Remembering Lauren Bacall, Screen Goddess and Art Collector
The late actress was enamored of the English sculptor Henry Moore.
In a 2011 Vanity Fair interview, Lauren Bacall remarked, “My obit is going to be full of Bogart, I’m sure. I’ll never know if that’s true. If that’s the way it is, that’s the way it is.” But of course, in the wake of her death on August 12, that has not been the case.
Born in 1924, Bacall came to prominence in 1944 at the age of 19, when she starred alongside her future husband, the then–44-year-old Humphrey Bogart in Howard Hawks’s 1944 film To Have and Have Not. Her relationship with Bogie helped put her on the map, but she would come into her own for her seductive stare, effortless sense of style, biting wit, and inimitable presence both on-screen and off. She starred with Bogie in four other films, and alongside Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable in the breakout hit How to Marry a Millionaire.
Her beauty and charisma were widely known, but she also had a real connection to the art world. In fact, in some art circles, she may be remembered for her friendship with English sculptor Henry Moore. In May, thanks to her son Stephen Bogart, Bonhams put up for auction a Moore that had once been in Bacall’s own collection. The piece was Maquette for Curved Mother and Child, a sculpture conceived in 1980 that serves as an expression of Moore’s continued fascination with the theme of mother and child.
But their relationship was deeper than just patronage. After developing an interest in Moore’s work while living in Los Angeles in the 1950s, Bacall traveled to Florence in 1972 to see an exhibition of his at the Forte de Belvedere. Robert Lewin of London’s Brook Street Gallery finally introduced the pair three years later. “The operator said Henry Moore was on the phone. I could not believe it. I said ‘Is that really Henry Moore?’ and he said, ‘Is this really Lauren Bacall?’ I felt 12 years old, I was so excited,” she recalled in an interview.
She subsequently visited his studio in England, where he gave her a tour of the grounds, showed her scale models of planned pieces, and signed several prints for her, according to the Daily Mail. She later wrote to him, “There is no way possible to articulate my feelings after my visit… It was and will be ever a high point of my life … [it was the] realization of my dream—to actually meet you and then spend time with you. … Some say it’s dangerous to meet one’s idols—but in your case, and this is true, you went far beyond expectation.”
Moore, who died in 1986, never spoke publicly about his friendship with Bacall, but it is easy to imagine that the soft-spoken artist may have been overwhelmed by her adoration. He wrote to her years after her initial visit, “I think of you often and my conscience every now and then bothers me, for not having answered your letter—in fact your letter was so overwhelmingly nice that I didn’t know how to answer adequately.”
Bacall reportedly continued to collect Moore’s work throughout her life, though the exact pieces in her collection are currently unknown.
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