Margaret Lefranc and Gene Kloss

In 1939, Margaret drove across the United States from New York to California “to see the land of her birth” with a planned stop in New Mexico. To greet her were Dr. Rudolph “Rudy” Kieve [1], a former boyfriend, and Marjorie, his wife, a long-time New York friend. They introduced her to Frieda Lawrence [2], who had rentals in Taos and where Margaret met poet W. H. Auden [3], with his student Chester Kallman [4]. After over a month’s stay with Frieda, Margaret headed toward California after Auden insisted on a ride in order to meet poet Christopher Isherwood [5], but before she left, Lefranc went sketching with Nicolai Fechin [6] and became long-time friends with his daughter Eya [7]. In Taos, Margaret fell in love with New Mexico and vowed to Frieda to return when she had saved one thousand dollars. True to her word, Margaret returned to live in Nambe and Santa Fe from 1945–1955 illustrating books for noted Alice Marriott [8]. Lefranc became close friends with Maria Martinez [9] while sketching the potter and listening to Marriott’s interviews of the famous Indian potter. Margaret’s illustrations for Marriott’s book, Maria: The Potter of San Ildefonso (still in print) received the Fifty Best Books of the Year Award for Illustrations given by the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. in conjunction with the American Institute of Graphic Arts. Also, Lefranc was adopted by Indians from the Nambe Pueblo. After ten years, when Lefranc’s and Marriott’s fathers both became ill, Margaret sold the Nambe house, kept the Santa Fe house she had built, and relocated to Miami, Florida. Marriott departed for Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Years later when Lefranc split her time between Santa Fe and Miami, the artist painted End of Dance at Santo Domingo, 1989 and actually finished it two years later when Sandra McKenzie [10] drove Lefranc to Santo Domingo to add the final paint stroke extending the ladder in the kiva.

Gene Kloss [11] a master printmaker in America, and her husband, Phillips Kloss, a poet and composer, were considered to be an artistic and literary couple.  Born in California, married in 1925, Gene and Phillips Kloss also had duo residences as did Lefranc and other artists.  Gene’s homes were California and Taos, New Mexico.  Becoming part of the Taos Colony, Kloss eventually felt that she was perhaps lesser known of the group because she was a woman and part of a younger generation at that time, Kloss said as much in recorded interviews. “I oftentimes have my work sitting upside down.  You can see the quality of design better without the subject interfering…viewable even across the room even if they are rather small…a good design so that they make interesting patterns across the room.” [12]

It was obvious that both Gene and Margaret immensely loved New Mexico—its Pueblos, skies, landscapes and the rest of its the beauty.  In addition, both women had much in common regarding their exhibit venues:  The World’s Fairs in either California or New York, the Corcoran Gallery, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, exhibits in Paris, France, plus numerous shows including the renamed New Mexico Museum of Art—both were included in many of the same group and small solo exhibitions in the Alcove Shows [13], as well as Open Door Exhibitions with other well-known artists, printmakers and sculptors of the time. Also, during the years Lefranc was living in Nambe, she exhibited in Oklahoma City Center and the Philbrook in Tulsa, as well as the Lowe’s in Miami, Florida, and other places as did Gene Kloss who had an extensive exhibition record and awards in other states, but both women’s ties were always to New Mexico.  

Christmas Eve at Taos Pueblo (1946) by Gene Kloss is a Drypoint etching. However, at various times during Kloss’ career, she combined three techniques into one print: traditional etching, aquatint and drypoint methods. She was also a watercolorist.

Since picture taking at Indian Pueblos was not allowed during the era of Lefranc and Kloss, painting was done from memory.  There was an exception, however, when the Pueblo Council at San Ildefonso gave Lefranc permission, with certain restrictions, to draw [in person] her subject(s) [14].  

 

[1] Dr. Rudolph Kieve (1911–1987), a Jewish German Psychiatrist who immigrated to America to escape the Nazi menace.

[2] Frieda Lawrence (1879–1956), married to D. H. Lawrence (1885–1930), British writer and poet.

[3] W. H. Auden (1907–1993), poet.

[4] Chester Kallman (1921–1975), poet and translator, known for his collaboration with W. H. Auden.

[5] Christopher Isherwood, (1904–1986), English-American novelist.

[6] Nicolai Fechin, (1881–1955), Russian-American painter of portraits and Native American Indians.

[7] Eya Fechin (1914–2002), dancer and daughter of Nicolai Fechin.

[8] Alice Marriott (1910–1992), author, historian and anthropologist from Oklahoma.

[9] Maria Martinez (1887–1980), well-known potter, San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico.

[10] Sandra McKenzie, president of the Margaret Lefranc Art Foundation since its inception.

[11] Gene Kloss (1903–1996) printmaker and painter, married to Phillips Kloss (1902–1995).

[12] Sylvia Loomis, Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Oral History Interview with Gene Kloss, June 11, 1964.

[13] Rebecca Potance, Librarian at the New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico, email dated March 18,2019.

[14] Katz, Lois, A Lifetime of Imaging: The Art of Margaret Lefranc, pg. 171, citing “New Mexico, 1939–1956” by Margaret Lefranc, May 20, 1997, and Sandra D’Emilio, curator at Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe, interview with Sandra McKenzie for Margaret Lefranc biography or autobiography.