called me on October 21st and made a request. She asked if I could conspicuously leave a rose in remembrance of Dorothy near the vicinity of the Hampshire House on Central Park South. I have carried on this tradition for years, even after Penny passed away. This October 21st will be no different. In memory of Dorothy Donovan Hale and the entire Donovan family.

Myra Bairstow