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Margaret Lefranc, Eric Adamson and Ary Stillman

Ary Stillman [1]. Eric Adamson, [2] and Margaret Lefranc were all studying hard in Paris at the same time.


 While Margaret was in Paris, her social life flourished. One of her new friends was Eric Adamson, with whom she had a seven-year friendship. He was about five years older than Margaret and lived two doors away from her parents. He became a very close friend of her family. Margaret and Adamson ate lunch together and worked together with Andre L’Hote, but the relationship went no farther [3].  Adamson was living on a stipend; he wanted to marry Margaret, but her parents wouldn’t allow it. They said, “You are not going to live in Tallinn...Estonia [4]. In 1929, Margaret painted the Portrait of Eric Adamson (not shown here) which she retained in her collection. When Eric left Paris to return to his own country where he became an important artist and the director of an art academy, he painted Untitled (1932), trees in front of a wall, and gave it to Lefranc. Foremost, he was a painter, but he also devoted most of his talent to applied art. When he returned to Estonia, that was the last time she saw Adamson. He lived the rest of his life under the communist regime.


Ary Stillman’s sojourn in Paris was longer than Adamson’s. Stillman arrived in Paris in 1921 when he was approximately thirty-years-old which was sixteen years older than Lefranc, and returned to New York in 1933, the same year as did Margaret. By then, Stillman was well known in the art world. Lefranc specialized in portraits during her early years and painted a portrait of Ary at his easel sometime between 1925 and 1927 when she was eighteen to twenty years old. When they both returned to New York, he accepted Margaret’s invitations to exhibit many times at her new Guild Art Gallery. Lefranc was also a 1936 signer of the First American Artists’ Congress [5] and hosted the congress for two years at the gallery in an exhibition “America Today” in which Stillman participated.


One newspaper [6] review regarding Stillman stated, “There is a link with French impressionism, too, in the exhibition of paintings by the contemporary Ary Stillman at the Guild Art Gallery. But Stillman is now getting away from this influence. The charge of ‘impressionism’ which has been levelled at him since he began exhibiting will soon have to be spiked entirely. For while the effect may be that of loosely applied color, of seeking after the evanescent intensities of light, actually the technique is different. Color, for instance, is now being used expressionistically, for what it will do to the completed composition…rather than because of its relationship to truth.” 


It was a time also when Margaret experimented with everything including applying color loosely such as in the Portrait of Ary Stillman and in some of her own self-portraits eventually graduating the technique into her landscapes.


Lefranc stated later in life, “From sixteen to twenty-five years of age, I lived in Paris observing the growth of art away from naturalism and Impressionism. Every conceivable experimentation in the creative arts was taking place, from Cubism and Expressionism to Surrealism and Abstration, and then some. I studied with the brilliantly gifted Russian refugees from Bolshevism and, of course, with the original yet supremely logical French, in particular, Andre L’Hote. So much went on with studying, arguing and drinking of café au lait in bistros! But I lived for the excitement of drawing and painting, as all of us artists did.” [7]

[1] Ary Stillman, 1891–1967.

[2] Eric(k) Adamson, 1902–1968.

[3] Margaret Lefranc interview with Diane Armitage of THE magazine, September 22, 1994,

[4] Margaret Lefranc interview with Mike Carroll, Turner-Carroll Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1994.

[5] Members of the Organization were brought together to act on behalf of artists, art, and artistic freedom. by Marie Annika

[6] Exhibition of 19th Century American Painters Rewarding, New York World-Telegram, Saturday, March 27, 1937.

[7] “A Lifetime of Imaging 1921–1992,” statement by Margaret Lefranc for the exhibition at St. John’s College Art Gallery, Santa Fe, 1997.

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