Stackpole’s Bohemian Circle

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Peter photographed my kindred, Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor for LIFE magazine, and Errol Flynn. who my mother and aunt dated. Ralph was good friends Diego Rivera and his artistic wife. These creative Bohemian souls were the compatriots of David Weston and his Muses. Ralph did a painting of Tina Modotti wearing pearls. David is the model for Frank Rosefish. Errol Flynn is a model for Don Roscoe.

For a week I have been composing the next chapter of ‘Anatomy of a Rogue Wave’ that begins with Frank and Susanne naked in bed, smoking pipes. Blow-ups of Don Roscoe pushing Irene Westhaven into the sea lay atop them. Last night I added the collage she did from photos Frank did, and a image of a painting by Thomas Hart Benton – that Frank sends to his buddy Picasso, that begins their bitter rivalry.

Since Sydney Morris came on the Bohemian Scene, I wondered if my brother hired him, and together they have a played a delicious game of Keep-Away. My brother is a misogynist-racist who wanted me to include his demeaning rant of women in my biography. When I was sixteen, Mark titled me a ‘Parasite’ on society because I wanted to become a famous artist.

“No one makes money off their art!” he screamed!

Mark told me he got to read Snyder’s lying biography. I asked why he didn’t contribute to it, His answer should be stricken from the records of Art, and Morris held responsible.

“I couldn’t think of anything nice to say about her!”

This morning my Muse of Muses revealed herself to me. She has been my angelic guide lurking in the background.  Here is the love of David’s life, Margrethe Mather! Christine Rosamond’s silence voice is heard loud and clear by these Creative Bohemian Women!

Jon Presco

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Stackpole was finally successful in winning a commission for Rivera; Pflueger became convinced that Rivera would be the perfect muralist for decorating the staircase wall and ceiling of the Stock Exchange Club. This was a controversial selection considering Rivera’s leftist political beliefs in contradiction to the Stock Exchange’s capitalist foundation.[20] Into the mural, Rivera painted a figure of Stackpole’s son Peter holding a model airplane.

During his stay, Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo lived and worked at the studio, becoming in the process lifelong friends with Stackpole and Ginette.

Edward Henry Weston (March 24, 1886 – January 1, 1958) was a 20th-century American photographer. He has been called “one of the most innovative and influential American photographers…”[1] and “one of the masters of 20th century photography.”[2] Over the course of his 40-year career Weston photographed an increasingly expansive set of subjects, including landscapes, still lifes, nudes, portraits, genre scenes and even whimsical parodies. It is said that he developed a “quintessentially American, and specially Californian, approach to modern photography”[3] because of his focus on the people and places of the American West. In 1937 Weston was the first photographer to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship, and over the next two years he produced nearly 1,400 negatives using his 8 × 10 view camera. Some of his most famous photographs were taken of the trees and rocks at Point Lobos, California, near where he lived for many years.

I am a white man who has grown weary of the guilt trip laid on us by women and people of color. Indeed, I have grown intolerant. To many my intolerance makes me a bigot, my bigotry a sexist and racist. So be it. I hate no one because of their race or gender. I wish everyone health, wealth and happiness. However, I reject the white man’s burden. It is not our responsibility to provide the world with economic parity to white men. They have the responsibility to make their parts of the world as desirable as we have made ours, and to provide their children with the same quality of life we provide ours. We must take back our culture. The future of the world, our countries and our cultures cannot be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.

Margrethe Mather (4 March 1886 – 25 December 1952) was one of the best known female photographers of the early 20th century. Initially she influenced and was influenced by Edward Weston while working in the pictorial style, but she independently developed a strong eye for patterns and design that transformed some of her photographs into modernist abstract art. She lived a mostly uncompromising lifestyle in Los Angeles that alternated between her photography and the creative Hollywood community of the 1920s and 30s. In later life she abandoned photography, and she died unrecognized for her photographic accomplishments.

Life and career[edit]

Mather was born in Salt Lake City, Utah the second of four children born to Gabriel Lundberg Youngreen and Ane Sofie Laurentzen. Her parents were Danish immigrants who had been converted to the Mormon faith by a missionary in Denmark. Her mother died while giving birth to the fourth child in 1889[1]

When she was born, Mather was named Emma Caroline Youngreen.[2] After her mother died she was sent to live in another part of town with her maternal aunt, Rasmine Laurentzen. Laurentzen was the live-in housekeeper for local judge Joseph Cole Mather, and the then Emma Caroline was listed in census records as either a “boarder” or “student”.[3] In 1906 Mather moved to San Francisco, perhaps in response to calls for aid after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Within two years after moving she changed her name, assuming the last name of her former landlord and the first name of her maternal grandmother, Margrethe Laurzentzen. She never explained the reason for her name change to anyone, although photography historian Beth Gates Warren speculated that it might have been due to distancing herself from an affair with a physician that began in Salt Lake City.[4]

In 1912 Mather moved to Los Angeles, where, according to her friend Billy Justema, she made a living primarily as a prostitute for several years.[5] Soon after moving there she joined the Los Angeles Camera Club and also became involved with a circle of self-styled anarchists who were followers of Emma Goldman. Within a year she was part of a growing Bohemian movement in the city that included actors, artists, writers and advocates for social and political change. Her interest in photography quickly blossomed, and by the following year at least one of her photographs had been exhibited in camera club salons in both America and Europe.[6]

She met photographer Edward Weston in the autumn of 1913 when she went to his studio in nearby Tropico. Mather and Weston found they had many of the same photographic interests, and by both Weston’s and Mather’s accounts the two became intensely involved with each other within six months after they met. At the time, Mather was described as “maddening to the eye, the heart and whatever might be left of reason…distinctly marvelous and infuriating as an individual.”[7]

Soon after they met Mather proposed that Weston, she and a small circle of friends that included Fred R. Archer form a new camera club, the Camera Pictorialists of Los Angeles. The club eventually became very influential, but Mather and Weston dropped out after only a year.[8] By that time Weston had begun to receive widespread national and international acclaim, and Mather’s relationship with him became more intense as his fame grew.

In 1916 Mather moved to a boarding house in the Bunker Hill neighborhood, where she was said to become involved with a woman referred to only as “Beau”[9] Justema believes “Beau” was Mather’s lover and patron, to the extent that soon after the two met Mather opened her first professional photography studio.[10] Although Mather’s earliest known photograph dates from 1913, until she opened her studio there is very little record of her photographic output.

During her early years Mather worked in the pictorialist style. One of the first images she created after opening her studio was a soft-focus portrait, Miss Maud Emily, which was later published in Photograms of the Year. She also undertook a series of portraits for the avant-garde magazine The Little Review, including poet Alfred Kreymborg and heiress Aline Barnsdall. Her involvement with the Bohemian circle in Los Angeles also expanded, and through these connections she became friends a growing circle of celebrities and intellectuals like Charlie Chaplin, Max Eastman and Florence Deshon.

By 1918 she was working regularly with Weston, and the two exchanged both stylistic ideas and photographic techniques. That same year she completed a series of portraits of the Chinese poet Moon Kwan that utilized strong shadows as artistic elements. Weston had first experimented with shadows as a dramatic design element in his portrait of Eugene Hutchinson in 1916, but Mather formalized this approach into a continuing stylistic element in her portraits for many years after that. This style was so unusual at the time that one critic wrote “The appreciation of this form of composition…is at present with the writer purely an intellectual one, like that of some of the newer forms in music and painting. Presumably the next generation will accept arrangements like this instinctively. Such is the way in which art grows.”[11]

In 1921 Mather’s and Weston’s joint photographic interests reached the point that they entered into a semi-formal partnership. For most of that year they created a series of about a dozen photographs that they jointly signed – the only time in Weston’s career that he was known to have shared credit with another photographer[12] One reviewer referred to the two photographers as an “art partnership,” although there are some indications that Mather might have taken at least some of the photos on her own and signed both names on the prints[12] During this same period she made several stunning portraits of Weston, including full-frame close-ups that capture his somewhat soulful expression.

The next year marked the beginning of an artistic style change for both Mather and Weston. There is no direct indication of who influenced whom, but photographer Imogen Cunningham, who knew both Weston and Mather well, said that in artistic matters, Mather was the teacher and Weston was the pupil[13] Both moved rather quickly away from the pictorial style and started to make more sharply focused photographs with bolder lines and angles. Her work from this period reflected a “daring, confident and sophisticated understanding of space”[14] that few others working at the same time ever achieved.

In 1923 Weston became infatuated with photographer Tina Modotti and decided to travel to Mexico with her. Before he left he took a series of nude studies of Mather in the sand dunes at Redondo Beach, California. These images that bear a close resemblance to his more famous nudes of his second wife Charis Wilson taken 13 years later. After Weston left, Mather immediately expanded her career with a new group of portraits of famous artists, musicians and writers, including Pablo Casals, Rebecca West, Eva Gauthier, Ramon Novarro, Konrad Bercovici, and Richard Buhlig. Her portraits were said to appear “deceptively simple, made with a great economy of detail…[but also with] great sensitivity and precision [that] cuts through to the essence of the subject.”[14]

Semi-nude [Billy Justema in a Kimono] by Mather (1923)

It was during this same period that she became close friends with and repeatedly photographed the budding artist Billy Justema. Justema was nearly 20 years younger than Mather, and they formed a mutually beneficial and platonic relationship that lasted many years. Justema said that Mather “would nurture and shield me, thoroughly and unwittingly corrupt me, and…set up standards of ethical behavior and artistic excellence,”[15] while Mather thrived on the new and changing circle of talented musicians and artists that Justema brought to her home. One of her most famous images, Semi-Nude, a strong horizontal image of Justema’s abdomen and contorted hands wrapped loosely by a boldly patterned kimono, was made soon after the two met. This is the earliest example of a strong decorative element in Mather’s work, and she would use this stylistic device repeatedly as she continued to develop for own artistic vision.

Mather and Justema jointly applied for a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1928 for a proposal they called “The Exposé of Form”. In the application they described photographs they had been working on together, with Mather as the photographer and Justema the designer, that included images of hands, eggs, melons, waves, bathroom fixtures and seashells. Later Weston would also explore these same subjects. The application was not approved, and for the next two years Mather’s interest in photography declined.

In 1930 Justema moved to San Francisco and through his connections was able to secure a one-person exhibition for Mather at the M.H. De Young Memorial Museum. She mounted a collection of significant new photos for the exhibition, based on a theme of strong patterns made up of repeated combinations of common objects like combs, fans, shells, clocks and chains. One of her more provocative images from this series was a collection of glass eyes, laid out in a neat rows and each staring in a slightly different direction. When the exhibition opened, one reviewer referred to her (although erroneously) as “Margrethe Mather, San Francisco modernist.”[16]

After the exhibition Mather returned to Los Angeles and developed a long-lasting relationship with George Lipton, described as “a garrulous, hard-drinking man” she first met back in the early anarchist days. Lipton ran an antiques shop, and Mather worked part-time for him while pursuing her photography. Her health gradually declined over the next decade, and her interest in photography faded at the same time. In the early 1940s she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an affliction that at that time was highly debilitating and degenerative. By then she and Lipton had developed a mutually caring relationship, although the true extent of it was never disclosed.

Mather died on Christmas Day 1952. The official death record stated her name as “Margaret Lipton” and her occupation as “housewife,” two identities she never actually claimed or would have liked.[17] By that time Weston had destroyed most of his journals and notes from his early days in Los Angeles, and he mentioned her only briefly in his extensive published journal Daybooks. For the two decades between 1915 and 1935, however, she was one of the best known female photographers in America.

Modern trends[edit]

With Piazzoni, Stackpole went to France again in 1922, taking his family; he enrolled his nine-year-old son in the École Alsacienne, a private school in Paris. The two artists wished to investigate the most modern trends in Europe,[9] and they encountered Diego Rivera.[10] While there, Stackpole’s marriage unraveled, and he returned to the Bay Area in 1923 with a 24-year-old French still life artist and model named Francine Mazen, nicknamed “Ginette”; his wife and son returned after the school year to take up residence across the bay in Oakland. Stackpole obtained a divorce, and then married Ginette in Mexico.

In late 1923, Stackpole organized a major art exhibit, in partnership with Piazzoni. This was the first large-scale art show in San Francisco since 1915; there had been no expected rush of artists after the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. The exhibit, held in Polk Hall in the Civic Auditorium, was companion to a nearby print exhibit which included Gauguin and Matisse works. Critic and author Laura Bride Powers felt that the event was a disappointment—it displayed “inconspicuous examples” of leading artists, and failed to show any Picasso, avant-garde or Dadaist works.[11]

In 1926, Stackpole delivered the William A. Coleman Fountain to the city of Sacramento, a Moderne work (centrally located in what is now known as Cesar Chavez Park) which celebrated the city’s completion of a difficult water filtration project.[12][13] That same year, Stackpole traveled to Mexico City to see Rivera working on some of his 124 frescoes in the courtyard of the Secretariat of Public Education.[10] Returning with a small Rivera painting, Stackpole gave it to San Francisco Arts Commission president William Gerstle (who was initially unimpressed), and began a several-year effort to bring Rivera to work in California.[10]

Stackpole accepted an offer to teach at his former school, its name changed to the California School of Fine Arts (CSFA). For a stretch of almost twenty years,[14] he taught a number of subjects. Dorr Bothwell studied sculpture under Stackpole, then the head of the Sculpture Department, and thought him to be sexist—she said he told the women in the class that “the place they really belonged was in bed.”[15]

Site placement of Industry (1932) shows its position at the right of the former San Francisco Stock Exchange building.

Kenneth Rexroth wrote of Stackpole in 1929 that “He knew everybody in town from top to bottom … and he took us everywhere.”[3] Stackpole’s sizable San Francisco studio at 716 Montgomery (adjacent to Montgomery Block) served as a social center for San Francisco’s artist community. Photographer Dorothea Lange rented upstairs studio space there in 1926, and Helen Clark and Otis Oldfield, both artists, married there the same year.[16] Lange’s husband Maynard Dixon had his studio next door, and the Stackpole and Dixon families were close—both men were members of the Bohemian Club.

Throughout the 1930s, Stackpole worked frequently with architect Timothy Pflueger on various commissions. Beginning in 1929 when the two men first met, Stackpole was given responsibility for selecting the artists who worked to execute and augment Pflueger’s basic design scheme for the San Francisco Stock Exchange and its associated Tower, especially the Luncheon Club occupying the top floors of the Tower.[17] Stackpole said later of the experience, “the artists were in from the first. They were called in conference and assumed responsibility and personal pride in the building.”[18] At the Sansome Street tower entrance, Stackpole worked on a scaffolding with a crew of assistants to direct carve heroic figures in stone.[19] After the building was completed, Stackpole was finally successful in winning a commission for Rivera; Pflueger became convinced that Rivera would be the perfect muralist for decorating the staircase wall and ceiling of the Stock Exchange Club. This was a controversial selection considering Rivera’s leftist political beliefs in contradiction to the Stock Exchange’s capitalist foundation.[20] Into the mural, Rivera painted a figure of Stackpole’s son Peter holding a model airplane.

During his stay, Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo lived and worked at the studio, becoming in the process lifelong friends with Stackpole and Ginette. They met tennis champion Helen Wills Moody, an avid painter-hobbyist, who soon agreed to model for Rivera at the studio.[21] Neighbor Dixon saw the attention, and the American money being given to Rivera, and with etcher Frank Van Sloun organized a short-lived protest against the Communist artist. However, both Dixon and Van Sloun quickly realized that the San Francisco art world “oligarchy” who were obviously smitten with Rivera, including Stackpole’s well-connected patrons, were the same group that they themselves would need to support their own art aspirations.[10]

Stackpole worked as a laborer early in life to support himself and his mother following the death of his father in a lumber mill circular saw accident.[3] At sixteen, he came to San Francisco to study at the California School of Design beginning in 1903; he was influenced strongly by Arthur Frank Mathews, muralist and painter at the school. He met painter Helen Arnstein (later Helen Salz) while both were teenagers, and she became his first girlfriend. Arnstein, the daughter of wealthy Jewish art lovers and one year Stackpole’s senior, described him as “a remarkable draftsman” who painted and sketched constantly.[4]

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1 Response to Stackpole’s Bohemian Circle

  1. Reblogged this on rosamondpress and commented:

    Michael Harkins was a very close friend of the Stackpole family. He told me a story how Ralph fed the rats in their hill home. When Micchael saw the coroners report we ordered, he said “Your sister was murdered!” Later on he said; “I am dropping my investigation. This is not worth getting killed for.: Michael is dead. He was a Private Investigator who worked for Bill Lindhart who was hired by Carl Chessman. I then sent our report to a frellance reporter for the Carmel Pine Cone, and he showed it to Jacci Belford who showed it to my family. I get a call from Shamus Dundon who says he is upset, and I accused him of murder. I added what Michael said to our report. “You have proven they lied at least once. You now have assume everything you have heard is a lie until you prove it the truth. Anything could have happened at Rocky Point, including murder.” Lindhart had taught him the rudenments of PI work. One year later, Jon Detro is dead. Yestersy, while looking at the waves break on the rocks at Depoe Bay, I understood he asked my surviving, Vicki Presco, a very important question that solicied this answer; “I was helping her (Christine) overcome her fear of the water.” Why would anyone want to do that? I read in the Register Guard a young man did not have any fear of the ocean, and he got swept off rocks, taken out to sea, where he fought for his life for almost three minutes, then drowned. He was from Georgia. Christine lived in Carmel for twenty years. She saw the reports of many people who did not own a healthy fear of the Ocean.

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