Welcome to WHO KNEW? A new feature focusing on life stories from our members and volunteers
Every single one of us has an original story to tell about something we’ve experienced. We welcome yours. The more of us who sign-up to tell our stories, the more connections we will forge, coincidences we’ll uncover, and stories worth preserving will be surfaced! Come on- sign up, share with all of us at Marin Villages. All you have to do is talk. We’ll come to you, or you come to us.
Salvador Dali's Walking Renoir - An Interview with Georgette London Owens (RVV)
[Georgette was interviewed by Cherie Sorokin and Rita Lakin on March 22, 2019. She is a member of Ross Valley Village.
At age 98, one might say this astonishing woman has lived a multitude of lives. Her careers have straddled many spheres: she’s a force in the world of art; an artist who achieved many honors, including a life time achievement award from World Contemporary Art ’98.
She’s also been a decorator and renovation consultant for the St. Regis and Cartier; and a jewelry designer. Her career has connected her to the likes of Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, Jean Cocteau, Colette, Jackie Kennedy, Cartier, Rex Harrison, Daryl Zanuck, New York Mayor John Lindsey, to name just a few.
She was born in France in 1921 and although many years in the U.S., she still has a delightful French accent when speaking English. Georgette also worked hard to support other women artists, including founding the Alliance for Women Artists in San Francisco to help professional women artists exhibit nationally and internationally.
(Tiburon Peninsula Village Member Ginnie Doyle was a member of this Alliance). Georgette was married to Frank Owens for over 50 years and had three children.
Among her many stories, this one stood out in particular:
“I was working in New York for the St. Regis, doing some decorating and consulting work in addition to my art. Dali, who was visiting the hotel, heard me speaking French, and from down the hall beckoned me to join him, shouting out ‘you are a walking Renoir and must model for me!’
I knew who he was because of his big mustache, but at first I didn’t want to accept his offer. I told him I’d think about it, but a few days later I accepted.”
Dali loved Georgette’s wild red hair and wanted her as model for one of his Medusa paintings. To get the look he wanted he glued her hair into a wild configuration to make it look like snakes.
“After I was done posing, I couldn’t get the glue out, no matter how hard I tried,” recounted Georgette. “So Dali offered to pay for me to go to a hairdresser. The hairdresser took one look and said ‘Madame, there’s nothing to be done but to cut your hair really, really short!’ And so he did. It was so short, in fact, that I felt I had to wear a turban until it grew back in.”
Later Dali offered to paint her again, but in the nude. We were in the middle of a reception at an art gallery in New York and he said in a loud voice that all could hear: “I will paint you nude, Georgette."
His idea was to paint my backside and have me back up against the canvas. I turned him down. "You will regret this decision!" he told me.” With a twinkle in her eye Georgette admitted that, in fact, she has regretted it ever since!
Georgette is still a working artist, now focusing mostly on drawing using Chinese ink. She just submitted a work for a juried show in Japan.
You can read more about Georgette and see some of her work here: