Margaret Lefranc & Lloyd Raymond ney

The well-known personality of the time, Clifton “Kip” Fadiman [1], and relative of Lefranc’s by marriage, dubbed Margaret the “Ur Hippie” of Hunter. When Margaret returned to New York from Europe, she painfully discovered that Hunter in the Catskills had not only fallen to vagrants but also her parents had failed to pay real estate taxes while they were abroad. To rescue the home she loved, built in the 1700s, she promised to pay everything that was in arrears. She sold some paintings and appealed to her aunt Rose, her mother’s sister, who helped her. 

Eventually she turned her beloved home into a colony where she invited creative people to get away from the city during the summer weekends and vacations to stay at Hunter with the caveat that each had to be working on a project during the day or they were not invited. In the evening they all shared in the cooking, cleaning up the dishes and also repairing some defects of the farmhouse; and, of course, they had to kick in a small stipend for covering their stay.

Felice Swados and Richard Hofstadter were an important part of the mix. In August 1938, Time chose Felice to become a contributing editor and placed her name on the masthead, a rarity for women. Richard specialized in American political history and wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Age of Reform from Bryan to FDR,1955. In 1936, Felice and Richard married.  Margaret noted, “Nothing would do but that I accompany them on their honeymoon, a motor trip through the South to examine the health problems of sharecroppers’ and miners’ children…and to record historical documentation through illustrations.” Lefranc always laughed when she told the story that “Dick had a two-seater car, so I was relegated to the jump seat.” [2]

 

Margaret’s next-door neighbors at her farmhouse were Betty Comden and her husband Steve. Betty and her business partner, Adolph Green, who was always there, were two of the truly legendary figures of American musical theater and collaborated for more than fifty years. They wrote numerous scripts together and lyrics for musicals. Visiting also were actress, Judy Holiday; composer, conductor, Leonard Bernstein, and many others. Of course, they all became extremely famous. Lefranc noted, “When I…began restoring the house at Hunter…Betty used to invite me over to their tennis court…and I had a wonderful pool…so we were like one big family…We spent a lot of time outdoors. And I was always invited to their parties [3]. Margaret also built a studio onto her house with her own hands and painted five landscapes a day of the apple orchard outside the new studio window.

Margaret rented an apartment in 1935 in New York while funding and directing the Guild Art Gallery at 37 West 57th Street. “Anyone who was doing any work in New York, exhibited at the Guild Art Gallery.” The Archives of American Art, Smithsonian, is the repository for Lefranc’s gallery papers, correspondence, invitations, and exhibitions pertaining to a number of artists: Arshile Gorky, Lloyd Raymond Ney, Ary Stillman, Philip Reisman, Donald Forbes, Ahron Ben-Shmual, Chaim Gross, Perkins Harnly, Boris Aronson, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Paul Feeley, Henry Major, Rosa Newman, as well as Jacques Zucker, Milton Horn, Saul Baizerman, Zygmuynt Menkes, L. Jean Liberte, Raphael Soyer, Nathaniel Dirk, C. Scaravaglione, Enrico Glicenstein, and Jean de Marco.  Also included in the Smithsonian files are newspaper reviews written by Genauer, Burrows, Mumford, Lane and Offin. Lefranc also hosted the “All-American Graphic Art Show” at the Guild Art Gallery—an exhibition sponsored by the American Artists’ Congress consisting of 100 prints carefully selected…by a jury” [4] which included Max Weber and Yasuo Kuniyoshi.    

Lloyd Raymond Ney, an artist from New Hope, Pennsylvania, painted his Untitled Landscape 1935 while exhibiting in Lefranc’s gallery, gifting it to her as an apology for the trouble he felt he’d created regarding an associate who demanded partial proceeds that he felt Ney owed.   According to a news article, “Mr. Ney came to New York City because his friend Bruce Lockwood got…Margaret Lefranc…of the Guild Art Gallery…to come down and have a look at Mr. Ney’s watercolors.  Result:  A one-man show (his first)…” [5] Lockwood, in the Foreword of Ney’s catalogue for the thirty watercolor show, stated, “…Ney fills his papers with seering reds, piercing blues, oranges, yellows and greens… [6] Later Ney said in a news article that he sold more paintings in twenty-one days in a one-man show of watercolors at the Guild Art Gallery that produced more money than he made in a year.

[1] Clifton “Kip” Fadiman (1904–1999), radio and television personality, author, American intellect and editor, was the brother of her sister’s husband,

[2] Lois Katz, A Lifetime of Imaging: The Art of Margaret Lefranc, pg. 99, Tapes 3A and 3B, interview with Sandra McKenzie for intended Margaret Lefranc biography or autobiography.

[3] Lois Katz, A Lifetime of Imaging: The Art of Margaret Lefranc, pg 103.

[4] Many Excellent Plates, New York World Telegram, Saturday, December 12, 1936.

[5] Artist happy to Return to Brickyard Job, but one-Man Show in Gallery Here Goes On, New York World-Telegram, Saturday, January 18, 1936.

[6] One-Man Show by Lloyd Ney, New York World-Telegram, Friday, January 17, 1936.