Mabel Dodge Luhan


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Writer and bohemian salon hostess. Willful and flamboyant, inspired by philosophers Henri Bergson and Friedrich Nietzsche, she epitomized the liberated New Woman of the early twentieth century. In unrestrained pursuit of freedom and creativity, she sought the company of forward-looking artists, writers, social reformers, and intellectuals. They gathered from 1913 at her New York apartment and, after 1917, at her legendary compound, Los Gallos, on the outskirts of Taos. Mabel Ganson was born in Buffalo, New York. Married to Karl Evans in 1900 and widowed three years later, she sailed for Europe in 1904. On shipboard, she met architect Edwin Dodge, whom she married in Paris. From 1905 they lived in Florence, where at their manorial Villa Curonia, she honed her aptitude for attracting celebrities. After returning to New York in November 1912, she decided, according to a later account, that “Edwin blocked my growth.” They separated and divorced in 1916. In 1913 she entered into an intense but ill-fated year-long affair with leftist journalist and political activist John Reed. Meanwhile, her apartment at 23 Fifth Avenue, on the edge of Greenwich Village, served as a meeting place for radicals of all stripes. Visitors included practically everyone interested in revolutionizing politics or the arts. Most of the principals associated with The Masses showed up, as did Andrew Dasburg, Emma Goldman, Hutchins Hapgood, Marsden Hartley, Walter Lippman, Lincoln Steffens, Carl Van Vechten, and, on occasion, even Alfred Stieglitz. In 1917 Dodge married painter Maurice Sterne. He almost immediately preceded her to New Mexico, where she arrived at the end of that year. Sterne was soon dismissed, and following their divorce, in 1923 she married an unlettered, dignified, and taciturn Taos pueblo dweller, Antonio (known as Tony) Luhan. The union with Luhan signaled Dodge's recently developed passion for American Indian culture. Promoting their social, aesthetic, and spiritual values and their relationship to the fabulous southwestern landscape, she now aspired to facilitate nothing less than the renewal of western culture. She also spent much of her time during succeeding years aiding local Indians. Concurrently, her insistent hospitality benefited numerous artists and writers, among them Ansel Adams, D. H. Lawrence, John Marin, and Georgia O'Keeffe. She died in Taos. Her house is now marketed as an “historic inn and conference center.” She published a book about Lawrence, Lorenzo in Taos (1932), as well as Winter in Taos (1935) and Taos and Its Artists (1947). A four-volume autobiography collectively titled Intimate Memories comprises Background (1933), European Experiences (1935), Movers and Shakers (1936), and Edge of Taos Desert: An Escape to Reality (1937).

Subjects: Literature — Art.

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