Nov 272014

Ernesto Butterlin, aka Ernesto Linares or simply Lynn, was a Mexican artist active in the 1940s and 1950s. Ernesto’s parents and his two older brothers were all born in Germany and moved to Mexico in 1907, sailing first class aboard the “Fürst Bismarck” of the Hamburg-America line, from Hamburg to Veracruz. The family settled in Guadalajara, where Ernesto was born in about 1918.

The 1930 Mexican census, conducted on 15 May of that year lists the members of the household as:

  • Juan Butterlin 59, engineer, born in Germany
  • Amalia de Butterlin 49, born in Germany, speaks German, English, French
  • Ernesto Butterlin 12
  • Ma de Los Angeles Delgadillo 40, maid
  • Ma Guillermina Flores 16
  • Ma del Refugio Flores 12

Ernesto is in his twenties, and using the name Linares, in about 1944 when Neill James writes about Linares, a “young Mexican abstract painter who is currently showing his works in a traveling exhibition in the USA.” That brief description shows that Ernesto had already achieved some success as an artist, even at this early age.

A more detailed description of Ernesto and his work comes from the notebooks kept by Victor Serge, a Russian living in exile in Mexico, who visited Ajijic in December 1944 and stayed over the New Year:

“Ernesto Butterlin reminds me of Pilnyak. Often with lacquer for car bodies, he earnestly makes surrealist or abstract pictures in jumbled lines and lively tones, sometimes decorative. He wants to make money in New York, be someone, and this method worries him, and he genuinely loves art, and he’s full of inhibitions and poses. Big, blond, pince-nez, the untroubled face of a good German.”

A few years later in about 1947, American artist, anthropologist and author Tobias Schneebaum lived and painted in Mexico, including spells in Ajijic, from 1947 to 1950. In Ajijic, he became friends with Ernesto. In Wild Man, Schneebaum writes, “A young blond painter, born in Guadalajara of German parents, also lived in Ajijic. He was twenty-seven, blue-eyed, four inches over six feet, and very handsome, and was subject to the attentions of both the men and the women who later passed through town…”

“His family owned property in Ajijic, fields of corn and beans through which he moved like a country squire. Ajijic was small, with a population of three thousand, barely a third of whom had homes in the village itself, the other two-thirds living on their farms. He knew everyone by name and was adored and respected by old and young alike. He’d changed his Germanic name to Linares to identify more closely with the country of his birth, and liked to be called Lynn. He painted during the day with bright reds and yellows in wide bands of color, freely brushed and ripped on, a technique he claimed preceded Jackson Pollock, who he insisted had seen his work. He’d had one-man shows in New York and Mexico City.” (Wild Man, 12).

Elsewhere, Schneebaum describes how Ernesto “had inherited a considerable amount of farmland on the outskirts of Ajijic, but he spent most of his time painting in a drip technique that might have preceded the work of Jackson Pollock.” (Secret Places, 7)

Schneebaum, Ernesto Butterlin and a third artist Nicolas Muzenic were all employed by Irma Jonas to teach students attending her summer painting schools in Ajijic. According to Schneebaum, an ill-fated love triangle developed between the three artists at this time, complicated by the arrival of “haughty and radiantly beautiful” Zoe, the “fourth member of our group”, who had previously been living with Henry Miller in Big Sur, when she heard about Lynn and decided to visit Ajijic:

“After my return to Ajijic from Mexico City, other foreigners came to stay, notably Nikolas (sic) Muzenic, with whom I fell in love. He had been a student of Josef Albers at Black Mountain College… Nikolas, alas, fell in love with Lynn, not with me. It was a disastrous affair that started out as if it would last forever. Nikolas remained in Ajijic for about two years…” (Secret Places, 7)].

In Wild Man, Schneebaum recalls that, “Lynn’s casual ways bewitched and irritated Nicolas, just as Nicolas’s arrogant, snobbish manner attracted and mortified Lynn. Nicolas moved into Lynn’s house and began a frenzied, volcanic affair that lasted two years.” (Wild Man, 13) Schneebaum adds that Nicolas eventually bought the property and forced Lynn to move out, complete with his large collection of pre-Columbian art.

Disappointingly little is known of what became of Ernesto Butterlin’s pioneering artworks, and whether any are held in public collections, though both Ernesto and his older brother Otto were among the 28 artists given a joint exhibition in June 1954, in Mexico City, at the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes’ Salón de la Plástica Mexicana. Other artists whose work was featured on that occasion include Roberto F. Balbuena, Michael Baxte, Leonora Carrinqton, Enrique Climent, José Feher, Elvira Gascón, Gunther Gerzso and Carlos Mérida.

Ernesto Butterlin died in 1972. Schneebaum writes that Ernesto Linares, “later committed suicide. In order to fit his six-foot, four-inch body into the coffin, it was necessary to cut off his feet at the ankles.” (Secret Places, 7). However, John Lee, another American writer who was also a friend of the artist in the 1960s, remembers things differently. He has written that Ernesto, who “stayed single and was a friend of Eric, the Hildreths, the Hoppers, and me”, “died of cancer in 1972″. Ernesto Butterlin’s funeral and wake were held at Lee’s home in Ajijic.

Partial list of sources:

  • Tobias Schneebaum, Wild Man, Viking Press, 1979
  • Tobias Schneebaum, Secret Places: My life in New York and New Guinea, University of Wisconsin, 2000

As always, we would love to receive any comments, corrections or additional information.

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Nov 242014

Bruce Buckingham is the pseudonym of Dane Chandos, in turn the pseudonym of the writing duo of Peter Lilley and Anthony Stansfeld. The pair used the Bruce Buckingham pseudonym for two detective mysteries set in Mexico.

James Gilbert Lilley, always known as ‘Peter Lilley’, lived from 1913 to 1980. He first visited the Lake Chapala region at the end of the 1930s. Lilley was a tennis-loving expatriate Englishman who built a beautiful home at San Antonio Tlayacapan on Lake Chapala and lived there for 40 years.

Prior to university, Lilley had attended Stowe School in the UK from 1927 to 1932. His first pseudonym, “Dane Chandos”, was on account of his schoolboy nickname “Dane” (referencing his Danish-looking square jaw) and the name of one of the school’s boarding houses. Stowe School is set in the picturesque market town of Buckingham which helps explain “Bruce Buckingham”, his second choice of pseudonym. “Dane Chandos” was first used by Peter Lilley and Nigel Stansbury Millett (1904-1946) for Village in the Sun.

Following Millet’s untimely death in 1946, Lilley’s writing partner became Anthony Stansfeld (1913-1998), a multilingual fellow Englishman who was professor of art history at Mercer University in Macon, Atlanta, Georgia. The two collaborated on a series of books, either as “Dane Chandos” (used for House in the Sun, the follow-up to Village in the Sun – and for several travelogues) or as “Bruce Buckingham” (reserved for their two detective  stories).

The two detective novels, both set in Mexico, are:

  • Three Bad Nights (London: Michael Joseph, 1956; Penguin edition, 1961) and
  • Boiled Alive (London: Michael Joseph, 1957; Penguin edition, 1961)

Both feature a Mexican detective, Don Pancho (short for “Francisco de Torla Saavedra, Marqués de Langurén y Orandaín”), an eccentric, laid-back, huarache-wearing former federal detective who, with his manservant sidekick Crisanto, solves jewel thefts, murders and other glamorous international crimes. Both books also feature the British aristocrat Lady Kendon.

Nov 202014

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Nov 202014

Frederick (sometimes Fredrick/Friedrich) W. Butterlin was born in Cologne, Germany, in about January 1905, and was the middle of three brothers (Otto was older, Ernesto younger).

Frederick was a well-known photographer and seems to have been the owner of what was almost certainly one of the first art galleries in Ajijic.

Frederick had not yet celebrated his third birthday when his parents brought him to Mexico in 1907. The family had a first class cabin on the “Fürst Bismarck” of the Hamburg-America line, which departed Hamburg on 14 October 1907 for Veracruz, via Southampton, Santander, Coruna and Cuba. The passenger list duly records the ages of each of the family members. Frederick was 2 years and 9 months of age, his older brother Otto was 6 years and 6 months. Their father Hans Butterlin was 37 and his wife Amelie 26. The family settled in Guadalajara but so far I have been able to find out nothing of substance about their whereabouts during the next twenty years which includes the Mexican Revolution.

Girls belonging to the Old Colony (Saskatchewan) Mennonites moving to Mexico. Photo by Frederick Butterlin ca 1948

Girls belonging to the Old Colony (Saskatchewan) Mennonites moving to Mexico. Photo by Frederick Butterlin ca 1948

What is known is that in 1929, Frederick was a witness to his older brother Otto Butterlin’s marriage in California. In the 1930 U.S. census, Frederick W. is listed as 25 years old, single, and is said to have immigrated to the U.S. in about 1920. His occupation is listed as “sugar operator”. It is unclear how long Frederick remained in the U.S. but by 1934, he had become a noteworthy photographer.

Among other achievements as a photographer, he contributed to the Amateur Competitions in the January 1934 and February 1934 issues of Camera Craft, (A Photographic Monthly). He was also active as a photographer in Mexico, though precise dates are lacking. For example he is mentioned (albeit with an incorrect nationality) in Olivier Debroise’s Mexican Suite: A History of Photography in Mexico (University of Texas, 2001): “Perhaps the most interesting contributor to Foto was the Frenchman F.W. Butterlin, another devotee of pictorismo (as he called it), whose interesting composition entitled “Railroad Wheels” recalls the early work of Paul Strand.” (p 65)

Frederick seems to have continued his photographic career for several decades. His published photos include some evocative portrait photographs of Mennonites in Mexico published in the Mennonite Life editions of October 1949 and January 1952.

There are also references to Frederick (possibly with his wife) having owned one of the earliest galleries in Ajijic in the 1940s. According to Michael Hargraves in his 1992 booklet “Lake Chapala: A Literary Survey”, “Frederick owned the first restaurant and gallery in Ajijic in the 1940s, and was a painter in the classical style.” Assuming this is correct, it is perhaps Frederick’s wife who is the “Margo de Butterlin” or “Margaret North de Butterlin” pictured in the Life Magazine article (23 December 1957) about Ajijic.  In that article, she is described as “both rich and fashionable”, as well as, “US-born but Mexican by her last marriage”. While not naming her husband, the article goes on to say that “Her present husband runs the Galeria where the painters display their works and also buy drinks.”

As always, we would love to receive any comments, corrections or additional information.

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Nov 172014

Fred Lape, born at Holland Patent, about 10 miles north of Utica, New York, in 1900, spent several months every winter from about 1966 until his death in 1985, in Jocotepec on Lake Chapala. He died in Jocotepec on 1 March 1985, aged 85, and was interred in the local cemetery the following day.

Fred Lape (Credit: Landis Arboretum website)

Fred Lape (Credit: Landis Arboretum website)

Lape attended Cornell University and received a degree in English literature in 1921. He then divided his time between teaching English as a university professor (at Cornell, Stanford and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), freelance writing, running his farm, developing his skills as a horticulturist, and functioning as the historian of the small town of Esperance (population 2000), his chosen place of residence in Schoharie County, New York.

In 1951 Lape, who never married, transformed the family farm into the non-profit George Landis Arboretum. The arboretum’s website states his mission: “He aimed to grow every species of woody plant from temperate regions around the world that would survive in the hills of Schoharie County.” Fred Lape served as its director until his death. The arboretum closed every year from 1 November to 1 April, allowing him ample time each winter in Jocotepec.

His great love was guiding visitors around the arboretum. His obituary in The Altamont Enterprise describes how, “The arboretum director, a tall, angular figure topped by a plain, undecorated wide-brimmed  straw hat shielding a craggy, deeply-tanned face, would lead visitors past that landmark on regular weekend woodlot tours.”

Lape’s published work included one novel, Roll On, Pioneers (1935), and three non-fiction works, A Garden of Trees and Shrubs (Cornell Univ. Press, 1965), Apples and Man (Van Nostrand, 1979); and A Farm and Village Boyhood (Syracuse Univ. Press, 1980).

He also authored at least 8 volumes of poetry and founded a quarterly poetry and prose magazine, Trails, which published local nature verse from 1932 to when it ceased publication in 1951. His poetry titles include Barnyard Year (Poems) (1950), A Bunch of Flowers (Poems) (1954), My word to you, J.Q.A: Seven scenes in the life of John Quincy Adams (1965), At the Zoo (1966), Along the Schoharie (poems) (1968), Poems from the Blue Beach (1976), and Hill Farm (1976).


  • The Altamont Enterprise, Thursday 14 March 1985
Nov 132014

Han(n)s Otto Butterlin (or Otto Butterlin as he was usually known, at least in Mexico) was born in Cologne, Germany, 26 Dec 1900 and became an abstract and impressionist painter of some renown.

He is the oldest of the three Butterlin brothers. Otto moved with his middle brother Frederick and their parents (Johannes and Amelie) from Germany to Mexico in 1907. (Otto’s youngest brother Ernesto would be born a decade later in Guadalajara.)

According to his entry in the 1946 edition of Who’s Who in Latin America, Part I – Mexico, Otto was decorated by the German government for service performed during the first world war.

Immediately after the war, Otto studied at the Universities of Bonn, Marburg, and Munich (1918-20) and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich (1920-22).

Woodcut by Hanns Otto Butterlin, Ixtaccihuatl (1921)

Woodcut by Hanns Otto Butterlin, Ixtaccihuatl (1921)

During his time at the latter institution, he wrote and illustrated a booklet Ixtaccihuatl. Der Azteken Legende vom Berge der schlafenden Frau (Ixtaccihuatl: The Aztec Legend of the Mountain of the Sleeping Woman), published in Berlin in 1921 as a limited edition of 250 copies by Verlag A. R. Meyer. The 14-page “lyrical leaflet” included five original woodcuts (see images).

U.S. immigration records show that Otto Butterlin (5’9″ tall with blond hair and blue eyes) was resident there between August 1924 and October 1929, though he probably made trips to visit family in Mexico during that time.

On 7 June 1929, Otto married Margaret Elaine (Anglin) Dodge (1906-1982) in Alameda, California. Otto’s younger brother Frederick was a witness at the ceremony. It was Otto’s first marriage, and Margaret’s second. Margaret (“Peggy”), aged 23 when she married Otto and described as the “operator of a beauty parlor”, had previously been married to Latham L Dodge (1904-1955). From that marriage, she had a daughter Jacqueline Dodge (born 22 March 1925).

Otto made his living as a chemist and supervisor of operations in various industrial plants for at least 15 years. At the time of the 1930 Mexican census (held on 15 May), he and his wife were living in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, where he was working at the sugar refinery.

Woodcut by Hanns Otto Butterlin, Ixtaccihuatl (1921)

Woodcut by Hanns Otto Butterlin, Ixtaccihuatl (1921)

The following year, in 1931 Margaret gave birth to their daughter Rita Elaine in Los Mochis. (Rita would go on to marry Chilean film star Octavio Señoret Guevara (1924-1990) and live in California).

While Rita was still an infant, Otto decided to formalize his permanent right to residence in Mexico and became a naturalized Mexican citizen in October 1935. Immigration records show that he continued to visit the U.S. several times a year.

It appears to be at about this time that Otto decided to spend more time on his art.

Following the economic calamities of the early 1930s, the U.S. had initiated its Works Progress Administration (WPA; renamed in 1939 as the Work Projects Administration). This was an ambitious “New Deal” agency and employed millions of unemployed, and mostly unskilled, people to carry out public works projects. Hundreds of artists found support from WPA to complete paintings, sculptures and murals, many of which were designed for specific public spaces. A number of these artists, including Otto Butterlin, either had or came to have close connections to the Lake Chapala area.

In Otto’s case, he received the support of WPA to paint “New York City Panorama” (1937). The painting is described by art critic Robert Pincus, in a review of a 2006 exhibition called “Art of the WPA Era From Collections of the San Diego Region”, as a “nightmarish swirl of faces and electric signs”:

“The steep downturn of the American economy turned city streets into huddled masses of people who gathered in soup lines. Many people felt that they were at the mercy of forces beyond their control – forces of a modern, bureaucratic state whose emblem was the city.

This sort of alienation assumed different guises. There is the nightmarish swirl of faces and electric signs in Otto Butterlin’s “New York City Panorama” (1937), more expressionist metaphor than visual document. (He was part of the contingency of artists from Mexico who worked in the United States that included Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco in New York and Alfredo Ramos Martinez in San Diego.)”

By the early 1940s, Otto Butterlin was based in Mexico City and working as an executive in the Bayer chemical company, a position which enabled him to supply several well-known artists of the time, such as A. Amador Lugo (who was epileptic) with needed medications, at a time when they were very hard to obtain.

In 1941, Otto introduced his friend Gunther Gerzso (a famous set designer who later became a fine painter) to gallery owner Inés Amor. A few years later, in May 1950, Amor arranged Gerzso’s first solo exhibition in the Galería de Arte Mexicano in Mexico City. Gerzso became a famous artist. According to Octavio Paz, Gerzso was one of Latin America’s greatest ever painters, on account of the fact that he, Carlos Mérida and Rufino Tamayo had opposed the “ideologist aesthetic movement into which muralism had degenerated.”

Otto Butterlin had been accorded the honor of his own one-man show at the Galería de Arte Mexicano several years earlier. The exhibition, which lasted from November 1942 to February 1943 featured 32 of Otto’s works, probably including “The Funeral” (now in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art). Otto’s paintings were also exhibited at various locations elsewhere in Mexico, as well as in Germany, Holland, and the U.S.


Hanns Otto Butterlin. The Funeral (ca 1942)

By the mid-1940s, it seems that Otto and his wife Peggy, together with daughter Rita, had decided to relocate to live in Ajijic. In a 1945 article, Neill James, who had arrived in Ajijic a couple of years earlier, described Otto Butterlin as a “well known expressionist and abstract painter who owns a huerta in Ajijic where he lives with his wife, Peggy, and daughter Rita.”

His 1946 Who’s Who entry says he was the author of a “book of poems” but it is unclear if this refers to his earlier booklet Ixtaccihuatl (1921) or a different, later work.

The list of artists exhibiting watercolors in May 1954 in “Galeria Arturo Pani D.” in Calle Niza in Mexico City includes a Butterlin (probably Otto) alongside such famous contemporary artists as Raúl Anguiano, Fererico Cantú, Leonora Carrington, Carlos Mérida, Roberto Montenegro, Juan Soriano, Rufino Tamayo and Alfredo Zalce.

Both Otto and brother Ernesto Butterlin were among the 28 artists who had a joint exhibition the following month, June 1954, also in Mexico City, at the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes’ Salón de la Plástica Mexicana. Other artists whose work was featured on that occasion include Roberto F. Balbuena, Michael Baxte, Leonora Carrinqton, Enrique Climent, José Feher, Elvira Gascón, Gunther Gerzso and Carlos Mérida.

In October 1954, Otto Butterlin requested permission from the Mexican government to be allowed to accept and use “without losing his Mexican citizenship” the “Honor and Merit” decoration awarded to him by the Government of the Republic of Haiti.

Otto Butterlin is reported to have died in 1960. An article by Kenneth McCaleb in The Corpus Christi Caller-Times (15 February 1968) offers two alternative explanations, saying that “Otto Butterlin either shot himself or – as some said – was killed by his mistress.”

Partial list of sources:

Kenneth McCaleb, “Conversation Piece: How To Be an Art Collector”, The Corpus Christi Caller-Times 15 February 1968.

María Cristina Hernández Escobar. “Gunther Gerzso, The Appearance of the Invisible“. Voices of Mexico. UNAM. n.d.

Robert L. Pincus, “WPA captures the soul of a nation”, The San Diego Union-Tribune, 5 February 2006, page F-1.

Robert Hilton (ed). Who’s Who In Latin America A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women Of Latin America. Part I – Mexico. (1946)

As always, we would love to receive any comments, corrections or additional information.

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Nov 102014

Bruce Douglas was the pen-name of Theodore Wayland Douglas, who was born in Indianapolis 29 May 1897 and died in Mexico in about 1961.

Bruce Douglas is reported to have been a recent visitor to Ajijic in Neill James’ article about life in Ajijic published in 1945, so we can safely assume he visited in 1944 or very early in 1945. It is unknown if Douglas returned later to the Lake Chapala region, though he  resided full-time in Mexico City from at least as early as 1943 until his death.

douglas-bruce-cover-2Douglas served in the U.S. Navy during the first world war. Shortly after the war, he was awarded his bachelor’s degree from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, in 1918. In 1922, he received his Masters degree in English from the University of Illinois. He worked as a reporter on the Indianapolis Star 1919-20.

Douglas began his writing career after many years teaching in universities. From 1920 to 1932, he undertook postgraduate work while also teaching English at a series of universities, including Indiana University, the University of Illinois, the University of Chicago, and the University of Oregon. He also taught at the University of Texas and the State College of Washington.

Douglas married twice. His first marriage was in 1922 to Lucretia Lowe in Champaign, Illinois. His second marriage, in about 1929, was to a Mexican girl, Lee Patricia Bohan, born in 1906. The couple had one son. It appears likely that Bohan was a student, or university colleague of Douglas. She gained a B.A. in French from the Southern Methodist University in Texas in 1927, and then presented her Master’s Thesis the following year at the University of Chicago. (Her thesis was entitled: “Fielding’s Portrayal of the Country Squire (Henry Fielding)”. Bohan died in California in 1984.

Douglas was a prolific writer of short stories during the 1930s and 1940s. His first success in getting stories published was in May 1930 when Ace-High Magazine accepted “The Ghost of Oro Gulch”. That same year, he also saw at least three other short stories in print: “Code of the Range” in Western Rangers, “The Cowpoke from Coyote” in Western Trails and “For Love of a Bandit” in Ranch Romances.

After 1932, Douglas dedicated himself full-time to his fiction writing. Between 1930 and 1954, he had more than sixty short stories and several short novels published in the U.S., Canada and U.K.

His books include Border Range (1942) and The Strong Shall Hold (1943), in which “Wes Marshall fights for his father’s spread” (both western novels) as well as a thriller Tropical maze, published in the U.K. in 1948.

In 1934, one of his stories, “Holdup at Dry Wells” appeared in the same issue of Cowboy stories (vol. 26, no. 3) as “Off the westbound freight”, by John Mersereau, another author associated with Ajijic.

Main Source:

  • Ronald Hilton (ed) Who’s Who In Latin America: Part I Mexico (1946)
Nov 062014

While researching the history of the artists associated with the Lake Chapala region, I came across more and more references to the “two Butterlin brothers”. The problem was that different sources, including otherwise reputable art history sites, gave them quite different first names: Ernest and Hans? Hans and Frederick? Linares and Otto?

There was very little evidence and it seemed impossible to tell which source was accurate, and why different accounts gave such different names, ages and details. They were usually described as “German”, but it was unclear whether they had been born in Germany or were the sons of German immigrants to Mexico.

Eventually, I compiled enough evidence to prove conclusively that there were not two Butterlin brothers, but three! Two had been born in Germany and were brought by their parents to Mexico. Safely ensconced in Guadalajara, the parents then had a third son, several years younger than his siblings.

The picture was complicated by the fact that two of the brothers used different names at different stages of their life, with the older brother rarely using his first name on his art once he arrived in Mexico, while the youngest brother adopted a surname for much of his artistic career that had no obvious connection to his family name.

Small wonder, then, that confusion reigned about the Butterlin brothers on many art history sites, some of which even failed to identify correctly the country of birth of each of the three brothers.

The three brothers (in order of birth) are:

There are still great gaps in my knowledge of this family, but the picture that finally began to emerge showed that the Butterlins deserved wider recognition as an artistic family of some consequence.

In future posts, I will show how all three Butterlin brothers contributed significantly to the development of the artist colony in the Lake Chapala area, albeit it in rather different ways.

Nov 032014

Gina Hildreth (who wrote under her maiden name Gina Dessart) and her husband Philip, also a writer, apparently lived, at least for a short time, in Ajijic in the mid-1960s. She wrote at least three suspense novels: A Man Died Here (1947), The Last House (1950) and Cry For The Lost (1959). All three works were published in New York by Harper & Brothers. The first two novels were set in New England, whereas her third novel was set in and around Tucson, Arizona.

Gina Hildreth. Credit: John Lee (Ajijic-Artists of 50 years ago)

Gina Hildreth. Credit: John Lee (Ajijic-Artists of 50 years ago)

Gina Hildreth also wrote a stageplay – By any other name, a comedy in three acts (1948) – and had a short story, “Counterpoint”, published in the Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine issue of November 1965.

Gina Hildreth was born in 1912 in Chicago, and grew up in New York and Europe. She gained a Masters degree in English. She and her husband Philip moved to Tucson, Arizona, in 1950, following a two month vacation there.

The precise timing, duration and motives for the couple’s decision to live in Mexico for a time in the mid-1960s are unclear, but by the late-1960s, they appear to be once again living in Tucson, Arizona.

Gina Hildreth was a lecturer in English and taught creative writing at the University of Arizona in the early and mid-1970s, at the same time that John Lee taught there.

It appears that Philip was also a writer, though I have found no definitive evidence that any of his work was published.

hildreth-dessart-gina-Ajijic - Artists of 50 Years Ago-3Gina Dessart Hildreth died in New York in 1979.

According to a Kirkus review, A Man Died Here (1947) tells the story of the Macklin family’s “attempts to piece out the happenings in the Williams family  when as the new owners of the Williams house, their curiosity is first aroused by the house itself, later by the hints of gossip, hatred, evasion, in the town. Bob and Liz fit together each small fact, each tiny segment of character, and write finis to a story of bondage, cruelty, dishonesty, lifting the shadow from the house.”

In The Last House (1950), according to one reviewer, a Connecticut gal “gets herself shot in village kitchen. Suspicion falls on various neighbors, male and female.” The reviewer, William C. Weber found the book to be an “absorbing and capitally written mystery-suspense tale with interesting psychological overtones.”

A review of Cry for the Lost describes it as “a murder story that poses no problem of who committed the crime. The interest and excitement in this suspense story lies in following the effect of the murder upon the characters and lives of the people who had been closely associated with the man who is killed. Miss Dessart reveals with considerable understanding and a searching sympathy the inner probings that torment both the guilty and the innocent when faced with the bitter knowledge that one among them has been driven to taking a human life.”


  • Mecheline Keating, “Cry for the Lost – review”, Tucson Daily Citizen, 3 October 1959, p 13
  • William C. Weber, “The Last House, by Gina Dessart” in Tucson Daily Citizen, August 28, 1950, p 12
Oct 302014

Portrait artist Betty Warren, later known as Betty Warren Herzog, was born in New York City on 6 January 1920. Her brightly colored portraits were in such demand that she became one of the highest paid female portraitists of the 20th century. In 1940, at age 20, she became the youngest woman in US History to hold a solo exhibit at a major US Museum (Berkshire Museum).

From the early 1980s, she spent winters in Ajijic, Mexico, and had her art studio there.

Betty Warren in Ajijic

Betty Warren in Ajijic

Betty Warren was the daughter of illustrator Jack A. Warren, cartoonist of Pecos Bill. She studied at the Art Students League in New York, the National Academy of Design, the Cape School of Art (summers, 1937-42) with Henry Hensche, Farnsworth School of Art, Sarasota, Florida, and the Reineke School in New Orleans. Warren was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts in 1991 by Hartwick College, Oneonta, New York.

Betty Warren taught at the Albany Institute of History and Art for seventeen years and co- founded The Palm Tree School of Art, in Sarasota, Florida, and The Malden Bridge School of Art, in Malden Bridge, New York.

She had more than 35 solo shows during her artistic career, and exhibited at Artists of the Mohawk-Hudson Region, Allied Artists of America, American Water-Color Society, National Arts Club, Knickerbocker Artists, New York, and the Grand Central Art Galleries. Her last formal portrait was of Governor Hugh Carey for the State of New York in 1991. She died in Albany on 8 November 1993.

She one of the six wives of actor Stuart Lancaster (1910-2000). She had two sons: potter Michael Dean Lancaster and landscape artist John Warren Lancaster. Following her divorce from Stuart Lancaster, Warren later married Jacob Herzog, a prominent attorney in upstate New York.

Betty Warren was a member of Grand Central Art Galleries, National Arts Club, American Artists Professional League,National League of American Pen Women, Pen & Brush.

Warren’s portraits can be found in the collections of the The University of Wisconsin; General Electric; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Albany Institute of History and Art, New York; the Malden Bridge School of Art; Hartwick College, New York; the New York State Supreme Court in Albany; and the Grand Lodge of New York.

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.