English visual artist Eleanor Mason, a cousin of the British writer E. A. W. Mason, was born in the U.K. in about 1895 and studied art in France, Germany and Italy. Eleanor, variously known as Eleanore, Leonore, Evylin or Evelyn, lived in Ajijic after she became the wife of German cellist Alex von Mauch, one of the earliest long-term foreign residents of Ajijic.
Prior to this marriage, Mason had lived in Pasadena, California, from 1917 to 1931, where she ran an art school for a time. She was a co-founder of the Laguna Beach Art Association in 1918 and belonged to the Pasadena Society of Women Painters & Sculptors, serving as its president in 1928. Her work was exhibited at the Laguna Beach Art Association (1921, 1924), West Coast Arts, Incorporated (1923), the Pasadena Women Painters & Sculptors (1928) and the Santa Cruz Art League (1929). She was also a member of the British Water Color Society.
The precise circumstances surrounding her decision to move to Mexico and marry Alex von Mauch are murky. American authoress Neill James, who moved to Ajijic in the mid-1940s, never met von Mauch or his bride but later wrote that the gossip in the village was that Alex’s marriage had been arranged by correspondence. According to James, von Mauch was:
“poor and very peculiar, always consulting the stars. He badly needed a rich wife, to share his proud old family crest and supply a background of house furnishings in keeping with his beautiful silver service. Naturally he consulted the stars and ordered one from the States, according to astral specifications. She came. After a trial marriage, they conformed with a legal ceremony. Each hoped the other possessed wealth, so the marriage ended in failure.”
The couple settled in Ajijic but the marriage was short-lived. Only a few months into the marriage, Alex took his own life. After her husband’s death, Eleanor appears to have divided her time between Pasadena and Mexico. In January 1937, for example, her participation in the Pasadena New Year’s Day parade was noted in the Los Angeles Times because she was dressed as a giant butterfly, alongside a giant 20-foot rose, on the “Roses of Romance” float. The “body of the butterfly was Eleanor Mason of Pasadena, dressed in green and gold brocade, gold coronet on her head and a floral train.”
Romance must certainly have been in the air since later that year, in Guadalajara, Eleanor married Leif Clausen, a Danish-born and educated artist and writer based in New York. The notice of her marriage in the Los Angeles Times described her as “Mme Eleanor Mason von Mauch” of Laguna [Beach], and said that the widow of Baron Alexander von Mauch was a member of both the Laguna Beach Art Association and the British Water Color Society.
After her marriage to Clausen, Eleanor’s trail goes cold and nothing further has come to light about her life and legacy.
- If you have any works, or photos of works, by this artist, please share!
- Edan Hughes. 1989. Artists in California, 1786-1940. Hughes Pub. Co.
- El Informador, 3 May 1936, 4; 8 May 1936, 4.
- Neill James. 1946. Dust on my Heart: Petticoat Vagabond in Mexico. New York: Charles Scribner’s.
- Los Angeles Times, 25 Dec 1921, 36; 31 July 1935, 30; 26 Sep 1937, 66.
- Santa Ana Register, 10 Mar 1923, 14; 12 January 1924, 5.
Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcomed. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.
Tony Burton’s books include “Lake Chapala: A Postcard History” (2022), “Foreign Footprints in Ajijic” (2022), “If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s historic buildings and their former occupants” (2020), (available in translation as “Si Las Paredes Hablaran”), “Mexican Kaleidoscope” (2016), and “Lake Chapala Through the Ages” (2008).