Margaret Lefranc and Klara Farkas

Margaret returned to Santa Fe every July for six months, as the summers in Florida were too humid. Also, she couldn’t pull up roots in either place because it was too hard to make younger friends when Laura Gilpin, Annette Stevens Rada, Audrey Corwin Wright, Maria Martinez, and Lefranc’s Nambe Indian adopted grandmother, Leonidas, were all gone. But a younger woman, Sandra McKenzie [1] who Margaret nicknamed “McKenzie,” did enter Lefranc’s life in 1989, corresponding since they met in 1975 when she first saw Margaret’s art and termed it “magical.” McKenzie made it possible for Margaret to commute between Miami and Santa Fe and to continue new art experiences.

Autumn Splash (1989) is an early Lefranc monotype; its explosion of colors are in overlapping patches as if they are pieces in a kaleidoscope and not the fluid forms of sweeping colors.  Produced while studying with Ron Pokrasso, owner of Pokrasso Graphics Workshop in Santa Fe, Lefranc’s friends were attracted from Florida when they saw Margaret’s art. 

Klara Farkas [2], the preeminent photographer of the dignitaries in Miami in portraitures as well as a pioneering Miami artist, was a close friend of Margaret’s. When Klara visited, Margaret gave a guided tour of Taos and other parts of New Mexico for Farkas to add portraits, pueblos, and landscapes to her prodigious photographs of her trips across the world. Her sixty years of photographic history is extensive, sometimes exhibiting in the same shows as her friends along with solo shows of decades of travel to various countries—her favorites being Ethiopia with her daughter, Georgette Ballance, and another trip to the Amazon with Julia Allen Field, married to Dr. Henry Field [3] of Coconut Grove. At one time, Julia was a lion tamer and the youngest director of a zoo at Crandon Park [4]. According to her daughter, Juliana Field, who answered a blog picturing Julia Rand Allen [5] at Crandon Park Zoo with Rudy, her lion [6], “At Central Park Zoo…she purchased the jaguar, Rebecca, a surplus animal. She flew Rebecca back to the Amazon (Leticia, Colombia)…”  

Margaret and Winter Cat (1984–1985, photograph) by Klara Farkas was taken during her visit to Margaret’s studio in her New Mexico adobe home holding Winter, who accompanied Margaret everywhere whether by plane or when McKenzie drove their station wagon transporting their summer belongings beginning in 1990.

Klara’s photographs reside in the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian; the Elliot Elsofon Photographic Archives, National Museum of African Art (photographs taken in Ethiopia in 1971); and the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. She was a member of Wolfsonian, Miami Art Museum, fellow of Kampong National Tropical Garden, Fairchild Tropical Garden, advisor to Lowe’s Beaux Arts, including the League of Women Voters, and other organizations and political affiliation. The Ten Notable Coconut Grove Women exhibition hangs in the permanent collection at Miami-Dade Public Library, Glimpses of Nature was exhibited at the Kampong in Coconut Grove curated by her daughter, and Klara participated in the creation of the Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami, and taught photography at what was the Grove House. Her work is known nationally and internationally.

Klara married George Farkas [7] in 1933, immigrated from Budapest, Hungary, to London and then to New York where posters of his work [8] were exhibited in the 1939 World’s Fair. The Farkases moved to south Florida in 1940, settled in 1946 in Coconut Grove and, as a team, built successful careers in several fields as well as photography. After studying piano at the Royal Academy of Music, Klara married and discovered that she had stage fright. She turned to studying photography to record her husband’s interior designs, architecture projects, his furniture designs and fabric patterns. George died in 1961. Afterward, Klara’s photography become a way to support two children, Georgette and Thomas.   

Klara discovered that McKenzie was cataloguing Margaret’s art and asked McKenzie to do the same for her. During their times around the Klara’s dining room table, past a hallway where Farkas wished she had more wall space for the hanging of her portraits, McKenzie computerized the identity of prints and negatives which Klara could vaguely identify with her diminishing vision. When pressed for an artistic statement, Klara picked up an invitation to an exhibition, which stated in part, “…I am exploring diffused light, misty haze, bright light, and intensive light in order to create contrasts to please my mood, and to fit the character of my subjects.” She clarified, “I know how to see people.” And, of course, there were buildings, interiors, landscapes and much more that she knew how to “see.”

The first picture McKenzie saw of Klara was an iconic Self Portrait print of her wearing long white gloves with her chin propped on one hand alongside a tall old Rolleiflex camera on a table, the lens and Farkas facing the viewer. It might have been taken in 1950, but at that point in time, it was reproduced on the front of the 1983 invitation to the Art and Culture Center in Hollywood, Florida Exhibition. That iconic picture is the lens through which McKenzie viewed Klara throughout their twenty-three years of friendship, as well as an appreciation for Klara, the artist with a camera.  

Klara walked to Margaret’s house for tea where Margaret was recovering from a reoccurrence of the same rheumatic fever the artist had contracted at age thirteen when in Berlin. In 1994, Margaret and McKenzie established the Margaret Lefranc Art Foundation. Klara sat in the dining room of Lefranc’s tree house studio and placed an envelope on the table for Margaret to open. It contained a check for ten thousand dollars for the Foundation, which stunned the two women who had formed it.

 

[1] Sandra McKenzie, Margaret Lefranc Art Foundation president.

[2] Klara Farkas (1910–2013).

[3] Henry Field (1902–1986), anthropologist, married in 1953 to Julia Rand Allen, who was 26.

[4] Press Arrives Slightly Late for Wedding, Miami Herald, February 7, 1953.

[5] Julia Rand Field (born approximately 1937 died in 2011 in Wellesley, MA).  Zoo director and lion tamer.

[6] Wade G. Burck, The Circus “No Spin Zone” blog dated April 12, 2012 at 1:31 p.m. and answered January 5, 2014 at 4:02 p.m.

[7] George Farkas (1905–1961), known for Industrial Design, Interior Design, and Architecture.

[8] Images of A Life, Miami The Herald, Sunday-3K, January 26, 2003