Bessie Lasky

Photograph by Walter Frederick Seely

For Bessie Lasky, Hollywood was far more than a glamorous "factory" town where the movies reigned and stars paraded their eccentricities on Hollywood Boulevard. "I was not influenced by Hollywood," she wrote in her memoirs, Candle in the Sun (1957). "My heart sang gaily of landscapes, still lifes, flower and water subjects."


In her commitment to her paintbrush Bessie Lasky found the fulfillment not provided by marriage or material possessions: the world of private railroad cars, great houses, servants upstairs and down. Rather than a wasteland of cocktail parties and restaurant chatter—the typical life of the wife of a movie mogul—she worked at her easel every day painting still-life arrangements from the fruits of her gardens, lyrical groupings of eucalyptus trees above the California coastline, and seascapes at Gloucester, where she traveled with her first child, Jesse, Jr., on early painting trips.


 By the mid twenties she had passed critical juries, exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C., and negotiated her own professional debut at the prominent Anderson Galleries, Park Avenue, New York.

And so it would go—well through the 1960—when Bessie Lasky exhibited for the final time at the Fred Penney's distinctive gallery ("The Gallery") in Palm Springs, California. Along the road there were "one man shows" at the Legion of Honor, San Francisco (by invitation); Knoedler's, New York, Chicago, Paris; Durand Ruel, Milch, Ehrich Newhouse Galleries, and Bonestelli, New York. The Bonestell Exhibition included the first showing of her series of fifteen cosmic paintings with poetic commentary (her search for eternal values) entitled The Path of Vision. [click here to see samples of Bessie Lasky's cosmic paintings].  Also the Detroit Institute of Arts (by invitation); Brooklyn Museum of Art; Marshall field & Co., Chicago (an all "white" exhibition); Gump's, San Francisco; Stanford University (by invitation); Los Angeles County Museum (by invitation); Cooling, London; Salon National, Paris; the Heritage.and.Stendahl Galleries, and Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles; Hall of Art, Beverly Hills (her first retrospective exhibition).

In the mid-1940s Bessie Lasky embarked on what would be her most ambitious painting project. Inspired by Jesse Jr's enthusiastic suggestion that she paint the twenty-one California Missions ("You can do it, Bess!"), she set out to do just that. The result, thirty-two Mission paintings, first exhibited at the Crocker Art Gallery in Sacramento (1950), are now a permanent part of the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. [click here to see samples.]

Among the celebrated personalities and museums that have collected Bessie Lasky's work are: Arthur Brisbane, Samuel Goldwyn, Adolph Zukor, Elizabeth Arden, Billie Burke, Louise Dresser, Edward G. Robinson, Mary Pickford, Andre Kostelanetz, and the Newark and Dayton Museums of Art.
Betty Lasky


Portrait of Bessie by Carlos Medina