Portrait of the Artist

By Lynda Millner   |   April 12, 2022
Dani Leholm, Kathleen Mackins, and Tina and Peter DaRos at the SBHM opening
Huguette Clark’s painting from the Bellosguardo collection
A stunning painting by Huguette

The Santa Barbara Historical Museum (SBHM) has been a busy place lately with not one but two exhibits. One is copper heiress Huguette Clark’s work, not shown for 80 years and the other is Lockwood de Forest. Huguette’s collection is on view in collaboration with the Bellosguardo Foundation. There’s even a recently discovered personal photo album. All will be on display through June 12, 2022.

Many of us know stories about Huguette (1906-2011), but not many know she was a talented artist. She was trained by renowned portraitist Tadeusz Styka. She produced a great variety of works, from a Japanese geisha to a ballerina, and a Spanish dancer. Clark painted throughout her time in Santa Barbara, first at Meridian Studios on East De la Guerra Street (next to the SBHM). Their home was being built at Bellosguardo. And then she had a studio in the estate. The last time she had a show was in Paris in 1939.

More coming when author Bill Dedman speaks. He wrote Huguette’s best-selling biography, Empty Mansions.

Bill Dedman Talk

Harpist Laurie Rasmussen at the Clark exhibit opening

Pulitzer Prize winning Bill Dedman was at the SBHM to tell us all about a mysterious lady named Huguette Clark. Bill started his journalism career at age 16 as a copy boy at the Chattanooga Times. He’s written for The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Boston Globe, and many others.

Bill received the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for The Color of Money, his series of articles on racial discrimination by mortgage lenders in middle-income black neighborhoods. He won several national awards for an undercover investigation of racial steering by real estate agents entitled Long Island Divided.

Then he was with NBC News for eight years where he uncovered stories from the Pentagon regarding slow efforts to identify service men and women killed in past wars and fatal problems with firefighter safety equipment.

While house hunting in New England, Bill stumbled onto one of the most expensive ones, having been reduced from $35 million to $24 million, and no one lived in it. He discovered it belonged to Huguette Clark, the daughter of a late millionaire copper baron, Senator William Andrew Clark. And so began Dedman’s saga into the peculiar life of Huguette. Dedman cowrote Empty Mansions with Huguette’s cousin, Paul Clark Newell. It was on The New York Times bestseller list and chosen among the best books of 2013. Since the book’s release, Bill has given over 200 presentations. It holds the record locally for the most popular talk ever at SBHM.

Huguette’s summer home, built by her mother after the 1925 earthquake, overlooks East Beach. Huguette was married once for a short time. She and her mother spent time here, but after she died Huguette never wanted to visit here again. It was too sad, she said. She lived to be 104 and spent the last 20 years in a hospital room (not sick). She participated in life from there through books and news. Her maid received $30 million in gifts. Huguette had $300 million to spend and bequeathed Bellosguardo to the Bellosguardo Foundation to promote the arts. They are still waiting for the permit to have tours of the property.


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