Dec 032015

Gladys Brown Ficke (1890-1973), the second wife of poet and novelist Arthur Davison Ficke (1883-1945) was a painter (oils and watercolors) and illustrator. The Fickes spent the winter of 1934-35 in Chapala. From late November 1934 to late April 1935, they rented a house with poet Witter Bynner and his partner Robert Hunt.

Under her maiden name, she drew the line drawings illustrating each chapter of her husband’s novel, Mrs Morton of Mexico (1939), including this one of Chapala:


Mrs Morton’s mature garden leading down to the lakeshore is the setting for several of the dramatic moments in the novel:

ficke--chapala-gladys-brownOne chapter look at events in Jocotepec, where the mountains form an impressive backdrop to the then-village in this fictionalized view:

ficke-jocotepec-gladys-brownChapter 11 is about a religious procession to the cemetery (campo santo) on the hillside:

ficke--campo-santo-gladys-brownGladys Brown Ficke was born on 29 August 1890 and died 14 May 1973. After her husband’s death in 1945, she ran their estate at Hardhack, New York, as a sanctuary and retreat for artists.

Gladys Brown Ficke wrote a four-volume biography of her husband, and a novel, initially entitled The Bird in the Ice-box, but later renamed The Final Beauty. “The major characters of the novel are Nathalia Bradford (based on Phyllis Playter), Daxton Sillis (based on John Cowper Powys), and Edward Lucas (whose character seems suggested by Evans Rodgers).” [1] Neither book was ever published; both are in the Arthur Davison Ficke Papers at Yale University in the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.


[1] Melvon L Lankeny. “Gladys Brown Ficke and The Final Beauty“, Powys Journal, 2003, Vol. 13, pp.95-119.

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Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please email us or use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts.

  8 Responses to “Gladys Brown Ficke (1890-1973), painter and illustrator”

  1. I have a charcoal drawing signed Ficke- can you give me more information about the artist? The drawing was given to me by grandfather after he passed. He was French and traveled extensively. Thank you Stephanie.

  2. Hi there
    I’m researching the artist Gladys Brown Ficke as I have a painting of Shoreham UK from the 1950s which I believe may be by her. I’m really interested to see examples of other work by her, but have failed completely to find anything. I wonder if you can help. I’d be happy to send you an image of the work I have.
    Best regards
    Phil Trumble

  3. A friend and I were driving on a dirt road in North Hillsdale, NY. We saw a headstone with both Gladys B. Dixie and Arthur Fick. It was in the woods, about 20 feet off the road. Are they buried there?

    • Hi Kitty, Congratulations on finding the last resting place of Arthur Davison Ficke (and, presumably, his second wife Gladys Brown Ficke). According to “Findagrave“, Ficke is indeed buried at the Ficke estate, Hardhack, in Hillsdale, New York. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  4. Hi. I have a beautiful painting by Gladys Brown. I can’t find any other of her paintings online.
    It looks like a scene from either Mexico or CA.
    Would you have any info on her?
    Thank you,

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