Saturday, January 19, 2013

icon - lady caroline blackwood

girl in bed by lucian freud.

photographed by walker evans.

lady caroline blackwood and lucian freud on honeymoon in 1949, after eloping to Paris.

lady caroline blackwood, ca. 1950s

hotel bedroom by lucian freud, 1954.

cyril connolly and lady caroline blackwood photographed by daniel farson, ca. 1953.

lucian freud and lady caroline blackwood leaving chelsea registry office after their wedding, 9th december 1953.

caroline blackwood photographed by walker evans, (most likely new york),  ca. 1957-58.

caroline blackwood photographed by walker evans, february 1958.

girl in green dress by lucian freud, 1954.

caroline blackwood photographed by walker evans, february 1958.

lucian freud & caroline blackwood, 1953.

caroline blackwood lowell photographed by walker evans, 1973-1974.

caroline blackwood & robert lowell photographed by walker evans, kent, england, 1973.

lady caroline blackwood photographed by walker evans, england,1973.

daughter of the marquis & marchioness of dufferin & ana, lady caroline blackwood was born into the fabulously wealthy guinness dynasty in 1931. her mother, one of the legendary 'glorious guinness girls' was an alcoholic who cared only about being 'thought of as the most beautiful woman in the world'. she spent most of her time in london, leaving her children to be raised in ireland by a series of negligent nannies. at one point, caroline was so hungry she was forced to beg scraps from the villagers.

as a debutante, she was courted by dukes & earls but instead fell in love with the painter lucian freud, who was married, impoverished & jewish. in short, he had all the qualities that would most horrify her mother & therefore he was perfect. they were married in 1953 when she was 21.  they lived in paris for the next 2 years but soon hints began to show that all was not well in their marriage. (lucian was a gambler & womanizer) girl in a green dress shows blackwood staring pensively into the distance, her sadness made all the more startling by the way that freud had given her one blue eyelid. once they returned to london, she descended into the alcoholism that would come to blight her life. by 1957 they were divorced.

blackwood moved to america where she had an affair with the screenwriter ivan moffat, who she described as 'not very nice.' often, just before they were about to arrive at some hollywood event, he would tell her how awful she looked. 'why are you wearing that? it makes you look hideous,' he'd say.

her next love was the american pianist & composer israel citkowitz. they married in 1959 and had three daughters, natalya, evgenia & ivana. by the mid 1960s the marriage was over. ivana discovered as an adult that she was actually the result of the affair with ivan moffat. (perhaps her name should have been a clue, ivana has wryly noted.) she next had a relationship with bob silvers, editor of the new york review of books. during this time, she contributed to encounter, the london magazine & other publications. although wickedly funny, they had, according to christopher isherwood, a persistent flaw: "she is only capable of thinking negatively. confronted by a phenomenon, she asks herself: what is wrong with it"

in 1970 she returned to london & embarked on an affair with american poet robert lowell. after obtaining divorces from their respective spouses, the volatile couple retreated to milgate park, a crumbling georgian pile in kent. robert was a manic-depressive, portrayed as an artistic genius, but also a crazed, self-obsessed monster. in 1972 they married.  by late 1977, lowell fled to new york and his first wife, writer elizabeth hardwick. he never made it, dying from a heart attack on the back seat of the taxi from the airport. in his arms he clutched freud's portrait of blackwood, girl in bed.  she wrote her first book, for all that i found there in 1973 & her first novel, the stepdaughter in 1976. in 1977, great granny webster told of her own miserable childhood & was short-listed for the booker prize.

blackwood returned to america 10 years later & settled in long island. although she drank heavily until her death in 1996, she never lost her dark wit. when blackwood was on her deathbed her best friend, the devout catholic writer anna haycraft, brought some holy water, which she sprinkled on the apparently comatose & always defiantly atheist caroline. her large blue eyes opened one last time and she said 'honestly, i might have caught my death.'

below is an excerpt from robert lowell's mermaid, published in his 1973 collection, the dolphin. apparently, lady caroline is the mermaid of the title:

i have learned what i wanted from the mermaid
and her singeing conjunction of tail and grace.
deficiency served her. what else could she do?
failure keeps snapping up transcendence,
bubble and bullfrog boating on the surface,
belly lustily lagging three inches lowered - 
the insatiable fiction of desire.
none swims with her and breathes the air.
a mermaid flattens soles and picks a trout,
knife and fork in chainsong at the spine,
weeps white rum undetectable from tears.
she kills more bottles than the ocean sinks,
and serves her winded lover's bones in brine,
nibbled at recess in the marathon.

1 comment:

  1. booby lowell mad as a hatter
    lady c said "what does it matter?"