Pieces of Mabel Dodge Luhan and Company

Many apologies to my readers! It's been a terribly long time since I last posted, but I have a good excuse for neglecting my blog. I completed my Ph.D. at the University of Oklahoma, and had to conserve my ability to write in a relatively coherent manner for my dissertation. However, our upcoming Turquoise Gala, Fall Travel Program, and some exciting new exhibits have inspired me to get back on the grind and post an update. As usual, we have quite a lot of activity here at the museum. If you want to stay up to date with everything going on at the Millicent Rogers Museum, I recommend that you sign up for our newsletter, follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and check our website often.

Turtle Dance Dorothy Brett
Turtle Dance by Dorothy Brett, Millicent Rogers Museum

A few weeks ago, the Harwood Museum returned pieces they had borrowed from our collection for their traveling Mabel Dodge Luhan and Company exhibit, and the return of these pieces is the inspiration for this blog post.

Rebecca Strand Colcha
Colcha Stitch Embroidered Flower Design for Dorothy Benrimo by Rebecca Salsbury James, Millicent Rogers Museum

It has long been understood that the world is very small when it revolves around Taos and there are very few degrees of separation between individuals. In a previous post, I discussed the vigas in Turtle Walk, Millicent Rogers' home in Taos, that were painted by Dorothy Brett and Trinidad Archuleta (note the similarities to the Brett painting pictured above). Brett, an aristocratic lady from British high society, first came to Taos in 1924 with her friends Frieda and D.H. Lawrence, the famed writer. The three friends were invited to stay with Mabel Dodge Luhan, a wealthy American who is renowned, in part, for introducing many artists, writers, and their eccentric companions to Taos. In 1926, Rebecca Salsbury Strand (later James) visited Taos with her photographer husband Paul Strand upon receiving an invitation from Dodge Luhan. Salsbury James returned to Taos in 1929 accompanied by her close friend Georgia O'Keeffe, and the two women proceeded to make many return trips to the area before ultimately settling permanently in 1933 and 1940, respectively.

My Three Fates Dorothy Brett Albuquerque Museum
My Three Fates by Dorothy Brett, Albuquerque Museum
Mabel Dodge Luhan is on the far left, Frieda Lawrence is in the center with D.H. Lawrence in the back leaning against a tree, and Dorthy Brett is on the far right.

Brett was close friends with Rogers and would often correspond with her friend's youngest son, Paul Peralta-Ramos (the founder of the Millicent Rogers Museum). After Rogers' death, Brett continued to write and would encourage Peralta-Ramos to be more courageous, daring, and creative like his mother. She would also take great pleasure in sharing gossip about their various mutual acquaintances in Taos. In one letter, she regaled him with a story about Frieda Lawrence's false teeth, which had gone missing and were later found in the trash.

Millicent and Dorothy Taos Plaza Fiesta
Millicent Rogers and Dorothy Brett in the plaza during Fiestas de Taos, c. 1952,
Millicent Rogers Museum

Millicent and Frieda
Millicent Rogers and Frieda Lawrence at Turtle Walk, c. 1951,
Millicent Rogers Museum

MR Initials Original Entrance
Part of the floor at the Millicent Rogers Museum,
which was once the front entrance to the home of Claude and Elizabeth Anderson. 
The Andersons donated their home to the museum in the late 1960s.
Millicent Rogers, Frieda Lawrence, and Dorothy Brett carved their initials into the floor one evening at a party.

La Familia Living Room
The living room in the Anderson home or what is now gallery 10 in the Millicent Rogers Museum. 
Pictured in the foreground is a bench that Rogers purchased from Dodge Luhan.

The collection of the Millicent Rogers Museum includes several of Brett's paintings, and most of these works were either owned by Rogers or her son. Peralta-Ramos was instrumental in growing the museum's collection over the years and befriended many artists and collectors in Taos.

Dorothy Brett Millicent Rogers Portrait
Portrait of Millicent Rogers by Dorothy Brett, Millicent Rogers Museum

According to Searching for Beauty: The Life of Millicent Rogers by Cherie Burns, Rogers would frequent the La Fonda hotel in Santa Fe when she needed to recover from bouts of illness. On one of her final visits to the hotel, many of her Taos friends paid visits and she was gifted an embroidered colcha from Salsbury James. Unfortunately, this colcha is not included in the museum's collection. However, you can learn more about Rogers' stays in Suite 500 at the La Fonda hotel in the books referenced above and pictured below.

La Fonda
La Fonda Then and Now, published October 2016

The museum owns two of James' colchas, and the one pictured at the top of this blog post was dedicated to Dorothy Benrimo. Benrimo was also an artist and co-authored a photography book on grave crosses in northern New Mexico with James. The colcha was donated to the museum by Benrimo along with several santos from the artist's personal collection.

Benrimo Santo
San Ignacio de Loyola retablo by José Raphael Aragon, 1820-1865,
gift of Dorothy Benrimo, Millicent Rogers Museum

The Millicent Rogers Museum's collection is capable of telling many intricate and interconnected stories, and I look forward to sharing more of this amazing collection and the history of Taos with you.