Exposition Art Blog: Bridget Bate Tichenor

Bridget Bate Tichenor

 Bridget Bate Tichenor was born Bridget Pamela Arkwright Bate on November 22, 1917 in Paris. Of British descent, she later embraced Mexico as her home and this is where she became a Mexican Surrealist painter of fantastic art in the school of magic realism, as well as a fashion editor for Vogue. Tichenor was a woman of extraordinary character who impacted the twentieth century realms of fashion, art, and society. Outwardly beautiful, exotic, and bold, Bridget Tichenor was also a shy and reclusive woman who lived in unusual times, living in many conflicting countries, and in many revolutionary platforms.
Tichenor was the daughter of Frederick Blantford Bate and Vera Nina Arkwright [Vera Bate Lombardi]. She spent her youth in England and attended schools in England, France, and Italy. At the age of sixteen, she moved to Paris in order to live with her mother who was, at the time, working as a model and muse for Coco Chanel. In fact, Vera Lombardi was the public relations liaison to the royal families of Europe for Coco Chanel between the years of 1925 and 1938. Because of this and her grandmother Rosa Frederica Baring’s link to the Barings Bank family, Bridget Tichenor was distantly related to countless aristocratic families, which helped her grow up in a milieu of high art, high fashion, and high intellectual exposure.

 Between 1930 and 1938, Tichenor alternatively lived between Paris and Rome. It is her father, Frederick Bate, who offered Bridget Tichenor the appropriate artistic guidance that she needed. He recommended that she attend the Slade School in London, England, and he visited her throughout her schooling years. Her connections also pushed her to pursue her fashion; Man Ray, one of Surrealism’s most gifted photographers, was one of her closest friends and he photographed Bridget at different stages of her modeling career from Paris to New York.

 Bridget Bate married Hugh Joseph Chisholm in New York at their family home on October 14, 1939. This marriage was a very controversial one, as her mother Vera, through Cole Porter and his wife Linda, arranged it in order to bring Bridget Tichenor away from Europe during the period of looming threats of World War II. Nevertheless, Tichenor and Chisholm had a son whom they named Jeremy Chisholm in Beverly Hills, California on December 21, 1940. When Jeremy was six months old, Bridget Tichenor and Hugh Chisholm gave him to a relative who cared for him until he ended up living with Chisholm. Jeremy went on to become a noted businessman and equestrian in the United States, United Kingdom, and Europe – he died in Boston in 1982.
In 1943, Bridget Tichenor enrolled as a student at the Art Students League of New York where she studied under Reginald Marsh along with her friend painters Paul Cadmus and George Tooker. Around this time, Tichenor was beginning to be noticed by everyone around her as a striking, fashionable beauty, who sparked the interest of many. Among her admirers, we can find Anais Nin who wrote about her personal infatuation with Tichenor in her personal diary. Bridget’s list of admirers was only beginning to blossom.

In 1944, she started an affair with the photographer George Platt Lynes’ assistant, Jonathan Tichenor, while her husband was away working for the US government. She divorced from Hugh on December 11, 1944 and moved into a townhouse in Manhattan, which she shared with the notorious art patron Peggy Guggenheim. In 1945, Bridget Tichenor married Jonathan Tichenor and took his last name. Together, they moved into an artist’s studio at 105 MacDougal Street in Manhattan, New York.

 Known for her fantastical paintings, Tichenor’s technique was based on her artist friend Paul Cadmus’ teachings from 1945. She used sixteenth century Italian tempura formulas and painted in an Italian Renaissance style. She would have to prepare her own gesso ground on Masonite board and apply multiple transparent layers of oil glazes with extremely fine brushes. She considered her work to be simple and spiritual in nature, reflecting on the many subjects of magic, alchemy, ancient occult religions, and Mesoamerican mythology.
After her son Jeremy’s death in 1982, Tichenor ceased all contact with his family. During the time of her death in 1990 in Mexico City, Tichenor chose to be surrounded only by her closest friends. There were no living family members beside her at the time of her death, nor were any relatives included in her last will, testament, and estate.(surrealist women atrists)

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