Minny Temple (Painting #12 of 13) “Influential Women”

•July 12, 2014 • 2 Comments

Minny Temple #2

Minny Temple
1845 – 1870

“I am not a candidate for adoption. I am very fond of my liberty.”

As Edward Wagenknecht, creator of Eve and Henry James, says, “Isabel had at least one important nonliterary source in Jame’s cousin Minny Temple.” James loved Minny’s “precociousness, brashness and independence of sprit.” More than a love of a cousin, James was passionate about Minny. But just as the character in James’ The Portrait of a Lady, Ralph Touchett, could never marry Isabel Archer due to close blood ties, so was Henry James thwarted in his unrequited love of Minny Temple. Nonetheless, Minny supplied James time and again as a model for his literary female characters. Author Fred Kaplan remarks: “ Minny attached life. If she was reckless, it was a recklessness that excited James.”

An atypical Victorian woman, Minny defied the narrow constraints harnessing the role of females of her generation. Inquisitive and explorative, she was bound to challenge the world around her. A tribute to Minny’s independence, her willfulness is immortalized for so many readers of James’ novels. Her tenacious approach to life sculpted the personalities of subsequent generations of young women by giving them an alternative example to the prescribed social expectations of her day.

Minny Temple died of tuberculosis at the tender age of 25, no doubt a crushing blow to her fondest admirer, Henry James. Is it possible that her loss is the reason James never married? He certainly endowed many of his created women with her sprit. She was a major influence on him and a presence he imbibed in much of his writings.

(painting photo: Mark Serman)

© Laurence Revene, 2014


Isadora Duncan (Painting #11 of 13) “Influential Women”

•July 11, 2014 • 1 Comment

Isadora Duncan

Isadora Duncan
1877 – 1927

“Farewell, my friends. I go to glory!”

By the end of her life, Isadora Duncan’s performing career had dwindled and she became as notorious for her financial woes, scandalous love life and all-too-frequent public drunkenness, as for her contributions to the arts.

At the beginning of Isadora’s career, she broke with dance conventions. Duncan traced the art of dance back to its roots as a sacred art. She developed a style of free and natural movements inspired by the classical Greek arts, folk dances, social dances, nature and natural forces, as well as an approach to the new American athleticism which included skipping, running, jumping, leaping and tossing. She founded dance schools, based on her technique in the US, France, Russia and Germany. She was lauded throughout Europe for her fresh approach to the art of dance. She sustained herself and her family by performing in public as well as private venues.

There is some speculation the nude woman in Eadweard Muybridge movement photo studies (Nude descending a staircase) is, Mary Isadora Gray, Isadora’s mother. Both Muybridge and Isadoria’s mother were living in San Fransisco at the  time of Muybridge’s photo studies.  Joseph Charles Duncan, Isadora’s father, was a banker, mining engineer and connoisseur of the arts. Soon after Isadora’s birth, her father lost his bank and was publicly disgraced. As a result the family became extremely poor.

Isadora’s childhood was an unhappy one. There was strife and divorce, her mother insisted her father was a demon in human garb. Her mother disavowed the religion in which she was raised, and she espoused  the atheism of Robert Ingersoll. These elements shaped Isadora’s childhood. When  eventually meeting her father, Isadora found him to be a charming, lovable poet. Passing years softened the intolerance of childhood, but Isadora Duncan never lost her contempt for the institution of marriage as she knew it. When she was twelve years old, she made a solemn vow that she would welcome love when it came, but she would never marry.

Isadora engaged in many romances with both men and women, and seemed to create scandals wherever she went. She was a noted renegade throughout her 50 years of life. Perhaps this added to her reputation as a non-traditional dancer. She adopted communism and was expelled from the US as a result, but this too she jettisoned when that ideology turned out to be false.

No stranger to tragedy, Isadora lost her two children to a freak accident not unlike her own tragic death. She was strangled to death when her long flowing scarf, which she was noted for, caught in the spokes of the open-top car in which she was riding. Her children and their nanny were drowned when the driver of their car forgot to set the hand brake when he got out to crank the car in order to start it. The car rolled into a river.

She will forever be known as the “mother of modern dance” – a claim that she no doubt would have relished.

(painting photo: Mark Serman)

© Laurence Revene, 2014

Amelia Earhart (Painting #10 of 13) “Influential Women”

•July 10, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Amelia Earhart 1897 -1937

Amelia Earhart
1897 – 1937

“I believe that little red airplane said something to me as it swished by.”

“We remember her because she is our favorite missing person,” says Tom D. Crouch, Senior Curator of the National Air and Space Museum. The unresolved circumstances of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance, along with her fame as a record breaking aviatrix, attracted various claims relating to her last flight, all of which have been generally dismissed for lack of verifiable evidence. Several unsupported theories have become well known. Earhart was an international celebrity during her lifetime. Her shyly charismatic appeal, independence, persistence, coolness under pressure, courage and goal-oriented career, along with the circumstances of her disappearance at a comparatively early age, have driven her lasting fame in popular culture. Hundreds of articles and scores of books have been written about her life – which is often cited as a motivational tale, especially for women. Earhart is generally regarded as a feminist icon.

Earhart’s accomplishments in aviation inspired a generation of female aviators, including more than 1,000 women pilots of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) who ferried military aircraft, towed gliders, flew target practice aircraft, and served as transport pilots during World War II.

The home where Earhart was born is now the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum in Atchinson Ks. and is maintained by The Ninety-Nines, an international group of female pilots of whom Earhart was the first elected president.

A small section of Earhart’s Lockheed Electra starboard engine nacelle recovered in the aftermath of first attempted around the world flight, that crashed in Hawaii, has been confirmed as authentic and is now regarded as a control piece that will help to authenticate possible future discoveries.

Amy Earhart, Amelia’s mother, did not believe in molding her children into “nice little girls.” At age seven Earhart’s well-documented first flight ended dramatically. She emerged from the broken wooden box that had served as a sled with a bruised lip, torn dress and a “sensation of exhilaration.” She exclaimed, “Oh, Pidge, (her sister) it’s just like flying!” She made a ramp on the roof of the family shed and slid down it, emulating a rollercaoster she had see at the 1904 World Fair in St. Louis.

During a flying exhibition put on by a World War I ace, the pilot spotted Earhart and a friend, watching from an isolated clearing, and dived at them. “I am sure he said to himself, ‘Watch me make them scamper,'” she wrote in an account. Earhart stood her ground as the aircraft came close. “I did not understand it at the time,” she said, “but I believe that little red airplane said something to me as it swished by.”

Chronic sinusitis significantly affected Earhart’s flying activities in later life, sometimes on the airfield she was forced to wear a bandage on her cheek to cover a small drainage tube. This was due to her Red Cross duties in Toronto, Canada after World War I, where she was exposure to the flu pandemic of 1918. She worked other jobs, including photographer, truck driver, and stenographer at the local Long Beach Ca. telephone company, while she was living there with her parents. She managed to save $1,000 for flying lessons. Earhart had her first lessons, beginning on January 3, 1921. After securing her pilots license, Amelia still had to work at various jobs to sustain herself and her mother. It wasn’t until her transatlantic flight with Wilmer Stultz and Louis Gordon that she found some semblance of recognition. Self-described as “just baggage” on that endeavor, the notoriety she enjoyed as “Lady Lindy” (after Charles Lindberg) resulted in a series for public speaking tours that further raised her prominence. With George P. Putnam, the book publisher and publicist, backing her, Amelia became a well known comity endorsing women’s clothes, luggage and cigarettes. She became associate editor for Cosmopolitan magazine, giving her a platform to promote female flying, and she became involved with The Ninety-Nines, an organization of female pilots providing moral support and advancing the cause of women in aviation. At age 34 she was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, followed by other “first”: Honolulu to Oakland, Ca., LA to Mexico City, and from there to New York. Air racing was popular during this period and Earhart participated in many of these events.

Amelia Earhart’s first attemt to circumnavagate the globe was plauged with mechanical difficulties, but she resolved those problems and set off from Miami on her second attempt July 2, 1937. What followed during the last leg of her flight over the Pacific has been the subject of speculation and research for decades. Many therioes are postured as to her final hours in the Howland Island vicinty but to date there has never been any evidence to substanciate what happend to Amelia and her navigator, Fred Noonan. Mysteries remain and therories abound but the only solid fact is Amelia’s legacy as a courageous woman with a determination to fulfill her dream of being a first rate pilot.


(Painting photo: Mark Serman)

© Laurence Revene, 2014

Julia Jackson-Stephen (Painting #9 of 13) “Influential Women”

•July 9, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Julia jackson

Julia Jackson-Stephen
“As you are, so was I. As I am, so shall you be.”

Julia Jackson-Stevens, as a child, moved with her mother in 1848 to England from Calcutta, India, where she was born. In 1882 Julia Jackson-Stephen gave birth to Virginia Woolf, who grew up to resemble her mother, who was noted for her beauty. Julia had a reputation for saintly self-sacrifice; she also had prominent social and artistic connections. In 1926, Virginia Woolf wrote a book on her great-aunt’s photographs, Julia Margaret Cameron, one of the first and most renown portrait photographers of the 19th Century. Cameron made more than twenty portraits of her favorite niece and namesake, Julia Jackson. She never portrayed Julia as a sibyl or a saint but rather as a natural embodiment of purity, beauty and grace. Julia Jackson-Stephens also served as a model for pre-Raphaelite painters such as Edward Burne-Jones.

After the sudden death of Julia’s first husband Herbert Duckworth, she married Sir Leslie Stephen (1832–1904) a notable historian, author, critic and mountaineer. Sir Leslie was a founding editor of the Dictionary of National Biography, which influenced his daughter Virginia’s later experimental biographies. Both Julia Jackson’s first husband, and Sir Leslie’s first wife, a daughter of the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, died unexpectedly. Julia was left with three children and Sir Leslie with one son. Julia Jackson Duckworth and Leslie Stephen married in 1878, and had four children from their union: Vanessa (born 1879), Thoby (born 1880), Virginia (born 1882), and Adrian (born 1883).

Julia Jackson-Stevens was a renowned beauty, the twenty-one-year-old subject here seems bodiless, an ethereal spirit afloat like an untethered soul. She came from a family of beauties who left their mark on Victorian society as models for Pre-Raphaelite artists and early photographers. It was on 5 May 1895 that Julia Stephen died very suddenly: her heart gave out following an attack of influenza which turned into rheumatic fever. This profoundly affected her family, especially Virgina, who wrote Reminiscences, about her childhood and her lost mother, which was published in 1908. After the death of her father in 1904, Virginia had a nervous breakdown and suffer bipolar symptoms for the remainder of her life – which end with her suicide in 1941 at the age of 49 – the same age at which her mother died.

(Painting photo: Mark Serman)

© Laurence Revene, 2014

Anaïs Nin (Painting #8 of 13) “Influential Women”

•July 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Anais Nin 1903 - 1977
Anaïs Nin
1903 – 1977

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

One of the first female writers of erotica, Anaïs Nin’s diaries supplied ample first hand material to support her subject matter. Best known as an American diarist, she delves deep into her emotions and reasoning for her selective promiscuousness. At one point married to two husbands simultaneously, one in New York and the other in Los Angeles, Anaïs walked a fine line in her relationships with the two. She found it necessary to keep a “lie box” to keep her details straight. Not uncommon amongst forward thinking women throughout history, she was drawn to intelligent men who were her perspicacious equal, fulfilling her quest for knowledge and intimacy.

Having had an incestuous relationship with her Cuban musician father, Anaïs might have been a victim of the syndrome of seeking her father in the men she associated with.

According to her diaries, Vol.1, 1931–1934, Nin shared a bohemian lifestyle with Henry Miller during a period when she lived in Paris. Her journals, which span several decades, provide a deeply explorative insight into her personal life and relationships. Nin was acquainted, often quite intimately, with a number of prominent authors, artists, and wrote of them often, especially psychoanalysts Otto Rank, who broke with Freud over Freud’s failure to appreciate the power of women’s sexuality, the value of art, and the meaning of the mother-child relationship. Rank provided Anaïs validation to write her true feelings and perceptions. This was the greatest contribution Anaïs Nin supplied: justification for women to explore their own sexuality and consciousness. Moreover, as a female author describing a primarily masculine constellation of celebrities, Nin’s journals have acquired importance as a counterbalancing perspective from a woman’s point of view.

Previously unpublished works are now in print: A Café in Space, the Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, which most recently includes “Anaïs Nin and Joaquín Nin y Castellanos: Prelude to a Symphony: Letters between a father and daughter.”

So far fifteen volumes of her journals have been published most of which were printed posthumously.

(painting photo: Mark Serman)

© Laurence Revene, 2014

Alice Guy-Blaché (Painting #7 of 13) “Influential Women”

•July 6, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Alice GuyBlanche'

Alice Guy-Blaché
1873 – 1968

“Be Natural”

Surely, Léon Gaumont could not have foreseen the typist he hired to do clerical work would turn out to be one of the most inventive and influential filmmakers in the fledging years of the motion picture industry in France. In 1896, after two years with Gaumont Films, Alice Guy was head of production for the company. Under her direction, the first narrative films were developed, a shift from the street scenes vignettes heretofore popular subjects for audiences around the turn of the century. By 1906 Alice was writing, directing and producing several short films a week at Gaumont. A decade before D. W. Griffith’s seminal Birth of a Nation in the US, Alice made The Life of Christ, one of the largest budget productions anywhere in its day. She has not been properly credited for such cinematic first as: split screen, double exposure, reversing shots, and for overseeing the development of “Chronophone”, the first sound recordings synced with picture. In 1930, Léon Gaumont published the history of his company with no mention of Alice or any productions prior to 1907. Understandably upset, Alice, wrote a letter to Gaumont, and he agreed to change the text to include her contributions leading to the success of his company. These promised changes never made it into print and were never published.

In 1907, Alice Guy became Mrs. Alice Guy-Blaché, when she married the scoundrel, Herbert Blaché, another Gaumont employee who worked as a production manger. The newly weds set sail for America to head the Gaumont company’s expansion into the US market. By 1910, the couple in partnership with moneyman George A. Magie, felt secure enough in their abilities to sever ties with Gaumont and form the largest pre-Hollywood film company, Solax. First located in Flushing New York, the success of their partnership soon saw them relocating to Fort Lee N.J., the epicenter at the time for motion picture production. With Alice as artistic director, and Herbert as production manager and cinematographer, the company flourish under a large sign Alice had place in the facility quoting her motto: “Be Natural.” Despite the complications of being the mother of two young daughters, Alice, as head of Solax, continued to write, direct and produce as many as three films a week. In order to focus more on writing and directing, Alice put the presidency of their company solely in Herbert’s hands. The exodus of many of the Fort Lee film companies to the warmer, less expensive climes of the West Coast, where they could escape the Edison patent thugs, meant a decline in East Coast production and a decline in Solax’s fortunes – as well as Alice and Herbert’s marriage. After starting another company, Herbert deserted Alice and their two children and ran off to Hollywood with one of his actresses.

Alice briefly made films for William Randolf Hearst, but the loss of her husband and the transplanting of the film industry to the West coast, soon found Alice in bankruptcy. She returned to France with her daughters and although for the next 30 years lectured and wrote about film, Alice never made another movie. Alice Guy-Blaché’s twenty four years in the industry and nearly one thousand films, were virtually forgotten by the film community until she received the Légion d’honneur (1953) in her native France. Barely a third of her work still exist (mainly the films she directed featuring Charlie Chaplin), her legacy has been revived by the New Jersey Film Commision with a monument in her honor in Fort Lee, NJ, the site of her Solax studio. Her contrabutions to the art of filmmaking have influenced and are evident in every film that is made to this day.

(Painting photo: Mark Serman)

© Laurence Revene, 2014



Harriet Tubman (Painting #6 of 13) “Influential Women”

•July 5, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Harriet Tubman - no frame
Harriet Tubman
1820 -1913

“There was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death;
if I could not have one, I would have the other.”

Defined by her deeds, Harriet Tubman distinguished herself as a arch abolitionist, leading hundreds of slaves out of the South to freedom in the northern United States and Canada. Life threating missions into the pre-civil war South and during that fierce struggle, she guided countless indigent serfs to a safe haven in the North. Harriet risk her own freedom and well being, to save others.

Despite the affects of a life long serious head wound suffered at an early age, inflicted while protecting a fellow slave, Harriet labored her entire life in the service of God, to right the social wrongs of her people. Endlessly plagued with her own poor physical condition, undeterred, Harriet traveled untold miles, mostly on foot, to deliver family, friends, and strangers to a just existence out of the bonds of slavery. She affected her own freedom and that of others by nocturnal journeys, guided by the North Star, through woodland and swamps, utilizing the informal connections of the “underground railroad” and its network of safe houses and supporters, to free her brethren.

Harriet Tubman, in her 93 years: championed her people, served as a Union scout and spy, led a armed assault during the Combahee River raid, founded a home for elderly blacks and worked for the rights of women voters. Much lauded for her selfless service for others, Harriet died as she was born, bereft of worldly goods and money but with a grand legacy as her final earthly reward.

(Painting photo: Mark Serman)

© Laurence Revene, 2014