Hazel McKinley – 1903-1995 American painter, collector and patron
(also painted as Hazel King-Farlow )
Born on 30th April 1903 in New York, painter Hazel was the youngest of three daughters of Benjamin Guggenheim and Florette Seligman Guggenheim. Their wealth couldn’t buy freedom from virulent anti-Semitism, the Guggenheim sisters endured a restricted and claustrophobic childhood in the small social circle of super-wealthy New York Jewish families. Both Hazel and her sister Peggy rebelled and moved to Europe in the 1920’s. This was the start of an itinerant life for Hazel, during which she married six times. She lived mainly in England and France from the early 20’s to the 1960’s and from the 1930’s she became friends with principal members of the European avant-garde, whose work she purchased. She spent her later years back in the USA.
Hazel had begun to paint in her teens and was no dilettante. She received tuition from Rowland Suddaby, Raymond Coxon and Edna Ginesi and with them became associated with the London Group and the Euston Road School. She first exhibited her work with them during the 1930’s, under her married name Hazel King Farlow. Hazel’s earlier work from this period includes still-life, townscapes and landscapes carefully painted with a slightly plain palette, somewhat reminiscent of the Parisian artist Utrillo. Later in the thirties her paintings brightened, becoming more like those of her teacher, Suddaby. Her first solo exhibition was at the Cooling Galleries in April 1937. She sold or donated some of her work to public art galleries and her pictures are still held in the municipal collections of several English cities including Wakefield, Manchester and Leeds.
Hazel also collected contemporary art and donated work by her friends and acquaintances to a number of galleries and institutions throughout her life. From the late 1930’s she was enthusiastically associated with Wakefield Art Gallery, donating more than twenty five works by artists ranging from Ginesi and Pasmore to Barbara Hepworth and Ralf Rumney. Probably her most expensive gift was Kandinsky’s Cossacks, which she donated to the Tate after it was exhibited at her sister’s Guggenheim Jeune Gallery in London in 1938. By the end of her life her collection was depleted by her generosity, she had little left that was not by her own hand.
Hazel’s personal life was beset by tragedy. Her father died on the Titanic when she was eight. Her first marriage, when she was just 19, lasted barely a year. Her second marriage ended in 1928, after the death of her two infant sons, who fell many floors from a New York skyscraper. In 1931 she settled in England and married old-Etonian Denys King- Farlow, with whom she had two more children. Her daughter, Barbara Benita, was named for Hazel’s eldest sister who had died in childbirth.
Hazel and Denys King-Farlow divorced and she returned with her children to the USA for the duration of WWII. She continued to paint and married artist Chick McKinley. She also continued to exhibit, including at Peggy Guggenheim’s highly influential gallery, Art of This Century, where she took part in the 1943 Exhibition of 31 Women. This was the only time Peggy exhibited her sister’s work. The exhibition is often overlooked but was important as the first to give group recognition to the women artists associated with the C20th avant-garde.
Chick McKinley became a USAAF pilot, he died in a plane crash and Hazel moved to New Orleans, McKinley’s home town. After the war she also lost her children when Denys King Farlow won a custody battle and took them back to England. She had three more brief marriages, but continued to use the surname McKinley, after her artist-airman. She lived in Paris for much of the nineteen-fifties and early sixties, then returned to the USA.
Under the influence of the Surrealists, Hazel’s painting after the 1930’s became freer, though her work was more whimsical and humorous than many artists more closely associated with the movement. She continued receiving tuition, having brief lessons from Max Ernst during his marriage to her sister, but more significantly she attended several long summer schools taught by muralist and renowned teacher Xavier Gonzales. During the 50’s she exhibited in Paris and the USA and in 1956 she was given an exhibition at Wakefield Art Gallery in the UK, in recognition of her status as an important patron to the Yorkshire gallery.
In the mid 1960’s she briefly ran her own gallery in West Cornwall, Connecticut, selling the work of her artist friends including the London Group. She spent most of her later life in New Orleans, painting, exhibiting and returned to studying art in her eighties, at Newcomb College, New Orleans. Her last works were coloured pen drawings and sketches, completed whilst confined to bed during her final few years.
Hazel Guggenheim McKinley died on 15 June 1995 and her ashes were scattered on the waters of the Mississippi by her daughter, artist Barbara Shukman and her son, poet and philosophy professor John King-Farlow. One of her paintings was finally exhibited, after her death, at the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, the Venetian home of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, in spring 1998.
*For help with research into Hazel's career my thanks to: Barbara Shukman, Emma King-Farlow, Leyla Bloom of Leeds City Art Gallery, Mary Mathews of Wakefield City Gallery, John & Dottie Clemmer and Claudia Kheel of Neals' Auctions.LA.
Comments and further information about Hazel McKinley are very welcome.
You can read about each of the 31 women as their birthdays arrive, earlier ones will remain on this blog.