Queer Places:
544 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014

imageBorn in NYC on Jan. 11, 1914, Allela Cornell was a pupil of Kuniyoshi, Zorach, and Alexander Brook. While based in NYC, she spent long periods in San Francisco during the 1930s.

In May 1943 Patricia Highsmith fell in love with Cornell: “I love Allela and God within her…“[S]he is the best!” She also fell in love with Allela’s girlfriend, Tex Eversol. Allela painted a prophetic portrait of Highsmith, which Highsmith kept all her life.

Cornell committed suicide on Oct. 4, 1946.

Equally facile with watercolor and oil, she was primarily a portraitist. Cornell had some success as a painter, in 1934 she exhibited a picture in the New York Watercolor Club and five years later won a prize at the Golden Gate Exhibition in San Francisco. Yet commercially she went unrecognized and was forced to do pen and ink portraits on the sidewalks of New York for a dollar a time.

Of her Ned Rorem said: “This was Allela Cornell, tall, gangling, and grandly ugly (like Mrs. Roosevelt), who, in charcoal, limned your likeness as you sat there, gaped at by passersby.”

David Diamond wrote his Third Quartet in memory of Cornell: “The young woman I was living with, a fabulous painter by the name of Allela Cornell, became depressed while I was conducting performances of my music for Margaret Webster's production of Shakespeare's The Tempest. When I got home one night, I saw them bringing a stretcher down from the loft that we shared at 544 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014, and, of course, the moment I got near the ambulance, they said they were taking her to St. Vincent's. So I immediately ran over to the hospital which was diagonally across 7th Avenue, and when I got there, she was in the Diagnostic Room. She had a friend who was a photographer and who had hydrochloric acid in the woodshed for developing her film, and Allela in her depression had gone out there and drunk almost half a bottle of the acid, and for one whole year she was a dying wraith; she weighed twenty-four pounds on the last day of her life. And yet she was drawing in bed at St.Vincent's, drawings which I have with me still.” Cornell died for the conseguences of her attempted suicide in October 1946.

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Patricia Highsmith by Allela Cornell

544 Hudson St

Member: Foundation of Western Art (LA); American Artists Congress. Exh: NY WC Club, 1934; SFMA, 1937 (solo); San Francisco Art Association, 1937-40 (prize); Painters & Sculptors of LA, 1938; GGIE, 1939.

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