Margaret Lefranc and Annette Stevens Rada

Margaret Lefranc met Annette Stevens [1], through their mutual friend, Marjorie (Golden aka Goldberg) Kieve [2], who worked near Lefranc’s gallery in New York. Through Annette, Margaret most likely became involved in textiles after she closed her Guild Art Gallery. “…My job was to design…I was a colorist…and worked with dye masters who were French…and I spoke a perfect French.” Margaret oversaw the printing of designs, the matching of colors, and the transition from pure dye silks to rayon [3]“The Dupont people sent their head chemists to see what formula I had finally concocted. Sometimes they used my designs [4]. She worked with the best designers: Chaney Silks, Hilvan Studios, M. Lowenstein, Klein Brothers, and Bonita Designs; but finally, Margaret needed time to paint and didn’t want to work six days a week.

 

In the summer of 1939, Margaret made a life-changing trip to New Mexico. She wanted to see the land of her birth and to visit her friends from New York, Dr. Rudy Kieve [5] and his wife Marjorie. When Margaret told Annette of her plans, Stevens insisted on accompanying Margaret, since compensation from her broken ankle could pay for her share of the trip.

They drove first to Florida then travelled on to Texas and north to Las Vegas and finally to Taos, New Mexico, where her friends lived. Through the Kieve's, Lefranc met Frieda Lawrence [6] (Mrs. D. H. Lawrence) [7] and rented a townhouse from her. Having been apprised by Thomas Mann [8] of the arrival of his son-in-law in Taos, the Kieves met the poet W. H. Auden [9] and Chester Kallman at the bus station in the center of the village. Auden was traveling as tutor and paid companion to Kallman [10].

Lefranc painted Portrait of Annette Stevens (Rada) (1939) at D. H. Lawrence Ranch in Taos, New Mexico, in between sketching with other artists during the over-a-month visit with Frieda. When the stay in Taos was over, Auden persuaded the two women to let him and Chester hitch a ride to California. It was a journey and vacation Lefranc would never forget. She wrote about Frieda Lawrence, Auden and Kallman, Witter Bynner [11], and others in an article published in 1992 and later serialized [12, 13]Before she left Taos, Lefranc promised Frieda Lawrence that when she had one thousand dollars saved, she would return to live in New Mexico.

Lefranc did return in 1945. During the ensuing years of living at the Nambe Pueblo, about twenty-five miles north of Santa Fe, she illustrated and photographed her independent life among the Indians and Spanish-American neighbors. Margaret had divorced Raymond Elton Schoonover before she left New York while, at the same time, Annette met and married Rudi Rada [14], a nationally known photographer and a trained musician who was formerly on the NBC Orchestra staff. Annette turned from textile designing to partnering with her husband in architectural photography, since Rudi was considered to be the best in the United States. While Margaret was in New Mexico documenting her life, she mailed her negatives to the Radas who were happy to develop them for better picture quality in Miami, where they had moved for more occupational opportunities and to also look in on Margaret’s parents, who had moved there for Abe’s health. The Radas were married for twenty years before Rudi died of a sudden heart attack, and Annette grieved until her death from suicide fourteen years later.

Many of Annette’s photographs are compelling results of the trip with Lefranc to New Mexico as well as her travels with her husband to Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Central and South America, where her discerning eye for the poignant combined with technical skill gave sensitive portrayals of faces and places. Seminole Family (1949) is such an example.

Because the Radas were an outstanding team in the field of architectural and advertising photography and their work appeared in national and international publications as well as museum exhibitions, Margaret donated the majority of their negatives and photographs to History Miami [15], formerly known as the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, which specializes in the history of southeastern Florida, including Greater Miami, the Florida Keys, and the Everglades, concentrating on the importance of the past in shaping the future of Miami.

 

[1] Annette Stevens (1910–1975), textile specialist in New York turned photographer when married Rudy Rada, a photographer.

[2] Marjorie (Golden aka Goldberg) Kieve (1906?–1982 or 1983).

[3] Lois Katz, A Lifetime of Imaging:  The Art of Margaret Lefranc, pg. 119–120, Tapes 3A and 3B, interview with Sandra McKenzie for intended Margaret Lefranc biography or autobiography.

[4] Ibid.

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

[6] Frieda Lawrence (1879–1956), German literary figure mainly known as wife of D. H. Lawrence.

[7] D. H. Lawrence (1885–1930), English writer and poet and married to Frieda Lawrence.

[8] Thomas Mann (1875–1955), German novelist.  Daughter Erika Mann (1905–1969) married to W. H. Auden.

[9] W. H. Auden (1907–1973), English-American poet, and Chester Kallman (1921–1975), American poet and translator.

[10] “Profiles Legends: Remarkable Women of Taos Remarkable Women of Taos, New Mexico ”(http://womenoftaos.org/women/profiles-legends?item/113/Margaret-Lefranc).  womenoftaos.org.  Retrieved 2019-02-11.

[11] Witter Bynner (1881–1968), poet, writer, resident of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

[12] "W. H. Auden in the Southwest" (Volume 98, No. 1), El Palacio, Magazine of the Museum of New Mexico, Winter 1992.

[13]  Article on Auden". Pasatiempo, serialized in two issues, Santa Fe New Mexican, 1996.

[14] Rudi Rada (1907–1961), cameraman and teacher, moved to Miami in 1946.  Miami Herald, Miami, Florida, July 24, 1961.

[15] Dawn Hugh, Archives Manager, History Miami, 101C West Flagler Street, Miami, Florida 33130 in correspondene dated June 25, 2012.  The collection contains photographs by Annette and Rudi Rada from 1946 to 1974.  Some of the 1940s photographs were taken before they moved to Florida. The bulk of the collection covers the 1952–1956 period in which Rudi photographed houses for both the Miami News and the Miami Herald.  The collection contains both black and white, and color, negatives and prints, as well as color transparencies and slides. The collection specializes in architectural photographs, and commercial photography. There are several trips, one to Cuba in 1951, and one to South America in 1969.