May 252023

Dimitar Iliev Krustev (1920-2013) was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, on 12 January 1920 and died in Ajijic on 11 February 2013. After studying at The Natioual Academy of Art for Portrait Painting in Sofia, Krustev served in the army under German rule for three years during the second world war. He moved to the US in 1947 to take a bachelor’s degree in commercial art at Kent State University, and then completed a masters degree in art history at the University of Iowa.

Dimitar Krustev. Portrait of a young man. Reproduced by kind permission of Ricardo Santana.

Dimitar Krustev. 1969. Portrait of a young man. Reproduced by kind permission of Ricardo Santana.

Krustev took US citizenship and he and his wife, Helen Marie, a former student, lived most of their married life in Des Moines, Iowa. Krustev worked as a commercial artist for the Des Moines-based magazine Better Homes and Gardens for nine years before opening the Des Moines Krustev Studio of Art. Krustev, who specialized in portraiture, loved teaching art, and many of his hundreds of students went on to enjoy considerable commercial and personal success. Krustev also enjoyed leading art study groups to Europe, Ajijic and elsewhere.

In the 1960s, as a member of The Explorer’s Club, Krustev began to travel to distant locations to document, photograph and paint the indigenous peoples of the Americas. In 1968 he became the first person known to have successfully navigated the Usumacinta River from its headwaters in Guatemala to the Gulf of México. Krustev’s fascination with people living in near isolation in what are commonly perceived as extreme environments led to his particular interest in the plight of the Lacandon Maya who live in the rain forest of Chiapas in southern Mexico.

Krustev’s experiences resulted in several books, including River of the Sacred Monkey (1970), Voices in the Night (1992), The Journals of Dimitar Krustev, an Artist–Explorer (Volume One) (1996), Black Hand Over the Jungle (1997), and Lacondón Journal 1969: From the Journals of Dimitar Krustev Artist-Explorer, published by Editorial Mazatlán in December 2012, only months before the artist’s death. His books and journals, supported by exquisite portraits, provide extraordinary insights into the changing daily lifes of the people who befriended him at a time when their traditional way of life was under siege from modernizing influences. Krustev is also the subject of a film titled The Bulgarian Gaugin.

After traveling back and forth between Des Moines and Ajijic for almost thirty years, Krustev and his wife established their home and studios in Ajijic in the year 2000. Ajijic became their base for more traveling, painting, teaching, and many joint shows. Among the artists inspired by Krustev are Pauli Zmolek (who painted her own scenes of the Chapala area) and Lois Black.

Dimitar Krustev. Boats of Ajijic. (Greetings card)

Dimitar Krustev. Boats of Ajijic. (Greetings card)

This conté drawing titled Boats of Ajijic shows typical fishing boats and fishing nets on the shore of lake, with Cerro Garcia in the background.

Krustev’s first major show in Mexico was in 1972 when he presented portraits and landscapes at the Mexican-North American Cultural Institute in the Zona Rosa, Mexico City. He also exhibited in Guadalajara and throughout Europe and the USA.

His earliest recorded exhibit in Ajijic (which accompanied a showing of his film of the Lacandon Maya) was at the Posada Ajijic in August 1977. He first ran workshops in Ajijic at about this time. Four years later, in 1981, he advertised an 11-day workshop in Ajijic for $552.60 a person; the fee included air fare from Omaha, room and art instruction.

In 1989, Krustev and his wife, Helen Marie Krustev, held a joint showing of their work at the Art Studio Galeria in San Antonio Tlayacapan. They held another noteworthy joint exhibit, titled Caras de México, in the lobby of the Las Hadas hotel in Manzanillo in February 2000.

Several of their shows in Mexico were organized by Katie Goodridge Ingram, who ran two successful art galleries in Ajijic—Galería del Lago and Mi México—for many years. Ingram explained to me that “Many of his works were a combination of conté and charcoal and pastels, though he also painted in oils” and that she was enthralled by his work among the Lacandon:

partly because of their inherent beauty and their attempts to preserve their old ways and partly because of the tragedy involved in the confluence of two cultures. I admired the adventurer who went into the jungle and, fearing the imminent extinction of these people, drew the wonderful faces, garb and lifestyle of the Lacandon Indians.”

[Katie Goodridge Ingram is the author of According to Soledad: memories of a Mexican childhood, a fascinating fictionalized memoir of growing up in Ajijic in the 1940s and 1950s.]

Krustev’s work has been exhibited all over the world, and his paintings are in many prominent, private collections in Africa, USA, Europe and Mexico, where several fine examples are in the permanent collection of Ajijic Museo de Arte.

Papers and archives

The Human Studies Film Archives of the Smithsonian include two color silent film reels from Krustev’s trips (in the 1970s and 1996), as well as 180 35mm transparencies and two sound cassettes. His manuscripts and journals are archived at the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming.

Lake Chapala Artists & Authors is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Several chapters of Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: Decades of Change in a Mexican Village offer more details about the history of the artistic community in Ajijic.


  • Diario de Colima: 25 Feb 2000.
  • Ojo del Lago, March 1989.
  • Des Moines Register: (obituary) 3 Mar 2013.
  • Katie Goodridge Ingram, personal communication.
  • Guadalajara Reporter: 20 Aug 1977, 17; 11 April 1998, 13; 5 Nov 2011; 3 Jan 2014;
  • Kent Stater: 28 Oct 1947.
  • Omaha World Herald: 7 June 1981.
  • David Bodwell and Richard Grabman (editors). 2013. Lancandon Journal—1969: From the Journals of Dimitar Krustev: Artist-Explorer. Editorial Mazatlán.

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.

Jul 142022

The renowned Hollywood portraitist Richard Kitchin lived in San Antonio Tlayacapan in the 1970s.

Richard (‘Dick’) Harwood Dodwell Kitchin was born on 15 Jan 1913 in Oxted, Surrey, England, to Vernon Parry Kitchin, a teacher and amateur archaeologist, and his wife, Phyllis Annie Dodwell Kitchin. Richard’s inspiration to become an artist undoubtedly originated from watching his parents enjoy their shared hobby for painting.

When Richard was 6 years of age, the family moved to Château-d’Oex, Vaud, Switzerland. At age 13, Richard was sent back to the UK to join his older brother, Michael, at Stowe School in Buckingham. Michael had started at Stowe shortly after it opened in 1923.

At Stowe, Richard’s classmates included James ‘Peter’ Lilley (1913-1980) and Anthony Stansfeld (1913-1998). Lilley and Stasfeld later collaborated to write several books, including two detective novels (using the pen name of ‘Bruce Buckingham’) and several travel books (taking on the nom de plume of ‘Dane Chandos’ after the death of Lilley’s first writing partner, Nigel Stansbury Millett). The Lilley-Millett duo had penned Village in the Sun and House in the Sun, and Lilley shared his beautiful real-life home in San Antonio Tlayacapan, the basis for those early Dane Chandos works, with Kitchin in the 1970s.

The earliest significant mention of Kitchin in The Stoic (the Stowe School magazine) comes from 1929, in the notes of The Arts Club: “R H D Kitchin’s water-colour sketches are full of promise.” Kitchin was awarded his School Certificate that year, and (along with Stansfeld) was also a member of the school’s Modern Language Society. The following year, Kitchin was awarded the Headmaster’s Art Prize in a show judged by then up-and-coming (later famous) British artist Rex Whistler.

Richard Kitchin. 1937 Self portrait. Credit: Instituto Cultural Cabañas.

Richard Kitchin. 1937 Self portrait. Credit: Instituto Cultural Cabañas.

Kitchin left Stowe in summer 1930 to enter the Slade School of Art in London, and immediately won second prize in the Slade’s Summer Sketching Competition. After completing his studies at the Slade School in 1932, Kitchin continued his art education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence (1932-1934), the Ecole d’Art in Paris (1934-1938), and via private classes with ‘Prof. Pashaud’ in Switzerland (1936-1938).

This self portrait dated 1937 is in the permanent collection of the Instituto Cultural Cabañas in Guadalajara.

By 1939 and the start of the second world war, Richard was based in London, sharing a house with playwright Martyn Coleman Whiteman. In 1940 they left the UK and traveled to Batavia (now Jakarta) in the Far East, from where they crossed the Pacific aboard the SS Poelau Bras, arriving in California on Christmas Eve.

Kitchin and Whiteman both registered for the US military in July 1941. A few months afterwards, they are recorded as entering the US from Tijuana, Mexico, and declaring their intention to reside permanently in the US. Two years later, both men signed and submitted paperwork for permanent residency, stating that their last permanent address outside the US had been in Yugoslavia.

In the 1940s, Kitchin quickly established himself as a portrait painter in California. For example, the Los Angeles Times reported in December 1943 that Mrs J Howard Hales had held a cocktail party for friends in her Beverly Hills apartment to show off Kitchin’s portrait of her.

Movie makers in the 1940s also sought Kitchin’s expertise. For example, the makers of The Uninvited, released in 1944, commissioned Kitchin to paint “two huge paintings of Mary Meredith.” According to a blog post by film buff Remy Dean:

… the two huge paintings of Mary Meredith deserve a mention. One takes up a wall of Stella’s bedroom at her grandfather’s house. The other is equally huge and dominates Miss Holloway’s office at The Mary Meredith Retreat—a kind of polite asylum for overwrought women. It’s all we see of this supposedly perfect woman, painted in the style of Thomas Gainsborough by the hugely talented Richard Kitchin.”

Although uncredited, the sitter for the portraits was Elizabeth Russell who subsequently played bit parts in several horror films. Interviewed for the Detroit Evening Times, Russell explained that her “chief joy” of sitting for the portraits “was that it called for her to spend seven weeks in the studio of Richard Kitchin…. She’s thrilled that one of the paintings recently took first place at a Denver art show.” (The details of that show, believed to have been held in the “State Museum,” remain elusive.)

Richard Kitchen at work. Photograph in possession of Moreen Chater.

Richard Kitchin at work. Photograph in possession of Moreen Chater; reproduced with permission.

A portrait by Kitchin also featured prominently in another film, the 20th Century Fox crime drama The Dark Corner (1946), starring Lucille Ball, Clifton Webb, William Bendix and Mark Stevens. Clifton Webb played a suave art connoisseur named Hardy Cathcart, and Kitchin was commissioned to paint “an ‘old master’ type oil portrait” of Hardy’s wife, Mari, played by Cathy Downs.

A contemporary account explained why this was one of the most challenging assignments the artist had ever had:

The 17th century-type portrait had to be true to the period, yet be a perfect likeness of dimpled brunette Cathy. The picture explains the possessive love of art connoisseur Webb who falls in love with his young bride because she is the living reincarnation of the portrait.”

In October 1945, the Los Angeles Times remarked that Kitchin’s portrait of Peggy Wood “was admired by Ronald Colman and wife, Admiral Ike Johnson and wife, Charley Brackett and Lester Donahue, among others.” That portrait is now in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.

Richard Kitchen. Portrait of a lady. Date unknown.

Richard Kitchin. Portrait of a lady. 1940s. Credit: Fine Estate, San Rafael, California.

Later that same month, the paper’s society columnist described how another Kitchin portrait had been less favorably received:

Mrs Smart was showing everyone her son Gillie’s new portrait, just completed by artist Richard Kitchin. After a number of “ohs” and “ahs” Nelson Eddy discovered that young Gillie was clutching an American Flag with only 11 stripes in it! Mr. Kitchin is being paged to DO something about this!”

Kitchin painted portraits of dozens of well-known theater personages, such as Ronald Colman (to whom he gave landscape painting classes), Ilka Chase, Ann Todd and Richard Barthelmess.

Richard Kitchin. 1942. "Dwight Ripley." Courtesy of Douglas Crase.

Richard Kitchin. 1942. “Dwight Ripley.” Courtesy of Douglas Crase.

Kitchin’s circle of friends in Hollywood included botanist-artists Dwight Ripley and Rupert Barneby. In his closely observed biography of the couple, Douglas Crase described Kitchin (whom he also knew) as “a set artist who painted the Surrealist portrait of Dwight that hung in Rupert’s bedroom.” That portrait was included in the show at Denver Art Museum mentioned previously. Crase shared with me that Kitchin’s portrait of Barneby met with less success—the subject didn’t like it and (sadly) destroyed it.

During his career as a thriving commercial portrait artist, Kitchin rarely exhibited his work. However, in addition to the Denver show, he did show a painting in 1945 in the Second National Competitive Exhibition of Glendale Art Association in California. A reviewer of the “excellent show of 79 paintings” chose Kitchin’s “Circus No. 6″ as their second favorite; the show’s jury awarded it third place.

Kitchin’s circle of friends in California also included the very talented British-American author Christopher Isherwood, who later based one of the characters in his novel Down There on a Visit (1962) on the portraitist.

At the end of the following year (1946) Kitchin made his first visit to Guadalajara, apparently at the request of US consul James E Henderson who commissioned a portrait of his wife, Elizabeth Mendell de Henderson. Kitchin was guest of honor at the unveiling cocktail party at the Hendersons’ home in Tlaquepaque, where the other guests included Jorge Álvarez del Castillo; Jack Bennet[t] and his wife, Sra Elitka de Bennet[t]; Ing Ricardo Lancaster Jones and wife, Luz Padilla de Lancaster Jones; Sr Peter Lilley; Ing Jorge Matute y esposa Esmeralda; Dr. Casimiro Ramirez Jaime; and Anthony T Williams, the UK vice consul in Guadalajara.

Kitchin’s Henderson portrait was displayed at a group show of “work by visitors to this region” at the Villa Montecarlo in Chapala in January 1947. Other noteworthy artists displaying work in this show included Linares (Ernesto Butterlin), ‘Charmin’ (Charmin Schlossman), [Muriel] Lytton Bernard, Charlotte Wax [?] and several unnamed Spanish artists. A selection of earthenware sculptures by Robert Houdek was also on show.

Kitchin revisited Guadalajara in October 1947, when he attended another social reception at the Hendersons’ home. On that occasion, the other guests included Jack Bennett and his wife, and UK vice consul Anthony T Williams and his wife, María Cameron de Williams.

Movie companies in Hollywood continued to offer work to Kitchin. In 1947, for instance, the artist was commissioned by Paramount to paint a life-size oil painting of Ann Todd for its Hal Wallis production of So Evil, My Love.

Interviewed at about that time for The Honolulu Advertiser, Kitchin explained that he thought that the second world war had changed “the American face.” Whereas the old face, “like the British face… was showing the droopy-mustached, mild-eyed tremble-chinned symptoms of weakness”, the post-war face had “deeper-set eyes, stronger constructions of the jaw, larger noses and heavier muscles.” Kitchin backed up his assertion that “One war can change the faces of people more than 100 years of evolution,” by referring to movie star Tyrone Power: “Even though he was 32 when he put on a marine uniform, the war molded his face into a stronger cast, even to the bone structure. And as a result he is handsomer than ever.”

Richard Kitchin. Date unknown. Retrato de muchacha. Credit: Instituto Cultural Cabañas.

Richard Kitchin. Date unknown. Retrato de muchacha. Credit: Instituto Cultural Cabañas.

In about 1950, Kitchin returned to the UK to help his mother, who lived in Painswick, Gloucestershire, move home. During his time there, Kitchin did some restoring of old oil paintings, and taught an informal class of keen amateur painters some of the techniques involved (in exchange for the occasional bottle of gin).

By the late 1950s, Kitchin was firmly back in Mexico, though frequently traveling overseas. During the next decade Kitchin completed dozens of portraits of high society figures in Mexico, up to and including Eva Sámano Bishop de López Mateos (the first wife of President Adolfo López Mateos), and Jalisco Governor Francisco Medina Ascencio and his wife, María de la Concepción Jiménez. In Guadalajara he had a close connection to the Country Club and painted many of its members and their families.

Precisely when Kitchin came to live with Peter Lilley in San Antonio Tlayacapan remains unclear (and it appears he continued to keep a home in Guadalajara) but he was certainly resident in the village by 1971. In October 1971 he held a “magnificent exhibition of paintings,” in two rooms of the Palacio Federal in Guadalajara. On display at the one-person show, which attracted a great number of visitors, were about 100 oil paintings, mainly portraits of persons well-known in Guadalajara society. In honor of the show, his long-time friend James E Henderson threw a huge party.

According to Manuel Morones, writing in El Informador at that time, Kitchin had previously painted at least six murals in Mexico City: five at the Club de Banqueros de Mexico and one at the University Club. If you can offer any more details about these murals, especially whether or not they still exist, please get in touch.

Kitchin’s mother, now well into her eighties, visited Mexico in late 1971 for several months to spend time with her son. Kitchin accompanied his mother back to the UK in April 1972, and spent several weeks in Europe later that year.

In May 1976, Kitchin held a solo show in Guadalajara’s Centro de Arte Moderno (Av. Mariano Otero 375) of works described as “magic realism,” though, according to a local critic, that eye-catching description was totally inaccurate! Again, if you have knowledge of (or a catalog from) this exhibit, please get in touch.

In July, Kitchin was one of five artists who arranged an exhibit and talk at Molduras Guadalajara del Sol in Plaza del Sol, Guadalajara.

Two months later, a selection of Kitchin’s portraits, in oil, pastel and charcoal, was included in a group show titled “Panorama del Arte en Jalisco”, held in three rooms of the DIF building in the small village of Teuchitlán, the closest village to the Guachimontones archaeological site. Other artists also exhibiting on that occasion, and with close links to Lake Chapala, included Sabina Foust, Gustel Foust and Ellis Credle Townsend.

From 1979 to 1983 inclusive, Kitchin exhibited annually in “El Salón de Retrato,” a collective exhibit of portraits at the Galería Municipal in Guadalajara. The image accompanying the announcement of the 1980 show was a portrait by Kitchin of a child. Muralist Guillermo Chavez Vega was also exhibiting in that show.

Looking for an early Christmas gift, a bunch of hoodlums kidnapped Kitchin’s chauffeur (chofer) in December 1986 and demanded US$50,000 ransom. Three men were quickly arrested after the chofer managed to escape and seek help.

Portraits by Kitchin rarely come up at auction, presumably because they are still treasured by their subjects or heirs, though one exception, a portrait of a lady dating from the 1940s, was auctioned by Fine Estate in San Rafael, California, in 2018.

While living in San Antonio Tlayacapan, Kitchin completed portraits of many local residents, and local artist and cultural promoter María Victoria Corona Vega kindly asked local villagers, on my behalf, what they could recall about Richard Kitchin. Their most dramatic collective memory concerned how the strong feelings between two of Peter Lilley’s employees (Juan Espinoza from San Antonio, and Jorge from Ajijic) had led to a terrible tragedy, in which the two workers, who “could no longer bear working together for Don Pedro” killed each other in a personal confrontation. At Lilley’s request, Richard Kitchin subsequently painted a mural of the two men (together) on the living room wall.

Kitchin died in Guadalajara on 15 May 1991 at the age of 78, bequeathing much of his personal art collection to the Instituto Cultural Cabañas. The artworks include more than a dozen portraits—several related to Guadalajara and Lake Chapala—in addition to works by his parents, including some lovely realist watercolor landscapes by his father, Vernon Parry Kitchin, and a few more impressionist paintings by his mother, Phyllis Annie Kitchin (née Dodwell). Note that Phyllis’ paintings are mistakenly attributed in the Cabañas online catalog to “Philips A. Kitchin.”

[Aside: I was astounded to discover, very recently, that Vernon Parry Kitchin’s 1920 watercolor titled “Criccieth” was in the Cabañas’ permanent collection. By happenstance, Criccieth is the small seaside town in North Wales where I spent many a childhood vacation!]

When the cultural center Casa Uribe Valencia opened in Guadalajara in 1997, the opening exhibit featured numerous portraits by Kitchin, who had “lived in this city from 1957 to his death.” According to Alberto Uribe Valencia, Kitchin had painted portraits of the British Royal Family, Margaret Thatcher, and dozens of prominent residents of Guadalajara including Tomás Agnesi, Elena Martínez de Aldana Mijares, Taty Aldrete Cuesta, Ileana de Santiago de Barbosa, Margot Javelly de Brun, Susana Corcuera Verea, Carmen G de Corvera, Carmiña Rivero Schnaider de De la Peña, Gabriela de García Aceves, Ibela García Cuzin, Melin Fajardo de Godínez, Lucero Arroniz de Jarero, Betina Jarero Arroniz, Odette Berlie de Leal and Bertha Rabinovitz. He also painted many members of the Peralta family.

The influence of Kitchin lives on in Mexico through the work of artists such as Ricardo León, inspired and taught by Kitchin for a decade.


  • My gratitude to Binky Chater for sharing with me her memories and the photograph of Richard Kitchin; to María Victoria Corona Vega for her research assistance; to author John Garner for alerting me to the Detroit Evening Times piece which mentions Richard Kitchin taking first prize in a Denver art show; to historian-genealogist Rodrigo Alonso López Portillo y Lancaster Jones for sharing with me his own extensive research relating to Kitchin, and to author Doug Crase for sharing his knowledge of the artist.

Note and mea culpa

  • This is an updated, corrected and expanded version of a post first published in July 2022. In the previous version I mistakenly spelled his surname “Kitchen” (as used in several newspaper sources).
Lake Chapala Artists & Authors is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.
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.


  • Val ffrench Blake. 2011. Mainstay: A Twentieth Century Life. Bene Factum Publishing.
  • Remy Dean. 2018. “Film Review THE UNINVITED (1944).” Blog post dated 15th October 2018.
  • Douglas Crase. 2001. Both: a portrait in two parts. Pantheon Books.
  • Gill Hedley. 2020. Arthur Jeffress: A Life in Art. Bloomsbury Publishing.
  • El Informador: 27 Dec 1946, 7; 29 Dec 1946; 24 Jan 1947, 6; 26 Oct 1947, 11; 7 June 1960; 24 Oct 1971, 4-A; 25 Oct 1971, 11; 1 June 1977; 21 Jan 1979; 25 Feb 1980; 6 March 1980; 24 Jan 1981; 21 Jan 1982; 16 Feb 1983; 16 Dec 1986; 19 May 1991, 18-A; 15 Oct 1997, 51.
  • Guadalajara Reporter: 15 May 1976, 11; 23 Sep 1978, 6.
  • Los Angeles Times: 1 Dec 1943, 23; 13 May 1945, 26; 2 Oct 1945, 11; 23 Oct 1945, 17; 30 Jun 1946, 21, 22.
  • Manuel Morones. 1971. “Galerías: Jalisco en la Cultura, A.C.”, El Informador, 19 Oct 1971.
  • Harriett Parsons. 1944. “Keyhole Portraits,” Detroit Evening Times, 21 May 1944, 89.
  • Shamokin News-Dispatch (Shamokin, Pennsylvania): 26 Jun 1946, 9.
  • The Glamorgan Advertiser and Weekly News: 16 May 1947, 6.
  • The Honolulu Advertiser: 2 Feb 1947, 44.
  • The Stoic (Stowe School magazine): #16 (July 1928); #19 (July 1929), 247; #20 (December 1929), 4, 36; #21 (April 1930), 77; #22 (July 1930), 90; #23 (December 1930), 150.

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

Jul 302020

Portrait artist Betty Warren, later known as Betty Warren Herzog, was born in New York City on 6 January 1920. Her brightly colored portraits were in such demand that she became one of the highest paid female portraitists of the 20th century. In 1940, at age 20, she became the youngest woman in US History to hold a solo exhibit at a major US Museum (Berkshire Museum).

Betty Warren. Sketch of Seth Burgess.

Betty Warren. Sketch of Seth Burgess. Reproduced by kind permission of Seth Burgess.

Betty Warren first visited Lake Chapala in February 1974, when she and her husband (Jacob Herzog) visited a friend—Everett J. Parrys of Albany—who was staying at the Villa Montecarlo in Chapala. Warren arranged to take the Helen Kirtland home in Ajijic for the following month to use as a studio. Two years later, Warren returned to Chapala, where she held a solo show of oils and drawings at the Villa Montecarlo in March. That show was sponsored by the Galeria del Lago (run by Helen Kirtland’s daughter, Katie Goodridge Ingram).

The following year, her third winter at the lake, Warren held another solo show of her works at the Galeria del Lago. That show ran from 26 February to 11 March.

In 1980, Warren was one of 11 painters whose work was shown in a group show in Guadalajara at the ex-Convento del Carmen. On that occasion, the other artists, almost all of whom had close ties to Lake Chapala, were Paul Fontaine, Daphne Aluta, Georg Rauch, Eleanor Smart, Richard Lapa, Stefan Lökös, Evelyne Boren, Digur Weber, Gustel Foust and Taffy Branham.

From the early 1980s, Warren and her husband spent her winters in Ajijic, where she maintained an art studio.

Betty Warren in Ajijic

Betty Warren in Ajijic

Betty Warren was the daughter of illustrator Jack A. Warren, cartoonist of Pecos Bill. She studied at the Art Students League in New York, the National Academy of Design, the Cape School of Art (summers, 1937-42) with Henry Hensche, Farnsworth School of Art, Sarasota, Florida, and the Reineke School in New Orleans. Warren was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts in 1991 by Hartwick College, Oneonta, New York.

Betty Warren taught at the Albany Institute of History and Art for seventeen years and co- founded The Palm Tree School of Art, in Sarasota, Florida, and The Malden Bridge School of Art, in Malden Bridge, New York.

She had more than 35 solo shows during her artistic career, and exhibited at Artists of the Mohawk-Hudson Region, Allied Artists of America, American Water-Color Society, National Arts Club, Knickerbocker Artists, New York, and the Grand Central Art Galleries. Her last formal portrait was of Governor Hugh Carey for the State of New York in 1991. She died in Albany on 8 November 1993.

She one of the six wives of actor Stuart Lancaster (1920-2000). She had two sons: potter, sculptor and author Michael Dean Lancaster and landscape artist John Warren Lancaster. Following her divorce from Stuart Lancaster, Warren later married Jacob Herzog, a prominent attorney in upstate New York.

Betty Warren was a member of Grand Central Art Galleries, National Arts Club, American Artists Professional League,National League of American Pen Women, Pen & Brush.

Warren’s portraits can be found in the collections of the The University of Wisconsin; General Electric; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Albany Institute of History and Art, New York; the Malden Bridge School of Art; Hartwick College, New York; the New York State Supreme Court in Albany; and the Grand Lodge of New York.

Note: This is an updated version of a post first published Oct 30, 2014


  • Guadalajara Reporter: 23 Feb 1974; 27 Mar 1976, 12 Feb 1977, 17.
  • El Informador: 28 Mar 1976; 26 Jan 1980.

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.

May 212020

Eleanor Margarite Glover, who became an acclaimed portrait painter, and lived in Ajijic 1961-1963, was born on 1 October 1919 in Big Horn, Wyoming, to a Methodist minister, shortly before the family moved to Compton, Los Angeles, California. Eleanor was the second of five children in the family.

Her father nicknamed her “Tink” at an early age because she was always tinkering with things. Her son Loy recalls that his mother, “had an uncontrollable compulsion to touch things she found interesting. She and I were actually asked to leave the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena once because she couldn’t keep her hands off the Rodin.”

Tink Strother in her Ajijic studio, ca 1962

Tink Strother in her Ajijic studio, ca 1962

After graduating from Compton Junior College, Strother spent two years studying commercial art at Frank Wiggins Trade School.

She married Vane Strother in June 1942, shortly before he was posted overseas. In his absence, Strother worked as a draftsman for Douglas Aircraft. She began to add cheery, fun illustrations to the envelopes she used to mail letters to her husband. Her envelope art was first sketched in pencil, then carefully covered with ink or watercolor.

Wartime envelope decorated by Tink Strother

Wartime envelope decorated by Tink Strother

The New Yorker eventually ran a story about similar envelopes, coincidentally at the same time as a selection of Strother’s own wartime envelopes went on display in a highly successful exhibit at the Santa Paula Society of the Arts. When asked why she had started decorating envelopes, Strother replied, “Just to entertain the guys overseas fighting in the war; I put pretty girls on most of them, some movie stars. We were young and had just gotten married”

At the end of the war, Strother, a fiery, talkative red-head with a larger than life personality, started working as a commercial artist. She took the advice of a gallery owner and enrolled in portraiture classes at Orange Coast College.

Strother first visited Ajijic in 1960, by which time her marriage was in trouble. The following June she left her husband in California and settled with her two children in the lakeside village, renting what her son remembers as, “an incredible place with a guest house,  gardens and fountains, the kitchen was a separate building with a cook, a maid and a gardener for $110 a month.” The children stayed only a year, but Strother remained in Ajijic for the next two years, returning to California in 1964.

In 1962, an exhibition of Tink Strother’s paintings was held at the Alfredo Santos gallery in Guadalajara. (Other artists showing in that exhibition included Carlos López Ruíz, Ernesto Butterlin, Filipino artist Romeo Tabuena, American artist Peter Matosian,  French artist Diane Lane Root, and Mexican artists Jorge González Camarena and A. Galvez Suarez.)

In Ajijic, Tink worked as a portrait artist and taught art. Her son remembers that she,

always had a gaggle of ladies around her (and some serious art students) with their easels trudging around the fields doing landscapes in their sun hats, or in the studio learning portraiture,

While in Ajijic, she met a Colombian artist Carlos López Ruíz (1912-1972). Their relationship continued and he accompanied her to California, where they opened a joint studio and gallery, first in Pico Rivera and then in Whittier. Strother also taught adult education art courses. Her son Loy frequently watched her teach, and describes her as a “a virtuoso teacher of painting”. He recalls her particular “party piece”:

“Tink did many demonstrations of portrait painting to classes and groups”, in which “she would take the same subject she had just done a portrait of, and draw him/her as a baby, and then age the portrait in stages to the age of about 90. People would gasp and say my God that is exactly what she looked like at that age!… And Tink talking nonstop the entire time explaining every move.”

Tink Strother was also an enthusiastic fund-raiser and offered her services as a sketch artist and caricaturist to hundreds of charity events. She would draw rapid charcoal sketches at $15 a head, sign them “Tink”, and donate all the proceeds to the charity. Loy Strother watched in awe:

“She attracted a crowd very time. It was like watching a magic act as Tink produced perfect likenesses with a few masterful strokes holding nothing in her hand but a chunk of charcoal. It would appear as if she was just waving her hand at the easel and an ethereal likeness of the subject would seem to emerge from the blank white paper.”

strother-tinkWhile portrait painting was her great love, Strother also did copper enamel jewelry, sculpture, serigraphs and graphic designs.

When her relationship with Carlos broke down (in about 1968), Strother moved to Europe where she continued to enjoy moderate success, completing a prolific number of fine portraits, living mostly in Rome, Italy.

In 1976 (several years after Carlos’ death) Strother returned to California and became deeply involved in the Santa Paula Society of the Arts and an art columnist for the Santa Paula Times. Strother lived the last few years of her life with her daughter in Barcelona, Spain, and died there on 1 January 2007.

Peggy Kelly, who wrote Strother’s obituary for the Santa Paula News praised her portraits, saying that they reflected “not only the physical likeness of the subject but also their personality and soul.”

Note This post was first published 24 December 2014.

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

Nov 132017

Famous American portraitist Everett Kinstler and his family spent the summer of 1971 in Ajijic on Lake Chapala.

While staying in the village, he and his family became close friends of Kulla Hogan (now Kulla Ostberg), wife of journalist Don Hogan. Kinstler painted portraits of their two children who became good friends with the Kinstler children. The timing of Kinstler’s visit to Ajijic is confirmed by Molly Leland (formerly Molly Heneghan) who first visited Ajijic with her architect husband George Heneghan in December 1970 and who remembers the Kinstlers arriving the following summer.

Kinstler’s life is well documented, so this short profile includes links to further reading for those interested in learning all about the amazing career of this talented artist.

Book cover by Everett Raymong Kinstler

Book cover by Everett Raymong Kinstler

Everett Raymond Kinstler was born in New York City on 5 August 1926. He studied briefly at the city’s High School of Music and Art before transferring to the High School of Industrial Art, where he acquired the skills to make his living in the field of commercial art. While still a teenager, he started working for a comic book publisher, Cinema Comics, but soon became a freelance illustrator for comics and pulp magazines featuring characters such as Doc Savage, The Shadow, Hawkman, Kit Carson and Zorro. He also designed book covers and undertook commissions for magazine illustrations.

In 1945, Kinstler returned to school and studied at the Art Students League of New York under American illustrator and impressionist painter Frank Vincent DuMond (1865–1961) whose mantra was “I won’t try to teach you to paint, but to see and observe.” Also in 1945, Kinstler was drafted into the U.S. Army to work on creating a comic strip for an Army newspaper.

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s Kinstler worked mainly as a pulp and comic book artist before transitioning to become one of America’s top portraitists, a calling he has pursued diligently ever since. He held his first major exhibition of portraits and landscapes at Grand Central Art Galleries in New York City in 1959.

Everett Raymong Kinstler. 2014. Portrait of Cliint Eastwood.

Everett Raymong Kinstler. 2014. Portrait of Cliint Eastwood.

Kinstler has painted portraits of over 1200 leading figures in business, entertainment and government, including eight U.S. Presidents: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Donald Trump. Other portrait subjects include Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood, Gregory Peck, John Wayne, Gene Hackman, Katharine Hepburn, Carol Burnett, Peter O’Toole, James Cagney, Arthur Miller, Ayn Rand, Tennessee Williams, Tom Wolfe; and Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss).

This short video about Kinstler was produced by the Norman Rockwell Museum for its major exhibition of his work in 2012:

Kinstler was elected to the National Academy of Design in 1970 and, in 1999, the Copley Medal by the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., which has more than fifty Kinstler portraits in its collection. He also won a Comic-Con International’s Inkpot Award in 2006.

There are several published works about Kinstler including Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr.’s Everett Raymond Kinstler – The Artist’s Journey Through Popular Culture (2005).

Kinstler taught at the Art Students League of New York from 1969 to 1974 and is the author of several books on art, including Painting Faces, Figures and Landscapes (1981) and Painting Portraits Hardcover (1987).

In addition to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., Kinstler’s work can be admired in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Butler Institute of American Art, Brooklyn Museum, the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio; and the University of Delaware, Newark.

Want to read more?

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Mar 312016

Portraitist De Nyse Wortman Turner Pinkerton (aka De Nyse Turner) was born in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, on 3 December 1917 and died in Naples, Florida, on 3 April 2010, at the age of 92.

De Nyse Turner. Still life (1951). Image courtesy of Ricardo Santana.

De Nyse Turner. Still life (1951). Image courtesy of Ricardo Santana.

Pinkerton resided and worked at Lake Chapala, for at least part of each year, for more than thirty years, from 1970 to 2004.

She grew up in Utica, New York, and studied at the Utica Country Day School, Smith and Hollins Colleges, and The Art Student’s League in New York City.

Her maiden name was Wortman, and she had two marriages, the first to Lee Turner and the second to Edward C. Pinkerton.

She was an active supporter of several environmental organizations including the Friends of the Animals, the Nature Conservancy Marine Program, the World Wildlife Foundation, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Foundation.

Pinkerton was a prolific painter and during her lifetime completed more than 7000 portraits in pastel and oil.

Her work has been exhibited at The Peale Museum; The Baltimore Museum of Art, The Concoran Gallery, and The National Galleries in Washington, Philadelphia and New York.

De Nyse Turner. Portrait (1951). Image courtesy of Ricardo Santana.

De Nyse Turner. Portrait (1951). Image courtesy of Ricardo Santana.

During her time in Chapala, she was one of a group of artists showing in an exhibition in May 1985 at Club Campestre La Hacienda (km 30 on the Guadalajara-Chapala highway) entitled “Pintores de la Ribera” (Painters of Lakeside). This group show also included works by Laura Goeglein, Carla W. Manger, Jo Kreig, Donald Demerest, B.R. Kline, Hubert Harmon, Daphne Aluta, Eugenia Bolduc, Emily Meeker, Eleanor Smart, Jean Caragonne, Tiu Pessa, Sydney Moehlman and Xavier Pérez.

The striking portrait of Neill James that hangs in the Lake Chapala Society in Ajijic is by Pinkerton.

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.

Mar 262015

Synnove (Shaffer) Pettersen (born in Norway in 1944) is a much sought-after portrait painter who lived in the Lake Chapala area from early 1973 to August 1976.

In 1956, while Pettersen was still a young girl, her family moved to Canada, to Victoria, B.C.. Four years later, they moved on to Los Angeles, though Pettersen remained in Victoria, where she was crowned Miss Victoria in 1962, and graduated from high school in 1963. She has fond memories of her high school art teacher, Mrs Francis Cameron, saying, “She was the best. I’ve since talked with fellow art students and we all agree what a treasure she was and how we really had a college type art program.”

Pettersen then won a scholarship to the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. She remains unconvinced by the education she received there, because it stressed the abstract movements, rather than the realism that she has made her specialty.

In 1973, her then husband took early retirement and  decided to move south of the border. They had heard about Ajijic, “the largest retirement community outside the U.S.”, the year before while visiting Puerto Angel on the coast of Oaxaca. At Lake Chapala, the couple lived for a short time in Jocotepec before moving to Ajijic when they met, by chance, in the Ajijic post office, a couple about to relinquish their lease on a home in the village.

Pettersen’s Facebook page includes three videos of her work in Ajijic:

Her artistic talents, and the promise of her later success, are clearly evident in the charcoal drawings and paintings she completed during her three years in Mexico (see short videos).

In Ajijic, Pettersen was an integral member of the Clique Ajijic group of artists, along with Tom Faloon, Hubert Harmon, Todd (“Rocky”) Karns, Gail Michaels, John PetersonAdolfo Riestra and Sidney Schwartzman.

The shows of Clique Ajijic included:

  • Chapala: Villa Monte Carlo, opened 16 March 1975
  • Ajijic: Galería del Lago, 15 August 1975
  • Ajijic: Hotel Camino Real, 13-16 September 1975
  • Guadalajara: Galería OM, 24 October 1975
  • Manzanillo: Club Santiago, 29 October 1975
  • Cuernavaca: Akari Gallery, 7 February 1976
  • Guadalajara: American Society of Jalisco, 21 February 1976

Pettersen says that the Clique Ajijic group, “never painted together as a group, just had shows.” She added that one additional benefit of the drawing sessions she had at her house, where she able to persuade neighboring ladies to pose for her, was that they helped her learn Spanish.

In April 1976, Synnove (Shaffer) had a solo exhibit of works done in Mexico – oils, pastels and drawings – in the Villa Montecarlo in Chapala. The show opened on 25 April.

Synnove Pettersen ca 1975 (Photo by John Frost)

Synnove Pettersen with one of her paintings, ca 1975 (Photo by John Frost)

In this early stage of her artistic career, Pettersen was greatly encouraged by fellow Clique Ajijic member Sidney (“Sid”) Schwartzman, and by artist-photographer John Frost, who was not a member of the Clique Ajijic but took their publicity photos. In an email, she wrote that, “John Frost was a big inspiration. So willing to share his knowledge. When I returned to L.A., I did several silkscreen (serigraph) pieces. He had refreshed my interest with his enthusiasm for a photo/sun process but I was not successful with that technique, so returned to the touche and glue method.”

Synnove Pettersen is now based in Shelton, Washington state, where she continues to undertake portrait commissions. Her Facebook page, with numerous examples of her powerful, evocative portraits, is Synnove Fine Art. Prints and originals can be purchased direct from the artist’s website.


Sincere thanks to Synnove Pettersen for her willingness to share memories, knowledge and mementos from her time in Mexico.

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