Exposition Art Blog: Magic realism & fantastic art Bridget Bate Tichenor

Magic realism & fantastic art Bridget Bate Tichenor

Bridget Bate Tichenor (born Bridget Pamela Arkwright Bate on November 22, 1917 – died on October 20, 1990), also known as Bridget Tichenor or B.B.T., was a Mexican surrealist painter of fantastic art in the school of magic realism and a fashion editor. Born in Paris and of British descent, she later embraced Mexico as her home.Bate was the daughter of Frederick Blantford Bate (c1886-1970) and Vera Nina Arkwright (1883-1948), who was also known as Vera Bate Lombardi. Although born in France, she spent her youth in England and attended schools in England, France, and Italy. She moved to Paris at age 16, to live with her mother, where she worked as a model for Coco Chanel. She lived between Rome and Paris from 1930 until 1938.
Fred Bate carefully guided his daughter with her art. He recommended she attend the Slade School in London, and visited her later at the Contembo Ranch in Mexico. Fred Bate's close friend, surrealist photographer Man Ray, photographed her at different stages of her modeling career from Paris to New York.
Vera Bate Lombardi is said to have been the public relations liaison to the royal families of Europe for Coco Chanel between 1925 and 1938. Her grandmother, Rosa Frederica Baring (1854-1927) was a member of the Baring banking family, being a great granddaughter of Sir Francis Baring (1740-1810), the founder of Barings Bank, and Bridget Bate was therefore related to many British and European aristocratic families.

 Bate married Hugh Joseph Chisholm at the Chisholm family home, Strathgrass in Port Chester, New York on October 14, 1939. It was an arranged marriage, devised by her mother Vera through Cole Porter and his wife Linda's introduction, in order to remove Bate from Europe and the looming threat of the World War II. They had a son in Beverly Hills, California on December 21, 1940 named Jeremy Chisholm. H. Jeremy Chisholm was a noted businessman and equestrian in the USA, United Kingdom and Europe, who was married to Jeanne Vallely-Lang Suydam and father to James Lang-Suydam Chisholm when he died in Boston in 1982.
In 1943, Bate was a student at the Art Students League of New York and studying under Reginald Marsh along with her friends, the painters Paul Cadmus and George Tooker.Acquaintances have described Bate during this time as "striking", "glamorous", and a "long-stemmed beauty with large azure eyes and sumptuous black hair". She lived in an apartment at the Plaza Hotel and wore clothes by Manhattan couturier Hattie Carnegie. It was around this time that the author Anaïs Nin wrote about her infatuation with Bate in her personal diary. Bate was at a party in the Park Avenue apartment of photographer George Platt Lynes, a friend who used her as a subject in his photographs, when she met Lynes' assistant, Jonathan Tichenor, in 1943. They started an affair in 1944 when her husband was away and working overseas for the US government. She divorced Chisholm on December 11, 1944 and moved into an Upper East Side townhouse in Manhattan that she shared with art patron Peggy Guggenheim.She married Jonathan Tichenor in 1945, taking his last name to become known as Bridget Bate Tichenor, and they moved into an artist's studio at 105 MacDougal Street in Manhattan.Bate Tichenor's painting technique was based upon 16th-century Italian tempera formulas that artist Paul Cadmus taught her in New York in 1945, where she would prepare an eggshell-finished gesso ground on masonite board and apply (instead of tempera) multiple transparent oil glazes defined through chiaroscuro with sometimes one hair of a #00 sable brush. Bate Tichenor considered her work to be of a spiritual nature, reflecting ancient occult religions, magic, alchemy, and Mesoamerican mythology in her Italian Renaissance style of painting.

 The cultures of Mesoamerica and her international background would influence the style and themes of Bate Tichenor's work as a magic realist painter in Mexico. She was among a group of surrealist and magic realist female artists who came to live in Mexico in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Her introduction to Mexico was through a cousin she had first met in Paris in the 1930s: Edward James, the British surrealist art collector and sponsor of the magazine Minotaure. James lived in Las Pozas, San Luis Potosí, and his home in Mexico had an enormous surrealist sculpture garden with natural waterfalls, pools and surrealist sculptures in concrete. In 1947, James invited her to visit him again at his home Xilitia, near Tampico in the rich Black Olmec culture of the Gulf Coast. He had urged her for many years to receive secret spiritual initiations that he had undergone, and a lifetime change and new artistic direction resulted from her epiphanies during this trip.After visiting Mexico, Bate Tichenor obtained a divorce in 1953 from her second husband, Jonathan Tichenor, and moved to Mexico in the same year, where she made her permanent home and lived for the rest of her life. She left her marriage and job as a professional fashion and accessories editor for Vogue behind and was now alongside expatriate painters such as Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, Alice Rahon, and photographer Kati Horna.
Having lived in varied European and American cultures with multiple identities reflecting her life passages, Bate Tichenor recognized the Pre-Columbian cycles of creation, destruction, and resurrection that echoed the events of the catastrophes of her own life mounted within the dismantling and reconstructive context of two World Wars.The openness of Mexico at that time fueled her personal expectations of a future filled with endless artistic inspiration in a truly new world founded upon metaphysics, where a movement of societal, political, and spiritual ideals were being immortalized in the arts.

 At the time of Bate Tichenor's move to Mexico in 1953, she began what would become a lifetime journey through her art and mysticism, inspired by her belief in ancestral spirits, to achieve self-realization. While painting alone and in isolation, she removed her familiar and societal masks to find her own personal human and spiritual identities; she would then reposition those hidden identities with new masks and characters in her paintings that represented her own sacred beliefs and truths.This guarded internal process of self-discovery and fulfillment was allegorically portrayed with a cast of mythological characters engaged in magical settings. She painted a dramatization of her own life and quests on canvas through an expressive visual language and an artistic vocabulary that she kept secret.
In 1958, she participated in the First Salon of Women's Art at the Galerías Excelsior of Mexico, together with Carrington, Rahon, Varo, and other contemporary women painters of her era.That same year, she bought the Contembo ranch near the remote village of Ario de Rosales, Michoacán where she painted reclusively with her extensive menagerie of pets until 1978.
Bate Tichenor counted painters Carrington, Alan Glass, Zachary Selig and artist Pedro Friedeberg among her closest friends and artistic contemporaries in Mexico.
Between 1982 and 1984, Bate Tichenor lived in Rome and painted a series of paintings titled Masks, Spiritual Guides, and Dual Deities.Her final years were spent at her home in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico.Wikipedia

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