Another Black Dahlia Portrait at Harvard's Fogg Museum? Part II- Mystery Solved?- Lithograph Possibly Juliet "Julie" Man Ray
November 7, 2017
Los Angeles, California
Thanks to the Eagle Eyes of my good friend, Robert “Dr. Watson” Sadler, retired Dallas 5-0 police officer, crime novelist, and all around good guy, our own mystery lithograph has possibly been identified– and it only took him two days! Based on this information the previously unnamed “Portrait” appears to be that of Man Ray’s wife, Juliet. Ironically, Man Ray may have drawn it from a 1944 photo shoot of Juliet and Dorothy Hodel! (I say “appears” pending confirmation of the title, which is not visible anywhere on the lithograph.)
Here is Robert Sadler’s email from this morning:
Good morning after your birthday!
As discussed I had not seen the ‘new’ litho, so went to Google this morning and found this, which I’m forwarding in case you have not seen it:
It turns out while the Man Ray lithograph was only listed as “Portrait” on the Fogg Art Museum entry, other copies were sold at auction and contained the further description, reportedly titled, “Julie”. (The lithograph above was “85/100 signed copies by Man Ray and was auctioned in June 2015)
Based on this new information and tentative name identification “JULIE”, if provenance can be verified, then I would then be confident in saying “CASE SOLVED” and the “Portrait” is, in fact, Man Ray’s wife, Juliet, likely redrawn by him from their “Hollywood Years.” The potential source of the 1970 could well have been the 1944 Juliet/Dorothy Hodel photo which shows her with a flower in her hair. (Or if not that exact photo, a similar one from the same time period.)
Once again, Mucho Gras to Robert Sadler for helping me keep the investigation on the straight and not so narrow path.
Update: November 7 2017:
This received from a staff assistant, Division of Modern and Contemporary Art, Harvard Art Museum. So, at this point the “Julie” title still remains unconfirmed.
Dear Mr. Hodel,
I wasn’t able to locate any additional information in our file. The only inscriptions on the print are the run number (37/100) and the artist’s signature, both of which are visible in the photograph on our web site. I find no mention of the word “Julie” on the object. I have no other information regarding the acquisition other than it was a gift of Reese and Marilyn Arnold Palley.
32 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
The thing is the way she has both hands over her mouth, I have to do that sometimes when in shock and horror when it is not appropriate to express it with one hand..she has not only one hand but two!
I would like to point out that Juliet’s eyes were very dark brown, while Elizabeth Short’s were pale blue. I have seen color photos of both of them.
It very possibly could be inspired by Elizabeth Short. With both hands covering her mouth possibly depicting she was silenced? But also, the hands draw attention visually to her mouth, notoriously slit in the ES murder, also suggesting that she had a secret? It doesn’t seem too far fetched and from an artistic standpoint there seems to be a lot of attention being drawn to what we know is there but cannot see, her mouth,( her secret?).
Also, if you cover your mouth with your hands the way shown in this picture, right on the bottom and left on the top, then you remove your hands from your mouth leaving your hands and elbows in the position required to cover your mouth that way you will find you are posing with the bent elbow position of ES.
Steve: From the “It’s a strange world” department… David Lynch, who has fairly explicitly referenced the Black Dahlia murder in at least two films, acknowledged his debt to Man Ray in a 1987 BBC Arena documentary. He presents Hans Richter’s 1947 short RUTH, ROSES AND REVOLVERS, based on an idea by Man Ray. In this film a female compère gestures to an audience while standing before a movie screen showing a man gesturing in front of a photographic portrait of Man Ray. It’s the same self-portrait with crosshairs superimposed on the artist’s face that Man Ray gifted to “George and Dorero” with an effusive dedication. The compère is clearly the inspiration for the “Blue Rose” lady in Lynch’s 1992 film, TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME — a mute woman who offers up cryptic clues by gesturing to homicide detectives investigating the murder of Teresa Banks. Strange to think that your father might well have seen this movie. -LW
The color photos of ES show her eyes being green as this portrait shows. The position of the hands matching over her mouth, matching the position of ES hands over head at the crime scene,
another outstanding detail. All of the paying homage, back & forth, adds an errie aspect to the Black Dahlia case. No one could make this up. Truth is far stranger than fiction.
Steve: “MAN RAY: WORKS FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION” by the Shepherd & Deram Galleries also gives the litho’s title as “Julie” and states “The present print depicts the artist’s wife as a Spanish dancer.” Still, I think it’s reasonable to wonder if Juliet really was the subject — the curls and the pale eyes are all wrong. Spanish dancers were a frequent subject for Man Ray over several decades, and Juliet is in some of those works. Another of his recurrent themes over decades was a play on the words (and ideas) DANCER and DANGER. We might add into the mix that Spanish dancers were featured entertainment at the El Paseo just down the street from Man Ray’s September ’43 one-man show, the location of ES’s arrest on 9/23/43. There’s a hint that ES might have become aware of the El Paseo through these shows: “On September 6, 1943, the El Paseo nightclub in Santa Barbara sent its Grand International Revue to Camp Cooke to entertain the troops,” per the “Black Dahlia in Hollywood” site. Straws in the wind, perhaps, but we should not be too quick to dismiss an ES connection here. -LW
Turns out that the El Paseo “Revue” item is from “Camp Cooke and Vandenberg Air Force Base, 1941-1966,” so it’s well-sourced. About a week after this 9/6/43 variety show, ES moves in with a girlfriend in downtown SB and Man Ray’s one-man show starts at the Museum of Art. About another week later ES is arrested by Mary Unkefer at the El Paseo and her mugshot is taken in the police station across the street. ES stays with Unkefer until early October and then is sent back to MA.
Per the Camp Cooke history, there was a steady stream of Hollywood people coming up to Camp Cooke to entertain the troops in ’43, including some big names and a few classical music performers. So, not impossible that GHH somehow got involved in that through his impresario activities. An encounter in downtown SB related to the Man Ray show still seems a more likely scenario, though.
LW : If I haven’t learned anything else from this now twenty-year ongoing investigation it is “not to dismiss anything as it relates to ES” or the other victims. “Straws in the wind” quickly become fodder for the surrealists to feed their many Minotaurs.
Did a bit more digging and found a doctoral thesis from the University of Barcelona (“Man Ray: The Graphic Work 1914-1976”) which shows the starting point for the painting was indeed a photo of Juliet. The photo seems artless — maybe a random shot — but Juliet is holding her hands in that pose, has a dahlia in her hair and her hair is in curls, albeit they don’t fall over her face like in the painting. But just because that photo was the inspiration, doesn’t tell us what was in Man Ray’s head.
Another case in point is in the same dissertation, on p. 259. There’s a portrait of a model named Marguerite from a 1970 “Women Out of Time” series with a pose that surely must have recalled the Dahlia crime scene. If you look at the frontispiece, it’s even singled out in the series by a black background.
Unfortunately nothing on the 1943 works in the thesis as far as I can see. It mentions a book called “Man Ray: The Rigour of Imagination” which sounds like it might be a good source, if you have not seen it already.