|Anne Harvey, photo by Brancusi|
Anne was born into a wealthy, educated and unconventional family, she and her brother Jason were sent to progressive schools in the USA. Harry Harvey, their father was an advertising executive and author. He wrote a biography of Debussy, which was published in 1948. Their mother, Dorothy Dudley Harvey was a writer and poet and one of the four famous Dudley sisters, she published a biography of American novelist Theodore Dreisner in 1932.
By the time Anne Harvey was twelve she was in Paris, where she never mixed with other children, instead she grew up in the gregarious, emancipated and possibly, for such a quiet, sensitive girl, overwhelming care of Dorothy and her sisters, Katherine and Caroline. They were cultured women who adopted the French artistic scene as their natural metier. The young Anne’s burgeoning creativity was actively encouraged, she became a favourite of many of the artists the family knew, including Jules Pascin, Henri Matisse, Francis Picabia, Joan Miró and sculptors Brancusi and Giacometti.
Constantin Brancusi was a family friend and Dorothy Harvey wrote an article about the sculptor which was published in the modernist magazine the Dial. Brancusi became a significant presence in Anne Harvey’s development as an artist, particularly when Matisse, after seeing her work advised her mother to remove Anne from studying with Fernand Leger. His advice was taken and Anne switched to Brancusi. She worked in his studio and her remarkable portrait of the sculptor, painted in 1934, shows her considerable talent even at this early age. She painted him and Brancusi photographed her; his portraits of her survive, they show a slim, well-dressed young woman who smiles slightly but does not face the camera.
Unusual amongst the 31 women in that her work generally can’t be classed as either abstract or surrealist, Anne Harvey’s drawings and paintings depict her intense vision of small corners of her world. Her linear style covers the page or canvas with exquisite detail and there is no hint of the surrealists’ obsession with incongruity. However in some images there are small leanings towards abstraction, where the vision allows hints of a different dimension to slip over into her visible world. The picture shown at the Exhibition of 31 Women is believed to have been a still life with abstract qualities.
Anne and her mother travelled in Europe and 1936 found them hiding in a Barcelona Hotel while the Spanish Civil War surrounded them. They escaped past piles of bodies and retreated to Paris. 1940 found them retreating again, this time to New York, though Anne’s aunts Catherine and Caroline remained in France during the Second World War.
Although her work was extraordinary and exquisite, although she was the friend of illustrious names, although she exhibited in Paris at Galerie Jeanine Hao - the owner and her husband, Raymond Mason were good friends - and at Galerie Nina Dausset, her career did not take off. She followed no school or movement to which her art could be attached for promotional gain and she was too reclusive and self-effacing to be any good at self-promotion.
Anne’s shyness and desire for seclusion meant she had remained dependent on the older generation for too long. One by one her parents and aunts died, as did friends and lovers. She moved into a new smaller studio, but kept working. Her exhibition in 1963 at Galerie Jeanine Hao was the last show in Anne’s lifetime. Friends still kept in touch but, with no family to look out for her, she became more secluded, smoked heavily, ate little and apparently wasted away at the age of only 50. In 1971 her brother Jason Harvey arranged a memorial exhibition at the Robert Schoelkopf Gallery in New York, a prestigious gallery specializing in contemporary figurative art and early-20th-century modernism, then nothing.
* Anne Harvey's letter to her aunt Caroline is quoted in Henry Lessore's essay - see sources
Comments, corrections and further information about Anne Harvey and her art are very welcome.
You can read about each of the 31 women as their birthdays arrive, earlier ones will remain on this blog.
Sources include :-
Catalogue - FAMILY LINE; drawings and paintings by Anne Harvey, Jason Harvey & Steven Harvey, New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture - with essays by Steven Harvey and Henry Lessore - Anne Harvey and Her World