Bulletin of The Art Institute of Chicago – 1925 (Romola)

  • Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago 1925-11: Vol 19 Iss 8


Thirty-eighth Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture opens on October 29, to remain in the East Wing until December 13. This exhibition is always awaited and received with great interest, for it is index of the year’s achievements. Selected on a basis of individual excellence, it works as a group representative of the various tendencies and schools which determine the direction of American painting and sculpture. The present exhibition contains at least two works which will be hung in the permanent collections of the Art Institute, for there are shown for the first time a painting purchased for the museum by the Friends of American Art, William Glackens’ “Chez Mouquin,” and Nicholai Fechin’s portrait of Lillian Gish as Romola, purchased from the Goodman Fund. Mr Fechin, a Russian by birth, an American by adoption, will be remembered for his one-man show held in 1924, when he gave proof of a highly individual technique, linked with a national tradition. In the portrait of Lillian Gish, the Russian is subordinate to the individual, and we find a double feat, a painter’s appreciation of another artist’s interpretation of her. The pathos and grace which the actress brought to her part are retained, and this added an element lacking on the screen color. The lavender gown, heavy red books, and polychrome background are used for their full decorative possibilities. “Chez Mouquin” is an early work by William J. Glackens, definitely dated as to the decade it represents, and quite different in manner from the artist’s later more dashing style.

Romola – Nicolai Fechin 1925 – Painting Oil on canvas tacked over board, 125.1 x 114.9 cm. Private collection as of 2006.

“During that time, two sculptors, Dimitri Dirujinski and Boris Lorski, modeled busts of me. Nicolai Fechin did a portrait of me as Romola that was bought by the Chicago Art Institute. When I was in that city playing in Life With Father, it was hanging in the Goodman Theater. “ (Lillian Gish)

Nicolai Fechin and Alexandra Fechin with actress Lillian Gish and Erwin S. Barrie, director

Nicolai Fechin (1881 – 1955) also known as “The Tartar Painter”, was highly influential student of Russian master Ilya Repin. Fechin, along with John Singer Sargent, Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, and Anders Zorn are the perhaps the most frequently cited influences on contemporary impressionists. But it is Fechin’s technique and approach that made his paintings stand out. Masterful with color and palette knife, Fechin used whatever he could, including saliva and his thumb, to achieve the effects he was seeking. Fechin would start with an abstract and bring it back to realism in select areas such as the face and hands, but his compositions, especially anything other than the center of interest, were generally abstract. Began paintings on plain, double weave Belgian linen, which was often attached to stretchers which he had made. He generally prepared his own canvases and seldom made preliminary sketches. His ground varied, not only from painting to painting, but upon a single canvas. In some areas he might use rabbit skin glue; in others, cottage cheese. The absorbency differences in the various sections of ground resulted in areas of high gloss and areas of matte finish in his completed painting. This was the effect he sought, and he therefore did not varnish his paintings.

Lillian Gish admiring Romola portrait by Nicolai Fechin cca 1925 (Oil on canvas painting) – French Press HiRes

*** Fechin painted Lillian Gish as Romola in 1925 (oil on canvas tacked over board) 49¼ x 45¼ in. (125.1 x 114.9 cm.). Estimate $150.000, portrait was finally sold for $464.000 and is part of a private collection since 2006.

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Double exposure, take two – by Roddy McDowall (1989)

  • Double exposure, take two
  • Compiled and photographed by Roddy McDowall – 1989
  • William Morrow and Company Inc. New York
  • “A gallery of the Celebrated with commentary by the Equally Celebrated”
Lillian Gish by Roddy McDowall – 1989 (book)

Lillian Gish by Lily Tomlin

On the night Nine to Five opened in New York, it was December and freezing and very windy. I had sent a car to take Lillian to the theatre and then to the party at Luchow’s later. After the movie, the street outside was jammed with fans (mostly Lillian’s) and cars; they rushed Jane and Dolly and me out the door and threw us into a Limo which was sitting there waiting – Lillian’s limo! I thought, “Oh, no, where’s Lillian?” Outside the window, I saw this tiny, graceful figure fighting her way up the street, holding onto her hat, the wind whipping around her skirts. Lillian! I watched her wave down someone approaching in an old Pontiac Firebird; she climbed in and peeled out. I thought, “She’ll never speak to me again.” All the way to Luchow’s, I was beside myself. When I walked into the restaurant, the first person I saw was – Lillian! She’d beaten me to the party and was rushing toward me with her arms outstretched; she threw them around me and said, “Oh, Lily, this movie is going to be such a big hit. Tell me you have a percentage and, please, tell me it’s not net.”

Lillian Gish by Roddy McDowall – 1989 (book page)
Lillian Gish, Robert Altman and Lily Tomlin – 1976

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Mayor of NY with Connie Towers and Lillian Gish – backstage in the opening night of “Anya”

Mayor of NY with Connie Towers and Lillian Gish – backstage in the opening night of “Anya” (December 1965)

Anya star Connie Towers is pictured backstage with Lillian Gish and Mayor of the New York City John Lindsey. In private life, Connie is Mrs. Eugene McGrath who often visits Miami. Her husband’s mother. Mrs. Harry Scheibla, lives in Miami. The McGraths have two small children, a son and a daughter.

Photo Friedman Abeles 351W 54St. N.Y.C. 19 Judson 6-3260

Constance Towers, Lillian Gish and John Lindsey (Mayor of NY) – Photo Anya Dec 5 1965
Constance Towers, Lillian Gish and John Lindsey (Mayor of NY) – Anya Dec 5 1965

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Central City Opera House – Now and Then – HDV 720p 29.97 fps

In 1877, the citizens of Central City organized a fundraising drive for a grand new opera house befitting the gold mining town’s reputation as “the richest square mile on earth.” Many of the town’s residents were Welsh and Cornish miners, who brought with them a rich tradition of music from their homeland. Prominent Denver architect Robert S. Roeschlaub provided an elegant, understated design for the stone structure, and San Francisco artist John C. Massman added elaborate trompe l’oeil murals to the interior.

Her early glory years following the 1878 grand opening were short-lived. When the Central City mines were played out, the Opera House fell into disrepair. Fortunately, a volunteer-driven effort led by Ida Kruse McFarlane, Edna Chappell and Anne Evans led to an extensive restoration of the Opera House in 1932. That summer, the legendary actress Lillian Gish opened the newly restored opera house with Camille, launching an annual tradition of summer festivals in Central City.

Central City Opera House – Now and Then – HDV 720p 29

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‘Intolerance’ Film Slated At UCSC (Santa Cruz Sentinel, 1975)

  • Santa Cruz Sentinel, Volume 119, Number 239, 10 October 1975
  • ‘Intolerance’ Film Slated At UCSC

D.W. Griffith’s 1916 film “Intolerance”, the silent picture that became a benchmark in epic films, will be screened at the UCSC classroom building Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. The showing will celebrate Griffith’s 100th birthday and will be accompanied by veteran theater organist Chauncey Haines.’ The three-hour film intertwines four separate stories of suffering and injustice, and it is famous for a lavish Babylonian set. Featured players include Lillian Gish. The print being shown at UCSC is in perfect condition, according to programmer David Craig. Tickets at $2 will be available at the UCSC ticket office, the Santa Cruz. Box Office or at the door.

Intolerance – Photo Gallery

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Silent film star receives top award (Santa Cruz Sentinel, 1984)

  • Santa Cruz Sentinel, Volume 128, Number 53, 2 March 1984
  • Silent film star receives top award

BEVERLY HILLS (AP) – “She was there at the birth of an art form,” Douglas Fairbanks Jr. said as the film world saluted Lillian Gish, last great star of the silent film era. Miss Gish, 90, was presented Thursday night with the Life Achievement Award of the American Film Institute, the second woman recipient in the 12 years of the honor. Bette Davis won the award in 1977. It was an evening for women achievers in the movie world, and Miss Gish presided at the table of honor in the Beverly Hilton ballroom with latter-day stars Sally Field, Jessica Lange, Jeanne Moreau, Sissy Spacek, Mary Steenburgen, Lily Tomlin and Cicely Tyson. “She is the symbol of eternal youth of America,” said Miss Moreau, who has filmed a documentary of Miss Gish’s life. “She had an air of serenity that made everybody calm,” said Robert Mitchum, who starred with Miss Gish in the 1955 film “The Night of the Hunter.” The silent film star was also saluted by co-workers and friends Richard Widmark. who appeared with her in “The Cobweb,” actress Colleen Moore, a friend since 1918; Eva Marie Saint, who appeared with Miss Gish in the TV drama and Broadway play, “A Trip To Bountiful;” Jennifer Jones of “Duel in the Sun” and “A Portrait of Jenny; ” and Richard Thomas, who appeared in Miss Gish’s most recent film, the TV movie “Hobson’s Choice.” John Huston recalled how his father, Walter, held Lillian Gish on his shoulder for a 1902 play in Ohio, “In Convict’s Stripes.” John Houseman, who produced two films with Miss Gish, recalled that her MGM boss, Irving Thalberg, once offered to “arrange a scandal” to enliven her reputation as the eternal maiden. She declined, and shortly after talking films began she returned to the theater, mailing occasional film appearances over the years.

The seriousness with which Lillian Gish took her work was undermined at MGM in 1927 when it was suggested that a scandal might improve her performance at the box office. “You are way up there on a pedestal and nobody cares.” said the producers. “If you were knocked off the pedestal, everyone would care.” Lillian Gish realized she would be expected to give a performance off screen as well as on. “I’m sorry,” she said, “I just don’t have that much vitality.” Shortly afterward, she returned to her first love, the theater, and the cinema lost her for the better part of a decade.  What the film producers failed to comprehend was how much value for the money she gave them, for she was part of an older tradition. Griffith had imbued his players with the discipline and dedication of the nineteenth-century theater, and Lillian Gish carried these qualities to unprecedented lengths.

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Lillian Gish Turns 87 (Santa Cruz Sentinel, 1983)

  • Santa Cruz Sentinel, Volume 127, Number 242, 16 October 1983
  • Lillian Gish Turns 87

PARIS – American actress Lillian Gish celebrated her 87th birthday in the French capital Friday. Here she waves to photographers as French culture minister Jack Lang waits to award her with the Arts and Letters commander medal during ceremonies Thursday at the French culture ministry.

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