Sunday, April 2, 2017

Miguel Covarrubias in Taos, 1929

While researching for my upcoming essay "Schindler-Scheyer-Eaton-Ain: A Case Study in Adobe" I ran across the below Miguel Covarrubias items resulting from his 1929 visit to Mabel Dodge Luhan's historic artist colony compound in Taos perhaps through the largess of mutual friend Carl Van Vechten who had preceded him in 1927. This was also around the time that artist Marjorie Eaton was getting acclimated to Taos and meeting architect R. M. Schindler's 1915 client Doc Martin and his old Chicago Palette and Chisel Club pals Walter Ufer, E. Martin Hennings and Victor Higgins and Mabel Dodge Luhan's by then secretary "Spud" Johnson with whom she had Berkeley connections. 

Mabel Dodge Luhan House, "Los Gallos," Taos, 1929. Ansel Adams photo. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Miguel Covarrubias, 1932 by Carl Van Vechten. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

By 1929 Taos was very much the Bohemian crossroads of the Southwest largely through the efforts of the town's doyenne Mabel Dodge Luhan. Mexican caricaturist Miguel Covarrubias made his first pilgrimage in 1929, as did a plethora of luminaries from both the East and West Coast including besides Covarrubias, Georgia O'Keeffe, Rebecca Strand, Ansel Adams, Ella Young, Mary Austin, John O'Shea, Marjorie Eaton and her friends Katie Skeele and the Bruton sisters and numerous others. (For much on O'Keeffe and others' first visit to Taos in 1929 see my "Edward Weston and Mabel Dodge Luhan Remember D. H. Lawrence and Selected Carmel Taos Connections").

Georgia O'Keeffe by Miguel Covarrubias, 1929. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Georgia O'Keeffe was perhaps the most notable artist-in-residence among a legendary gathering of modernistas at Mabel's during the summer of 1929. Perhaps already friends from the Van Vechten circle in New York Covarrubias and O’Keeffe continued a lasting friendship while he caricatured her during their first Taos sojourns.

Georgia O'Keeffe by Carl Van Vechten, New York, May 3, 1932. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Spud Johnson, Taos, October 26, 1934 by Carl Van Vechten. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Covarrubias also reconnected with Mabel's secretary Spud Johnson (see above) who had spent the winter of 1926-27 in the Van Vechten circle in New York writing 24 irreverent articles for The New Yorker. Johnson seized the opportunity to solicit from Covarrubias a cover design for his by then legendary avant-garde literary magazine Laughing Horse (see above). (Author's Note: For much more on the relationship between Spud Johnson, Witter Bynner and the 1922 Laughing Horse scandal on the Berkeley campus see my "Edward Weston, Jean Charlot, "Spud" Johnson, Marjorie Eaton and Lloyd LaPage Rollins's 1932 "Horse Show").

Cover for Laughing Horse no. 16, by Miguel Covarrubias, 1929. From Spud Johnson & Laughing Horse by Sharyn R. Udall, University of New Mexico Press, 1994.

Miguel Covarrubias and Tina Modotti, Mexico City, 1924. Photo by Edward Weston. Copyright 1981, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona.

Having quickly befriended Covarrubias and his future wife Rose Roland shortly after he and his then lover Tina Modotti arrived in Mexico in August of 1923, mutual Eaton-Schindler-Scheyer friend Edward Weston wrote of his portrait sittings with Miguel and Rose,
"Later Covarrubias and Rose Roland came to see their proofs. Of Rose, I have one at least for myself. Miguel I should like to do again, but they leave for New York tomorrow. They are both very agreeable, jolly persons - I like them." (The Daybooks of Edward Weston, Vol. I. Mexico, September 23, 1926, p. 192). 
Miguel Covarrubias, 1926 by Edward Weston. Courtesy National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Though O’Keeffe was a generation older than Covarrubias, they shared many professional as well as social experiences. Both O’Keeffe and Covarrubias were part of a coterie of avant-garde artists in New York City during the 1910s, 20s and 30s pollinated by social butterfly author and photographer Carl Van Vechten (see below).

CarlVan Vechten by Miguel Covarrubias, n.d.. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Carl Van Vechten, self portrait, 1934. From Wikipedia.

“Woman with Squash Blossom Necklace,” Taos, 1929 by Miguel Covarrubias. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

During a visit to Mabel's husband Tony's Taos Pueblo Covarrubias couldn't help sketch one of the smitten tourists laden down with Indian booty (see above).

Tony Luhan by Ansel Adams, 1929.

Mabel Dodge Luhan, 1934 by Carl Van Vechten. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

This brief post is just meant to be a placeholder for a much lengthier essay I have in mind "Taos, 1929: A Bohemian Crossroads." Stay tuned. (For much on O'Keeffe's first visit to Taos in 1929 see my "Edward Weston and Mabel Dodge Luhan Remember D. H. Lawrence and Selected Carmel Taos Connections").