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Dec 182014
 

Margaret Van Gurp, a well known artist from eastern Canada, was born in Delft, Netherlands, 6 December 1926. She moved to Canada in 1953.

She visited her daughter Susan Van Gurp in Jocotepec for 3 weeks in 1983. Susan Van Gurp was teaching at the Lakeside School for the Deaf, now the Centro De Atencion Multiple Gallaudet (“Gallaudet Special Education Center”) from 1982-1984.

Margaret Van Gurp: Watercolor of Jocotepec (1983)

Margaret Van Gurp: Watercolor of Jocotepec (1983)

During Margaret Van Gurp’s visit, she produced a series of pen and ink drawings of the students at the school, as well as other people in the town. Van Gurp also painted several charming watercolors of life in the town.

Van Gurp’s early art education (1945-1947) was under Gillis van Oosten in Delft, Netherlands. She also took courses at the College of Art and Design in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, studied portrait sculpture in clay under Allison McNeil, and (1980) studied portraiture under David Leffel and Robert Philipp at the Art Students League of New York in the U.S. Her art has been widely shown in Eastern Canada.

Margaret Van Gurp has also illustrated books, such as Acadian Awakenings, and sculpted and painted mannequin heads for Parks Canada exhibits at several locations, including Castle Hill, Newfoundland; Citadel Hill Museum, Halifax; Fort Anne, Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia.

Dec 152014
 

Dale Byron Van Every was the author of more than 20 books and movie scripts and an Oscar-nominated screenwriter. He was born 23 July 1896 in Van, Michigan, served with the American Expeditionary Forces during World War 1 and died 28 May 1976 in Santa Barbara, California.

In about 1957, he spent at least six months living at what is now the Montecarlo Hotel in Chapala working on a novel (presumably The Voyagers). He was underwhelmed by the Chapala area, and afterwards described it as having “too many retired generals and admirals” for his liking!

van-every-dale-voyagersDale Van Every maintained indirect links to the Lake Chapala region for many years afterwards because his daughter Joan Van Every Frost, with her artist and photographer husband John Frost, settled in Jocotepec in 1966, and subsequently lived there for more than forty years. Joan inherited some of her father’s writing ability, publishing six novels of her own.

Dale Van Every’s first wife (mother of Joan and her elder brother David) was Ellen Calhoun. The couple filed for divorce in Los Angeles in 1935, with the mother being given custody of the two children. A few years later, certainly prior to 1940, Van Every married Florence Mason (1896-1969). Shortly before his death, Dale Van Every married Frances Robinson Hess, an actress singer, magician and TV pioneer better known by her stage name “Lady Francis R. Frances“. (In an interview late in her life, Joan referred to her, somewhat dismissively, as “a Mexican circus girl”, but it is interesting that in Joan’s own debut novel, This Fiery Promise (1978) the American horse-loving (like Joan) heroine marries a wealthy, much older Mexican hacienda owner but eventually flees the turmoil of the Mexican Revolution by becoming a Mexican circus girl!)

Dale Van Every was most active as a writer in the 1920s and 1930s, but continued screenwriting until 1957, the year he visited Chapala. His early screen writing credits (alone or in collaboration) included The Acquittal (1923), the film version of his Broadway play Telling the World (1928), following which Van Every moved to Hollywood. Later screen writing credits (alone or in collaboration) included Marianne (1929), Desert Nights (1929), The Duke Steps Out (1929), Navy Blues (1929), Those Three French Girls (1930), Trader Horn (1931), East of Borneo (1931), Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932), The All-American (1932) and Airmail (1932), Saturday’s Millions (1933), More Than a Secretary (1936), the Oscar-nominated Captains Courageous (1937), Souls at Sea (1937), Spawn of the North (1938), George Stevens’ The Talk of the Town (1942) and Sealed Cargo (1951).

van-every-dale-2

van-eveery-captains-courageousIn 1934, Van Every added producing to his resume. His producer or associate producer credits include the Poor Rich (1934), Uncertain Lady (1934), I’ll Tell the World (1934), Dr. Cyclops (1940) and Rangers of Fortune (1940). In several of these projects he was also credited as writer or co-writer. He remained in screenwriting until 1957

Dale Van Every was co-author of Charles Lindbergh – His Life (1927) and author of several novels and historical works, including a four-part series of books entitled The Frontier People of America:

  • Forth to the Wilderness: The First American Frontier, 1754-1774 (1961);
  • A Company of Heroes: The American Frontier, 1775-1783 (1962);
  • Ark of Empire: The American Frontier, 1784-1803 (1964);
  • The Final Challenge: The American Frontier, 1804-1845 (1964);

Other books by Dale Van Every include The American Expeditionary Force in Battle (1928); Westward the River (1945);  The Shining Mountains (1948); Bridal Journey (1951); The Captive Witch (1951); The Trembling Earth (1952); The Voyagers (1957); Disinherited: The Lost Birthright of the American Indian (1966); The Day the Sun Died (1971).

Many of Dale Van Every’s original manuscripts, together with correspondence, reviews, biographical information and research notebooks, are held in the Special Collections and University Archives of the University of Oregon.

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.

Dec 112014
 

Howard Baer, born 1906 in the small mining town of Finleyville, Pennsylvania, died in 1986 in the city of New York. Baer was a writer, painter, illustrator and cartoonist, whose first known solo exhibition in 1941 was a showing of paintings resulting from several months of work in Mexico, based in the town of Chapala.

Baer studied art at the Carnegie Mellon Technical Institute in Pittsburgh before moving to New York in 1929. New York remained his home base for the rest of his life, though he traveled widely, with extended spells in Mexico, France, the U.K., China and India.

Howard Baer: Untitled watercolor (date unknown) Howard

Howard Baer: untitled watercolor (date and location unknown)

Prior to his trip to Chapala, Baer’s drawings, illustrations, and cartoons had appeared, to considerable acclaim, in The New Yorker (1933-1937), Esquire and various other mainstream magazines. In about 1937 he married fashion model Lenore Pettit. The couple divorced seven years later in 1944, and Pettit would later befriend and eventually marry artist Matsumi (Mike) Kanemitsu (1922-1992), a close friend of Jackson Pollock (1912-1956).

Baer’s first opportunity since high school to devote himself to plein air easel painting came in 1941 when he spent several months in Chapala. It is unclear if his wife accompanied him on this trip. The resulting series of paintings, together with a large mural of the town, were exhibited in September 1941 in the gallery of the Associated American Artists in New York City. Critics’ praise of his talent was unanimous. The exhibit handout was entitled: “This is Chapala”.

Howard Baer: untitled. Date unknown

Howard Baer: untitled. Date unknown

During the war, he was chosen as a Navy artist, responsible for a series of drawings and paintings of WAVES (“Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service“) in aviation. He was later sent overseas to record actual battle warfare in the China-Burma India Theater of Operations.

Following the war, Baer illustrated children’s books on China and India. He lived for several years in Paris (1948-1951), wrote and illustrated a children’s book called Now this, now that (1957), taught art at the Henry Street Settlement, and at Parsons School of Design, in New York City, and also lived at least part of the 1960s in London, England.

Baer’s major exhibitions, besides that in 1941 based on his time in Chapala, included The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1942); Carnegie Institute (1949); Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. (1949), Paris, France (1950; 1958), Toninelli Arte Moderna in Milan, Italy (1963; 1965) and the Ben Uri Art Society in London, England (1965; 1972).

His works can be found in many museum collections, including the Museum of Modern Art; Walker Museum, Youngstown, Ohio; the Pentagon Archives of War, the Butler Institute of American Art; The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, University Of Oklahoma; The Navy Museum-US Navy Art Collection; and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

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.

Dec 082014
 

Bruce Buckingham (a pseudonym of Dane Chandos, the first pseudonym of the writing duo of Peter Lilley and Anthony Stansfeld) was the author of two detective mysteries set in Mexico:

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

Both novels 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 Kendal.

boiled-aliveThe cover design of the Penguin Crime edition of Boiled Alive is by acclaimed illustrator and book jacket designer Romek Marber.

Mike Grost, an American writer of detective stories, has published some interesting thoughts about the possible influence of Ngaio Marsh on Bruce Buckingham. For example, Grost cites the fact that both Boiled Alive and Marsh’s earlier Colour Scheme (1943) are “set in an exotic resort area centered around hot springs. Both novels mix international characters and visitors with members of the host country (New Zealand in Colour Scheme, Mexico in Boiled Alive). Both novels mix international intrigue with mystery fiction.” (For more, scroll down http://mikegrost.com/ngmarsh.htm to “Bruce Buckingham”).

According to Grost, Boiled Alive “is set in the apparently imaginary locale of Tuxpan, Mexico. There are at least four real-life cities in Mexico named Tuxpan; this book does not seem to be set in any one of them specifically.”

Actually, there can be no doubt that the setting of Boiled Alive is the hotel of San José Purua, once Mexico’s foremost spa-hotel, near the towns of Tuxpan and Jungapeo in Michoacán. The hotel is close to “La Curva de la Gringa (The American Woman’s Curve).”

Boiled Alive takes some liberties (as you would expect) with place names, but the hotel described in the book is undoubtedly San José Purua (see photo).

San José Purua spa hotel (from an early brochure)

San José Purua spa hotel (from an early brochure)

The plot of Boiled Alive is relatively straightforward, but the authors certainly show a keen eye for detail and for characterization, making this an enjoyable read. The group staying at the “Gran Hotel Balneario de Tuxpan” include an American millionaire John Belton, accompanied by his wife, daughter, mining engineer and chauffeur. Belton is staying at the hotel to negotiate the mining rights to the residual mercury left behind after silver refining in colonial-era mines. Hoping to outbid Belton is tall British aristocrat Sir Nigel Heathcote, who arrives with his son Tom. A couple of Hollywood starlets, a young American journalist and assorted other guests are also present.

Cover of first edition (published by Michael Joseph)

Cover of first edition (published by Michael Joseph)

Belton disappears and his body later turns up in one of the local hot springs. There is no shortage of action in this book with its mix of international intrigue, kidnapping, murder and subterfuge.

As Grost points out, two characters in Boiled Alive invite some gender-based speculation. The female friend of “the flighty Hollywood starlet” is nicknamed Butch, while the elderly spinster Miss Cloud is apparently an occasional cross-dresser.

It is tempting to suggest that this character may be a reference to the famous Mexico City “charwoman-businessman” Conchita Jurado, aka Don Carlos Balmori. It is quite probable that Peter Lilley would have been familiar with this sensational example of gender deception since it was featured in a 1945 issue of Time magazine.

Among those duped by Jurado was Mexico’s top detective of the day, Valente Quintana. Quintana had been invited by “Don Carlos Balmori” to a soiree because the host feared that someone there was actually an imposter. The detective assured Balmori that he was confident he would spot and unmask the trouble-maker before any mischief took place. However, when he was forced to admit defeat, Don Carlos revealed himself as Conchita, saying, as she always did in the denouement, “Nothing is exactly as it seems to be. Nothing is real. The truth is always hidden.” Despite his damaged pride, the detective saw the funny side, and subsequently joined the “Balmoris” in enthusiastically planning further adventures.

The San José Purua spa-hotel, world-famous in its day, opened in the early 1940s and was the epitome of luxury living, with European chefs and its own small night club for visiting cabaret and touring acts from all over the world. It was also the base for director John Huston in 1947 when he filmed The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, starring Humphrey Bogart, in the surrounding hills.

The hotel closed many years ago, but its grounds and pools can still be admired. Attempts to relaunch the hotel as a luxury resort have so far proved fruitless.

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.

Dec 042014
 

Artist David Holbrook Kennedy was the youngest brother of food-writer Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher. David Kennedy was born 19 May 1919, and educated at Lake Forest Academy and Princeton.

In 1941, when David was 22 and his sister Norah 24, “Norah and David decided to go to Mexico for an extended stay. David had received a small grant to paint murals at Lake Chapala in west-central Mexico, and Norah intended to join him, and write about her experiences in Lanikai, Honolulu, and Molakai the previous year. On June 20 [1941] they left Whittier [California] with only a forwarding address of Wells Fargo in Mexico City… What Mary Frances and the family did not know was that David intended to invite his girlfriend, Sarah Shearer, to join him in Mexico, and that they planned to marry there in late September” (Reardon, 134).

In October 1941, Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher visited David, Sarah and Norah in Chapala. David and Sarah, “a petite, blond, affable girl” married on 11 October 1941 in Casa Casimiro Ramirez in Ajijic; this is possibly one of the first all-American marriages in the area.

In Chapala, the young couple lived in a “small house, where the whitewashed walls, tile floors, serapes, and minimal furnishings were enhanced by David’s pictures on the walls”. (Reardon, 140)

“The little house in the fishing village was fairly new, built to rent to summer-people who came for the lake and the quiet. It has a bathroom upstairs, fed from a tank on the roof which a man came very night to fill by the hand-pump in the tiny patio.” (Fisher, 545)

David, who had discovered and found he loved mariachi music, was infatuated with the falsetto voice of “Juanito”, the lead singer of a mariachi band – but Juanito turned out to be a girl! Fisher devotes an entire chapter to this rather confusing story about a girl from the hills who becomes, as a boy, the lead singer in an all-male mariachi band, before (perhaps on account of giving singing lessons to David) deciding to re-assume her female identity and leave the band. However, when David and Sarah married, the girl readopted her male persona and rejoined the mariachi band! The story, in all its colorful detail, is related by Fisher in the chapter entitled “Feminine Ending” in The Gastronomic Me.

David’s murals in the municipal baths in Chapala must have been among the earliest, if not the earliest, murals in the Lake Chapala region. Sadly, neither the murals nor the building that housed them still exist.

The murals were painted by the entire group (David, Sarah, Norah and Mary Frances) under David’s direction. The group worked on them every day for several weeks: “Norah and Sarah and I were helping David paint murals in the municipal baths, and spent several hours every day neck-deep in the clear running water of the pools, walking cautiously on the sandy bottoms with pie-plates full of tempera held up, and paint-brushes stuck in our hair.” (Fisher, 545)

The murals were finished toward the end of November 1941. Fisher and Norah flew back to Los Angeles, with David and Sarah following by car.

David credited Fisher’s second husband Dillwyn with encouraging him to pursue a career in art. The fact that Dillwyn took his own life shortly before Fisher’s visit to Chapala appears to have had a profound effect on David, who took his own life less than a year later in 1942. David was just 23 years old at the time, and he left his wife Sarah a widow while pregnant with their first child. David and Sarah’s daughter Sarah Holbrook Kennedy was born in August 1942.

Sources:

  • Joan Reardon, 2005. Poet of the Appetites: The Lives And Loves of M.F.K. Fisher (North Point Press)
  • M. F. K. Fisher, 1943. The Gastronomical Me (Duell, Sloan and Pearce, New York), reprinted in The Art of Eating (Macmillan 1979).

Related posts:

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.

Dec 012014
 

Bruce Buckingham (a pseudonym of Dane Chandos, the first pseudonym of the writing duo of Peter Lilley and Anthony Stansfeld) was the author of two detective mysteries set in Mexico:

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

buckingham-three-bad-nights-hbThree Bad Nights introduces 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.

The designer of the hardback’s jacket (see image) was English artist, sculptor and writer Trevor Denning (1923-2009). Denning was born in Birmingham, UK., and was a key figure in the post-war Birmingham contemporary art scene.  According to Jonathan Watkins, the current director of the city’s Ikon Gallery, “Trevor Denning was vitally important for the post-war Birmingham art world. His incisive mind, his radical skepticism and commitment to cultural life here made an enormous difference. Ikon will always be in his debt.”

The setting of Three Bad Nights is the fictional Quinta de las Rosas hotel on the shores of the equally fictional Lake Zirapan. While there are insufficient clues to claim that this is anything other than an invented locale, the authors were extremely familiar with the Lake Chapala region of western Mexico, and the Posada Ajijic hotel in Ajijic. Since the book refers to Don Pancho’s “big hacienda in Jalisco” named La Chavinda Paz, it seems likely that the authors intended readers to infer that Lake Zirapan was  somewhere in the same state.

The hotel’s owner is Doña Lola, who one Xmas twenty years earlier, in England, had killed someone in self-defense with a paper knife. The hotel staff include the superstitious Juana, nightwatchman Rosario, house-boy Pablo and Senoña Delfina, the cook. The guests, each of whom comes under suspicion of murder at one point or another, include:

  • Light-fingered American tourist Mrs. Singer, who has left three ex-husbands in her wake, and is traveling with her niece Isobel Hesler
  • Lady Kendon, an English aristocrat, long separated from her philandering husband, who is accompanied by her two Aberdeen terriers, Scotch and Soda.
  • Colonel Rawlins who is due to meet his wife and daughters in Chicago within a few days, and who behaves more drunk that he really is at a hotel party.
  • Carlotta, “a beautiful Buenos Aires belle”, with valuable jewels to match, traveling with her “brother” Valentino.
  • Leslie King, a young American, who considers himself Isobel’s boyfriend, turns up part-way through the action.

buckingham-three-bad-nightsWithin a few pages, the first body is found. It turns out to be the hotel nightwatchman Rosario, whose body has been hidden in the reeds at the edge of the lake. The next morning, following a party that roared into the early hours, a second body is found. This time it is Carlotta, whose jewellery box has been broken into.

The food-loving Inspector Tovar (aka El Capitano) arrives from the big city to take charge of the investigation. As he, Don Pancho and Crisanto begin to investigate, they quickly find that everyone has something to hide. The following day, the body of Mrs. Singer turns up in the lakeshore reeds.

Slowly, patiently and methodically, Don Pancho manages to piece together what really happened, and who is responsible.

While the details are less keenly described than in the second Don Pancho book, this is a fun whodunit. It has long been out-of-print, but copies can still be found quite easily via secondhand book sites such as abebooks.com

Historical curiosity

In Three Bad Nights, the local mayor refers to the “twenty-eight United States of the Republic of Mexico” (Penguin edition, page 47). Assuming that the mayor kept up with the times, this dates the events in the book to sometime prior to January 16, 1952 when Baja California became the 29th state in Mexico.

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.

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.”

butterlin-ernesto-untitledA 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.

Ernesto Butterlin in his Ajijic studio, ca 1962

Ernesto Butterlin in his Ajijic studio, ca 1962

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
 

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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