Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Behind Blue Eyes

I'm loving these watercolor pencils. I found this 1920s photo of Ziegfeld Follies girl Marion Benda a while back, and she caught my eye again as I was looking through my collection of old photos. Originally I had thought she'd make a nice collage with knitted lace, but looking at her again, I realized a simpler drawing would let her haunting eyes shine as the center of her portrait.

The story behind those beautiful eyes is a troubled one, and difficult to piece together. The limited mentions of her are confusing in their facts, but one newspaper article indicates that she buried her first husband after a car accident, and afterwards never seemed to find peace for herself. She was Rudolph Valentino's date just before he unexpectedly died and claimed to have also secretly married him. She turned down speaking roles on stage, saying she couldn't act. Various articles mention attempts at suicide by over-dosing on sleeping pills, until she was finally successful in 1951.

This portrait uses watercolor pencils, felt pen, and acrylic on paper, and is done in shades of purple and blue with the background yellowed with coffee. I found one reference to her eyes actually being brown, but considering her hair probably wasn't purple either I'm ok taking some artistic license here! Measures 8.5" x 11".

A few of the original newspaper articles are available online. This one from the Milwaukee Journal covers her death. Another article from the same paper dated 1927 spins a bit of a story surrounding her financial troubles which may or may not contain accurate glimpses into her character.

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