Margaret Lefranc and Janet Lippincott

When dear friend Laura Gilpin died, Margaret Lefranc felt isolated. One of her major interests in her later years was creating monotypes and working with painter and printmaker Ron Pokrasso. In 1982 or 1983, Pokrasso was just launching a new business, Graphics Workshop. Margaret went with a friend, Janet Lippincott, who lived about a mile from Margaret, heard about the program, and also wanted to learn something new. In the 1950s Margaret had worked on etchings, but over the years her focus shifted to drawing and painting. Still, it was obvious to Pokrasso that Margaret knew exactly what she wanted to do, so Margaret became a member of the Graphics Workshop. She had the freedom to come into Pokrasso’s studio and use the facilities whenever she wanted and could ask for assistance on a time basis if necessary. She was able for approximately eight years to do all her own printing, set up all her own inks and run the press when she was in Santa Fe.

Breakthrough (1989) by Lefranc was pulled during her independent days and was exhibited at the Governor’s Gallery in 1992 and in the St. John’s College exhibition of Margaret’s works in 1997. One of the prints was donated to the then-named Museum of Fine Arts, later known as New Mexico Museum of Art. As the title makes clear, Margaret’s breakthrough was the creation of an abstract work entirely from her imagination with no springboard from the natural world or from any tangible object, a technique very different for Lefranc.

Janet Lippincott [1] in 2002 received the Governor’s Award for Achievement in the Arts. She was very much the loner though she had been in the Women’s Army Corps in 1943 and was attached to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s staff for two years [2] in London. She once stated, “…When it [the tour of duty] is over, and done, it shall be behind me forever.” But it was not, for when the building she lived in was bombed during a raid, she fell several stories and never recovered totally from her physical and mental injuries. It periodically haunted even some of her art. T. M. Collins, Jr., spoke about her work, “Somehow, the stained, scrubbily painted areas of khaki, olive drab and tan, organized by looping lines and blocks of black, impart a sense of some vast tragedy.” [3] As she grew older, however, her monotypes became brighter with a softer treatment of geometric form. Janet Lippicott stated in June 1972, “To be a modern painter and to make a truthful statement is the sum total of all that I am, and whatever that is I am continually striving to create.”

She, like Margaret, was reared as a privileged daughter; her father was an International banker, and she lived in Paris with her family before returning to New York to study at the Art Student’s League when she was fifteen. When she left the service in 1945, she studied at the Colorado Springs Art Center and San Francisco Art institute and in 1949 used the G. I. Bill to study in Taos under Emil Bisttram. In 1954 she moved to Santa Fe and built her home with a studio almost the same year as Lefranc. Lippincott had more than 50 one-person shows in New Mexico. Some group shows included Lefranc. She also exhibited in California, Colorado, Montana, and Texas. Her work is included in New Mexico Museum of Art, Oklahoma Fine Arts Center in Tulsa, Santa Barbara Museum, and The Denver Art Museum.   

Garden Place Lost (1986) by Lippincott was produced at Ron Pokrasso’s Graphics Workshop when she attended sometimes with Margaret. In a letter on January 30, 1987, she wrote to Margaret in Miami, “I have thought about you so often, and I was quite lonely after you left… and the winter was miserable.” 

Commenting about Lippincott, art historian David L. Witt stated, “In the 1950s New Mexico had few Modernist painters. She stands out for her bravery.” [4] Robert A. Ewing [5] added, “…Committed to the contemporary image, Janet has surmounted years of struggle to find herself accepted as one of the Southwest’s most consistently innovative and exciting painters. An iconoclast and longtime trail blazer for the contemporary, Janet is the focal point for a number of young artists who speak her language and recognize her as one of the inventors of their vocabulary.”

During Lefranc’s lifetime, Sandra McKenzie [6] met Lippincott several times as well as at the Monothon competition. Afterwards McKenzie helped Lippincott through some medical issues, getting her moved to her studio with a caregiver in place.

 

[1] Janet Lippincott (1918–2007).

[2] Fearless Clarity, Janet Lippincott by Elizabeth Cook-Romero, Pasatiempo, The New Mexico Weekly Magazine of the Arts, Entertainment and Culture, May 18-24, 2007.

[3] Janet Lippincott at Karan Ruhlen – Santa Fe-Art exhibits, January 8, 2006.

[4] Bold Painter Boosted Modernism, Janet Lippincott, 1918-2007 obituary, Elizabeth Cook-Romero, The New Mexican, 2007

[5] Robert “Bob” A. Ewing (1932–2012), statement made in 1972 printed in Memorial Celebration for Lippincott, June 10, 2007.

[6] Sandra McKenzie, President, Margaret Lefranc Art Foundation.