Dec 142023
 

Among the many mystery artists related to Lake Chapala is Muriel Lytton-Bernard, née Robinson (1890-1974). She was the second wife of Dr Bernard Lytton Bernard (1890-1975), who ran a health spa in Ajijic for many years, and later founded the Rio Caliente spa in the Primavera Forest near Guadalajara.

Muriel Robinson was born in the UK on 10 August 1890. Still single, she accompanied Dr Lytton Bernard when he left the UK in 1935 with his young son, Peter, for Australia, after his attempt to gain a seat in the British parliament failed. When she married Dr Bernard Lytton Bernard in Guadalajara in 1940, both bride and groom stated they were living in Ajijic.

Though no details have yet come to light concerning Muriel’s early life or art training, and no examples of her work have yet surfaced, she exhibited paintings in two group shows at the Villa Montecarlo in Chapala in the 1940s, and apparently had considerable artistic skill.

Group of artists at 1944 artshow at Villa Montecarlo, Chapala. Credit: Sylvia Fein. (reproduced with permission)

Artists at the December 1944 art show at Villa Montecarlo, Chapala. From left to right: Sylvia Fein, Otto Butterlin, Betty Binkley, Muriel Lytton-Bernard, Ernesto Butterlin, Ann Medalie, Neill James, Jaime López Bermúdez, Frieda Hauswirth Das (?), Hari Kidd (?). Credit: Sylvia Fein (reproduced with permission).

The first, in December 1944, was billed as celebrating the founding of the Chapala Art Center. A short piece in the Guadalajara daily El Informador about its founding and first exhibition, held at the Villa Montecarlo in Chapala from 10-17 December, names only three artists—Hari Kidd, Betty Binkley of Santa Fe, and English artist Muriel Lytton-Bernard—but also comments that the other artists included two Mexicans, a Russian, an American and a Swiss, all of high quality. According to a follow-up piece, the show was the work of eleven artists, though it names only ten. The other artists named are the famous American surrealist Sylvia Fein, Ann Medalie, Otto Butterlin, Ernesto Linares (Ernesto Butterlin), and Jaime López Bermúdez, Frieda Hauswirth Das, and Irma René Koen. The elusive eleventh artist may have been Edythe Wallach, who had a solo show at the Villa Montecarlo a month earlier and who later married Hari Kidd.

Artwork at 1944 group show, Villa Montecarlo, Chapala. Credit: Sylvia Fein (reproduced with permission)

Artwork at the December 1944 group show, Villa Montecarlo, Chapala. Credit: Sylvia Fein (reproduced with permission).

The exhibition opened with a short speech by American poet Witter Bynner, who first visited Chapala in the company of English novelist D H Lawrence in 1923 and later bought a home in the town. Muriel’s work in this exhibition was comprised of “pleasant and realistic portraits.” A reviewer wrote that her “realistic fantasies, along with her beautifully painted Chapala watercolors, formed a very beautiful centerpiece in the great hall. Her painting of the garden of Dr. Salazar’s house in Chapala is particularly attractive.”

The second show where Muriel exhibited, also at the Villa Montecarlo, was in January 1947. This group show of “work by visitors to this region” also featured works by Richard Kitchin, Linares (Ernesto Butterlin), Charmin Schlossman, Charlotte Wax and several unnamed Spanish artists, as well as a selection of earthenware sculptures by Robert Houdek.

Muriel Lytton-Bernard died in Sussex, UK, on 24 May 1974.

If you know anything more about Muriel Lytton-Bernard, please get in touch!

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My history of Ajijic – Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: Decades of Change in a Mexican Village – has several chapters about the individuals, artists and patrons who helped cement Ajijic’s reputation as a center for artistic creativity and excellence.

Sources

  • El Informador: 3 Dec 1944, 11; 16 Dec 1944, 16; 24 Jan 1947, 6.

Comments, corrections and additional material are welcome, whether via the comments feature or email.

  One Response to “Art Mystery: Where did Muriel Lytton-Bernard learn to paint?”

  1. wow–u do unravel mysteries—I hope some more info comes to light concerning this lady–

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