Husband Cyril Connolly, Laurence Vail, partner Mara Andrews, Clement Greenberg
140 E 72nd St, New York, NY 10021
Frances Jean Bakewell (August, 1910-1950) married first Cyril Connolly and later Laurence Vail. Before marrying Connolly she was the partner of Mara Andrews, and between Connolly and Vail, she had a relationship with Clement Greenberg. Jean Connolly called W.H. Auden her "Uncle Wiz." Her approval was coveted; Constant Lambert played a new piece for her, and when she failed immediately to react he rose from the piano and rushed from the room in tears.
Jean, unfretufully American, was born Jean Bakewell to a wealthy family (Bakewell glass) in Pittsburgh in 1910. Her father was William M. Bakewell of Pittsburgh. Her mother was descended from Virginia plantation-owners, and through some Philadelphia connections she was related to Logan Pearsall Smith. Her parents divorced in 1918 and her mother later remarried to a distant cousin, Daniel List Warner. Jean Bakewell arrived in Paris when she was eighteen to study art, and at this time she was in a relationship with Mara Andrews. Jean and Mara both dressed alike and called themselves, since zips were just coming into fashion, the 'Zipplings'; Mara , back in Baltimore for the summer, announced to her family that she had decided to become a 'boyle', an unfortunate choice of word that suggested 'not a lesbian but a girl who is boyish in a zippling way and comports herself as a "gentleman among women".' Boyles, she went on, would wear dark-blue berets, blue-and-white striped sweaters and dark blue skirts, carry canes and drink gin in a mannish way; they represented, perhaps, an intermediate stage, since 'after much thought, and some experimentation, I think I have no lesbian tendencies at all.' Jean was then living with Mara and her mother on the Quai d'Anjou, on the Ile St Louis.
Cyril Connolly went to Paris in May 1928, borrowing money off Logan Pearsall Smith so he could live cheaply in the rue Delambre. In Paris, he met Mara Andrews. At the beginning of 1929, Connolly was again in Paris and just before returning to London, he met Jean Bakewell and stayed an extra night to get to know her. After a while, he was drawn to Paris again and, through Jean and Mara, became acquainted with the bohemian Montparnasse set, including Alfred Perles and Gregor Michonze who was to become the basis for Rascasse in The Rock Pool.
In February 1930, aged 26, Connolly and Bakewell set off for America. They married in New York on 5 April 1930. Jean Bakewell "was to prove one of the more liberating forces in his life... an uncomplicated hedonist, independent, adventurous, celebrating the moment... An attractive personality: warm, generous, witty and approachable...." She provided modest financial support that enabled him to enjoy travels, particularly around the Mediterranean, hospitality and good food and drink. The newly married couple lived in various spots in England including the Cavendish Hotel, Bury Street, Bath and Big Chilling before settling in July 1930 at Sanary, near Toulon, in France. There their close neighbours were Edith Wharton and Aldous Huxley.
On their honeymoon in Mallorca in 1930 the Connollys became friends with Tony Bower. He too was American; his mother was a friend of Dwight Ripley's grandmother in Connecticut, but he had lived in England since he was six, and Dwight knew him from childhood. Bower also attended Oxford, and it was he who introduced Jean to Rupert Barneby and Dwight Ripley.
Jean Connolly moved in an entourage of young male couples that included Dwight Ripley and Rupert Barneby, Tony Bower and Cuthbert Worsley, Peter Watson and Denham Fouts, Brian Howard and Toni Altmann. "Drink, night life, tarts and Tonys," complained Cyril Connolly, who referred to the whole entourage as "Pansyhalla." They liked Picasso, Marcel Proust, and Francis Poulenc, favored in architecture the Baroque, admired Josephine Baker and jazz. Someone took a copy of Dwight Ripley's Poems to Jean Cocteau, who responded "Quel néurophate!", a diagnosis that Rupert relayed with wicked relish. When Gerald Heard published two books in 1931 to propose that evolution demanded an evolved human consciousness, Brian Howard called them "the most important that have ever been written since the Ice Age." In Pansyhalla, a compelling example was set by Peter Watson, who joined with Cyril Connolly in 1939 to found Horizon and then financed that influential journal thoughout its career. Until the WWII, Watson lived mostly in Paris; a portrait of Jean Connolly, by Man Ray, was in his apartment. In 1938 he subsized the publication of a first book of poems by Charles Henri Ford, the young poet who was painter Pavel Tchelitchew's lover, and who, back in New York by 1940, would found a counterpart to Horizon, the trendier but likewise influential magazine View. It was View that brought John Bernard Myers from Buffalo to be its managing editor, and Myers who, as director of the Tibor de Nagy Gallery that Dwight himself sponsored, acted as impresario for a cast of painters and poets that seems now, to typify the postwar New York scene.
In the 1930s Dwight Ripley kept a residence in London, and with his partner Rupert Barneby mixed in circles that included Dwight's fellow Oxonians W.H. Auden and Stephen Spender, as well as Christopher Isherwood, the Huxleys, the Sitwells, Cyril Connolly and his American wife, Jean Connolly: circles in which the admired standards were for satire in literature and, in society, sarcasm and wit. Jean Connolly, who became one of Dwight's closer friends, was at the center of avant-garde sets on both sides of the Atlantic; she was the only woman, said Auden, who could keep him up all night.
Although Connolly admired Aldous Huxley, the two men failed to establish a rapport, and the wives fell out. Connolly's bohemian home with the disorder of the lemurs was shunned and with debts rising they were forced to scrounge off Jean's mother. Sometime in 1931, they left Sanary and toured Provence, Normandy, Brittany, Spain, Morocco and Majorca, before returning to Chagfor, Devon. In November, they found a flat near Belgrave Square, and Connolly made his first contribution to the New Statesman in two years.
Connolly's art critiques appeared in the magazine in 1932, and he visited John Betjeman at his home at Uffington. There, he would meet Evelyn Waugh, who delighted in teasing Connolly. The Connollys enjoyed being part of a sophisticated literary social scene in London, but towards the end of the year, Jean had to undergo a gynaecological operation. As a result, she could not have a child, and it was hard for her to control her weight.
In February 1933, Connolly took Jean to Greece to recover, where they met Brian Howard. While they were in Athens there was an attempted coup d'état, which Connolly later reported in the New Statesman as "Spring Revolution". The Connollys then went with Howard and his boyfriend to Spain and the Algarve. After a row in a bar, they were incarcerated in a police cell and were sent back to England with the help of the British Embassy. In June, encouraged by Enid Bagnold, they rented a house at Rottingdean.
Writing to Bagnold from Cannes in September, Jean complained that their cheques were being bounced and she asked Bagnold to appeal to her husband Sir Roderick Jones of Reuters for help in work. That was dismissed, and in November, the letting agents for the Rottingdean property wrote an appalling report on the state in which the Connollys had left the place.
However, Mrs Warner, Jean's mother, funded an expedition to Paris, Juan-les-Pins, Venice, Yugoslavia and Budapest. In Paris, Connolly spent some time with Jack Kahane, the avant garde publisher, and Henry Miller, with whom he established a strong rapport after an initial unsuccessful meeting. In Budapest, they found themselves in the same hotel as Edward, Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson.
Cyril Connolly blamed his marital difficulties on Jean's friends in Pansyhalla. "WE have still done nothing," he complained, "we have talked, quarrelled, drunk and laughed a great deal, and made love, but constructed nothing and not even really helped out friends, our only creations, Tony Bower and Nigel Richards." Bower believed, as did Dwight Ripley, that the separation (they called it "the parturition") had more to do with Cyril Connolly's being the child to Jean. When she returned to England because of the war, it appeared the marriage might be salvaged after all. Dwight had offered the Spinney, but Jean thought better of it. "The Connollys haven't showed up," he reported to Rupert Barneby. Instead she went biking near Trewyn with Peter Watson's lover, Denham Fouts, proceeded with him to Ireland, and from there the two departed for New York. Fouts was to be entrusted in America with Watson's five-by-four-foot Picasso, Girl Reading at a Table, which had been on view in the Picasso retrospective at the Musuem of Modern Art. Fouts continued south to visit his family in Florida, where Jean panned to join him for a drive cross-country to California. She first had an errand to accomplish on behalf of Cyril, who had asked her to contact a prospective contributor to Horizon and encouraged him to submit material. This was Clement Greenberg, an employee then of the US Custom Service, whose now famous essay, "Avant-Garde and Kitsch" had impressed Connolly when it appeared the previous year in Partisan Review. Jean didn't telephone; she simply knocked at Greenberg's door. In his letters to Harold Lazarus, Greenberg described the resulting affair. Fouts, losing patience, started for California by himself. Jean caught up with him in Dallas, and in Los Angeles they joined their refugee friends, who included, by this time, Tony Bower. The interlude that followed was to inspire the "Paul" chapter in Down There on a Visit by Christopher Isherwood (1962). Jean became "Ruthie," Fouts is "Paul," Bower is "Ronnie," and Gerald Heard is "Augustus Parr."The portrayal of Jean Connolly as "Ruthie" is so rude that it confirmed, said Rupert Barneby, Dwight Ripley's longstanding opinion that Christopher Isherwood was a "snit."
Beginning of the 1940s, Jean Connolly settled in with a friend at 140 E 72nd St, New York, NY 10021. Denham Fouts came up from Pennsylvania for a coupla nights, wrote Dwight Ripley, looking heavier & more attractive, to spread sweetness and blight at a party at Jean’s. "You simply trip over authors at 72nd Street, most of them tearing poor little Carson McCullers to bits with faultless English accents." Just after the war Clement Greenberg lived at 248 West 11th Street, New York. Earlier he lived at 50 Greenwich Avenue, later 90 Bank Street, all in the same section of the Village not far from Dwight Ripley's own first address. It was Jean Connolly, in the autumn of 1941, who found the Greenwich Avenue apartment, furnished it, cooked there, and sometimes paid the rent. Greenberg was once widely attached for his influence as an art critic, especially as exercised in the period after 1960 when he moved uptown and became identified with the abstract style known as Color Field painting. Greenberg too, like Jean Connolly's previous husband, Cyril Connolly, found Jean's make friends to be an inconvenience. "I want to Blitzrieg the cities of the plain," he confided to Lazarus. Apparently he made an exception for Rupert Barneby and Dwight Ripley. The four of them, Dwight was the oldest at 33, Clem 32, Jean 31, and Rupert 30, met for the first time on the Saturday evening of January 31, 1942, for dinner at Voisin, a restaurant that had various addresses in the East 60s near Park Avenue, and where, thought Dwight, "the food and décor are the best in town."
Early in 1942, Rupert Barneby and Dwight Ripley went to New York, joining their friend Jean Connolly, who had moved east and could introduce them immediately to the art world that Rupert like to call "Upper Bohemia." Jean's current lover, only somewhat to the chagrin of her likewise active husband back in England, was Clement Greenberg, the critic who would help make Jackson Pollock famous. Greenberg, writing to his friend Harold Lazarus described the new arrivals: "Dwight Ripley, a millionaire and rather masculine... and his pal, Rupert Barneby. They are both botanist and English," reported Greenberg, "and Dwight is in addition a philologist, expert in the Latin languages and Russian. Something new." In August the two men took a one-year lease at 147 South Spalding Drive in Beverly Hills. By the time the lease was ready to expire, they had bought an old farmhouse and its surrounding hundred acres on Noxon Road in the town of LaGrange, Dutchess County, New York. This was 20 miles from Jean Connolly's house in neighboring Connecticut. Dwight arrived first, July 24, 1943. On a shape outcrop behind the farmhouse they started a rock garden.
At the end of WWII Clement Greenberg was assigned to a squadron that was soon to be sent overseas to repair recently captured enemy airfields. But he was soon discharged on the recommendation of the camp psychiatrist. When he returned to New York that September he discovered that Jean was involved already with Peggy Guggenheim's ex-husband, Laurence Vail. With bohemian aplomb, however, it was the two women who began living together in Guggenheim's duplex at East 61st Street, New York. Thank to this arrangement, Rupert Barneby and Dwight Ripley found themselves frequently in New York at the center of Upper Bohemia. "Jean Connolly, Dwight Ripley, Matta, Marcel Duchamp were around a great deal," recalled Lee Krasner, the painter who was Jackson Pollock's wife. "They were at all the parties." Rupert and Dwight were at the now famous party during which Pollock's Mural was first shown and Pollock relieved himself in the fireplace. Barneby remembered Marcel Duchamp, the avatar of cool in the art world today, as a "pompous pundit." He recalled Guggenheim herself as "mean"; she "dressed like a hag," her stagy consersational asides were "like a dagger in the heart."
The end of WWII meant that Jean Connolly could go back to Europe, though not to her estranged husband in England. She had continued to provide Connolly with money (in fact she sent an allowance), but early in 1946 she obtained a divorce in Reno and was married, later the same day, to Laurence Vail.
Although Vail was 19 years older than Jean, with 5 children from his previous marriages to Peggy Guggenheim and Kay Boyle, she seemed clearly to love him and her new family as well. "I took to her on the spot," recalled Sindbad Vail. Her health, however, was already failing, and it was a stroke that killed her four years later in Paris.
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