Margaret Lefranc & Laura Gilpin

Out of gas in the blasting heat of the desert in Navajo country, Laura Gilpin, already thirty-nine years of age but quite vital, courageously walked two-and-one-half hours through an almost undotted horizon to get help. With only her thoughts as company, she finally arrived at Frazier’s trading post [1], where help was readily given before she continued on her photographic trip to Canyon de Chelly. Unlike others, Laura moved around to the other side of the ruins and photographed a different view of the White House which became Casa Blanca when published in Enduring Grace. It was originally named the White House in The Enduring Navaho which also published another version of this photograph which Laura gave later in the 1970s to Margaret Lefranc.

 

Margaret Lefranc was approximately twenty-three when she, too, was courageous when she saved a drowning man at the seashore outside of Paris. She saw him from the shoreline flailing, and without thinking, jumped into the water. She was strict and told him, “Don’t fight me, and I’ll save you.” He later sent her a box of candy. She ate the candy, but saved the box for the rest of her life as a reminder. 

From what seemed to be on the other side of Gilpin’s world, in Paris Margaret stepped on the gas and revved up Prince Sergei Mdvani’s Rolls Royce convertible testing it for her gymkhana obstacle racing competition in Paris. Margaret rejected his automobile, saying years later, “It drove like a Mac truck.” Her memory of the prince seems related only to his boring car. He was a Russian prince from the province of Georgia, the very prince mentioned in Photoplay in 1928, and who later married Pola Negri, the silent film star; his brother married Mae Murray and spent all of her money. 

 

Margaret was young, working hard while playing, dating, and becoming engaged and then disengaged to a few gentlemen.  As she stated in an interview, “For an American and a young woman, I had a great deal of recognition in Paris [2]. Even though a few of her male instructors disliked Americans and women, Lefranc said that she went there to learn. 

 

Margaret’s work was included in a number of exhibitions:  in the Salon d’Automne in 1927, 1928, 1929, and 1930; and at the Salon des Artistes Francais in 1929 and 1930. Her floral, Chrysanthemums, was painted during this period while her childhood friend, Diana Ruben (later Trilling), extended a visit with Margaret in Paris before Ruben returned to the United States to marry Lionel Trilling. Diana Trilling became a writer of essays and provocative articles [3].

Because Margaret had lived in Germany and learned the German language, she understood what “this crazy man,” Hitler, was saying [4]. She didn’t like what she was hearing or the political climate in Europe. She returned home to New York permanently.

 

[1] Introduction to “Dennisens of the Desert”, Laura Gilpin Collection, Amon Carter Museum.

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

[3] Diana Trilling (1905–1996) wrote for The Nation (1942–1949); The Partisan Review; and Newsweek and others.

[4] Margaret Lefranc interview with Dottie Indyke of Pasatiempo, Santa Fe, New Mexico, November 30, 1995.