Thursday, November 4, 2010

Beatrice Hastings

The New York Times of November 2th reports the sale of a 1917 portrait by Amedeo Modigliani at Sotheby’s auction house for $68.9 million, which was well above the $40. million estimated for it. This brought to mind another painting by Modigliani from the same period, “Beatrice Hastings in Front of a Door,”1915, shown here. According to the brochure notes for the exhibition, “Modigliani and His Models,” at the London Royal Academy of Arts, "Between 1914 and 1916 Modigliani’s chief muse, model and mistress was the South African born British poet and critic Beatrice Hastings who modelled for at least fourteen of the artist’s portraits. From 1914 Hastings was the Paris correspondent of the English periodical New Age, to which she contributed a column entitled ‘Impressions de Paris’ until 1916." Their relationship was described as “tempestuous.”

If this was all that Beatrice Hastings had achieved, she would have attained a certain status and immortality. But this was not all that we know her for. She was an accomplished editor in her own right, having the published writers like T.S. Elliot and Ezra Pound.

And yet there was more to her than this. In 1937 Beatrice Hastings began the publication of her Defence of Madame Blavatsky series, small booklets that would reexamine the case for Mme. Blavatsky. One volume dealt with the Mahatma Letters and another with the Coulomb pamphlet, a third on the “shrine” at Adyar was announced and a fourth intended on Vsevolod Solovyov’s 1895 book, A Modern Priestess of Isis. She died in 1943 without anything being published. Fortunately, her notes on Solovyov’s book survived and were issued serially in The Canadian Theosophist, 1943-44, and can be read online here.

In the Introduction to her text, Michael Gomes writes: Beatrice Hastings brought a new impetus to the field of Theosophical research, and in the decades following her death, her insistence on thorough documentation proved a marked influence on other writers.

Yes, and Modigliani thought her interesting enough to immortalize her.

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