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Federico Beltran-Masses (1885-1949)

All oil on canvas, 1932

 

 

 

From London's Stair Sainty gallery site:

 

"Miss Joan Crawford."  140 cm x 165 cm.

 

Provenance: Estate of the artist, to his widow, to her heirs; Private collection.

 

Literature: Federico Beltrán Massés: Castizo cosmopolita, Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid, 2012, illustrated on p. 110.

 

Exhibited: Federico Beltran-Masses, The Royal Watercolour Society Galleries, London, 5 – 23 June, no. 96; Federico Beltrán Masses, Torreón de Lozoya, Caja Segovia, 2008, illustrated on p. 95 of the catalogue; Federico Beltrán Massés – A painter in the court of Hollywood, Edición Museu Diocesà de Barcelona, 2011, cat. no. 88, illustrated on p. 170; Galerie Alain Blondel, Paris.

 

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The present portrait was not the artist’s only painting of Joan – he also did a full length portrait of the star as an elegant Hollywood queen, wearing a simple and discreetly cut dress, looking off into the distance;  this work she retained for her own collection. Here, however, Beltran painted her not as the star of romantic films, but as the strong and self-confident seductress she was – a characterisation much closer to the real Joan than the original roles she played with such success in the 1920’s. The work is a tribute to Beltran’s mastery of psychological insight. Joan sits in a gondola in a canal setting similar to the background of Beltrán’s portrait of her husband, but with a solitary reddish light which reflects from a window onto the canal. Joan’s revealing white open jacket tied with a black bow at the neck parallels the smart tuxedo Fairbanks wears, while she holds a white flower lightly in her left hand, her right, with its red-painted nails, hangs languorously at her side. The most striking features of her pale face are her slightly downturned red lips and her intensely staring eyes with their carefully shaped eyebrows. Her auburn hair is worn longer than was fashionable, which allowed the artist to emphasise its lustre. This is Joan Crawford, femme fatale, at the apex of her career.

 

 

 

 

From London's Stair Sainty gallery site:

 

"Pasion." 152 cm x 100 cm.

 

Provenance: Estate of the artist, to his widow, to her heirs;

 

Exhibited: Federico Beltrán Masses, Torreón de Lozoya, Caja Segovia, 2008, illustrated in the catalogue on p. 81 of the catalogue; Galerie Alain Blondel, Paris, 2012.

 

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In 1932 Crawford and Fairbanks Jr. travelled to Europe on a ‘second honeymoon’ where Fairbanks, still madly in love with his wife, hoped to rekindle their failing marriage. Whilst in Paris they saw Federico Beltrán-Masses, who knew the Fairbanks family from his 1925 Hollywood sojourn. The young lovers playfully commissioned corresponding standing portraits from the artist, who also painted a daring seated portrait of Crawford. La Serenissima, Venice, is the setting for all of Beltrán’s known paintings of Crawford and Fairbanks Jr, though we do not know if his was at their request or the artist’s initiative. Nor do we know whether Beltrán painted Pasión, also known as Passion in Venice, before or after his full-length portrait of Fairbanks, but the composition appears in the background of the portrait.

 

Set before what appears to be the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, the painting shows a passionate, blond Fairbanks burying his head in the neck or décolletage of the woman he clasps tightly, reversing the pose of Munch’s 1890s masterpiece, The Vampire. Crawford’s deep auburn hair and distinct arched brows are instantly identifiable in the female figure who abandons herself to her lover’s embrace. More difficult to discern is whether she expresses ecstasy or a more ambivalent surrender. The painting, read either way, none the less perfectly embodies the all-consuming and mesmeric, even if not enduring, power of first love.

 

 

 

 

 

From London's Stair Sainty gallery site:

 

"Mr. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr." 196 cm x 130 cm.

Provenance: Estate of the artist, to the widow of the artist, to her heirs, Barcelona; private collection, Barcelona.

Exhibited: Federico Beltran-Masses, The Royal Watercolour Society Galleries, London, 5 – 23 June, no. 98, illustrated in the catalogue; Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris 1935; Paintings by Federico Beltran Massés, New Burlington galleries, London, 1938, no. 55, illustrated in the catalogue; Federico Beltrán Masses, Torreón de Lozoya, Caja Segovia, 2008, illustrated on p. 93 of the catalogue; A painter in the court of Hollywood, Museo Diocesa, Barcelona, 2011; Federico Beltrán Masses: Cosmopolitan Painter, Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid, 2012.

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In this portrait, Douglas wears a short white tuxedo, a red carnation in his button hole and holds a cigarette in his right hand. He rests against a balcony overlooking an indeterminate Venetian vista. In a gondola behind him a couple embrace – this same couple (without question Fairbanks and Crawford) are portrayed again in Beltran’s Pasión, (cat. no. 19). The artist makes liberal use of the now ubiquitous ‘Beltran blue’ in the dark, starry night sky, canal and palace that comprise the background. The handsome young film star, slim and blue-eyed, wears a neatly trimmed moustache that Fairbanks Jr would shave at the Studio’s request upon his return to Hollywood, but would later readopt, and wear for the rest of his life.

 

 


 

The Best of Everything