ARTS & COLLECTIBLES

FORBIDDEN ART

Nine D.H. Lawrence paintings seized by Scotland Yard almost a century ago from a London art gallery on display at an exclusive event inside a luxury Paradise Valley, Arizona mansion awed art lovers.

JESSICA HALL
PHOTOGRAPHY BY:  ©DH Lawrence

 

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A Holy Family

The U.K.-born David Herbert Lawrence (1885 – 1930), known for risky poetry, art, and writings, is viewed as one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. Penning novels such as Sons and Lovers (1913), Women in Love (1915), and the very controversial, once banned, Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928), as well as other short stories, essays, and travel books, the globetrotting D.H. Lawrence and wife Frieda visited the thriving arts town north of Santa Fe during the early 1920s. In 1922, A New York socialite and patron of the arts, Mabel Dodge Sterne Luhan, known for being in social circles with Georgia O’Keeffe and Lady Dorothy Brett, welcomed D.H. and Frieda into her Taos home on the author’s 37th birthday. The threesome hit it off, and the eccentric Luhan gifted the Lawrences 176 acres of land, which is now a major tourist attraction known as D.H. Lawrence Ranch and where his ashes lie. In return, Frieda gave Mabel the original manuscript of Sons and Lovers.

After 18 months, the Lawrences’ left Taos and returned to England, where he showed his paintings at the Dorothy Warren Gallery. During the show, the government, press, and public diligently watched. It was only a year before that Lady Chatterley’s Lover was published and was considered offensive under British law because of its adult vocabulary and frank candid references to erotic acts. In 1960 Penguin Books published an uncensored edition that rocked England.

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Rape of the Sabine

Penguin had to defend it against the standards of the 1959 Obscene Publications Act. The act required works of art to be of “literary merit.” Distinguished British cultural historians and critics defended the book, including E.M. Forster, Helen Gardner, Raymond Williams, and Norman St. John-Stevas. On November 2, Penguin obtained a “not guilty,” widening opportunities for publishing explicit material in the United Kingdom.

Shortly after the Warren Gallery opened the exhibition, Scotland Yard seized thirteen of the twenty-five paintings, following criticism of nearly 13,000 viewers who saw them. Although prominent individuals defended his work, they were returned to Lawrence with a warning to remove them from England. The punishment was to risk their destruction. Aware of this tragedy, Mabel Luhan brought nine of them to Taos for safekeeping.

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Fight with Amazon

Red Willow Trees

While Lawrence may not be widely known for his painting, it provided great pleasure in 1926. Brave New World, author Aldous Huxley’s wife, gave Lawrence four canvases, and he continued to paint until he died in Venice, France, on March 1, 1930. After his death, Frieda reverted to Taos with her boyfriend, Angelo Ravagli. They later married in 1950. When Frieda died six years later her estate, was passed to Ravagli. He sold them to Tao’s art lover Saki Karavas, the owner of Hotel La Fonda. Already a fan of D. H. Lawrence, Karavas owned several first editions of Lawrence’s works. He then changed the property into an arts center where Taos Society of Artists members met and displayed their works.

The Sahd family acquired the hotel in 1996, and D. H. Lawrence’s paintings were part of the sale. Bib Sahid is currently the owner of the 15 galleries, including the RC Gorman Navajo Gallery, in the famed art district of Scottsdale. Keeping Lawrence’s legacy alive, Sahid kept his paintings in Taos, New Mexico, for decades - Until now!

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Flight Back to Paradise

Recently, nine of Lawrence’s paintings were exhibited in an exclusive mansion in Paradise Valley. The crème de la crème was able to see Lawrence’s: A Holy Family, Dance Sketch, Fight with Amazon, Flight Back to Paradise, Nymphs and Fauns, Rape of the Sabine, Red Willow Trees, Summer Dawn, and The Kiss.

“The showing in this beautiful Paradise Valley home kicks off a world tour for the artworks,” Sahd says. “We are looking at sharing them with the world while we still own them. “I would like the paintings to enjoy greater exposure so that more and more people can experience them. We have had people travel from all over the world to see them at La Fonda and have had some offers to purchase them over the years. I just feel that the artwork is so famous because of its illustrious author it would be good for more eyeballs to see them.”

“Just as with the resort-style home where they were shown, the D.H. Lawrence collection has not been seen by many, and we welcomed sharing both the paintings and the splendor of this Paradise Valley estate,” says Frank Aazami, luxury agent and brand ambassador of Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty. “Both are bold in style, rare like no other, and so special in many ways.”

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The Kiss

The mansion in which Lawrence’s work was displayed is extraordinary. It took ten years to complete by master architect Juan Sandoval. The five-bedroom, seven-bedroom Italian Villa, 8100 North 68th Street, is influenced by the Getty Villa outside Rome and combines 17th- and 18th-century Palladian styles with modern touches. Located at the Camelback Golf Club, the home layout is featured around a two-acre octagon wrapping expansive courtyard-like space. Some of the many hand-crafted rooms and details include a grand loggia surrounding two courtyards; a 60-foot-by-60- foot hand-tiled mosaic heated saltwater pool with a capacity of 150,000 gallons; Venetian-plastered walls; and book-matched marble floors. More than 300 dazzling rosebushes have been integrated into the landscaping. It was the perfect backdrop to showcase D.H. Lawrence’s work. Aazami and his Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty team placed the nine paintings throughout the $18,000,000 estate with a story describing each piece.

“Unlike any other property on the market, this home was designed as a personal resort and indoor/outdoor living, in step with the Arizona lifestyle,” Aazami says. “All of it is built around ‘mass,’ ‘quality,’ and ‘longevity.’ This timeless home will outlive multiple generations. In this way, our guests enjoy both the works and the exquisite architecture, craftsmanship, and finishes of this outstanding home. Like a silent auction, we welcomed undisclosed offers for the forbidden collection. Any proceeds of art sales are the owner’s, not Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty.”

Sahd has always enjoyed the paintings with their distraught actions and scenes and emotional intensity. “They seem to reveal self-portraits of Lawrence,” he says, “and we hoped that showing them may encourage a revival of interest in one of the great writers of the 20th-century, who helped change our way of looking at human relationships.”

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