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The Flower Vendor (Girl with Lilies)
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More about The Flower Vendor (Girl with Lilies)

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Cary Grant, heartthrob and art collector, brings Diego Rivera to the center of Hollywood’s social elite.

When you think of Cary Grant, you probably think of the golden age of Hollywood, not the guilded halls of an art museum. However, it was during the peak of his film career (1932-1966) that Grant acquired Diego Rivera’s 1941 painting The Flower Vendor (Girl with Lilies). 1941 was a big year for Grant, and for this painting. In that year Grant’s film Penny Serenade debuted, for which the actor would be nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role. In August of that same year he spent a month in Mexico with socialite Barbara Hutton (whom he wed in 1942). While the lovers were there, Grant met Diego Rivera, who had by then returned to his native nation after gallivanting around Paris with art stars Picasso and Duchamp. Taken by Rivera’s folk-inspired style, Grant later acquired The Flower Vendor (Girl With Lilies).

The painting would later be immortalized in a photograph of Cary Grant drinking a beer in front of his purchase. The combination of Grant’s dapper suit, casual slouch, and grasp on a cold glass of all-American beer transforms the elegant tenderness of the girl hugging her oversized lilies - the painting becomes a set piece in another Hollywood fantasy. You can imagine the stars that, with Grant’s social events, would have seen the piece. Deliverance star Burt Reynolds is said to have seen a photograph of the painting after Grant donated it, and to have commented that he’d “never seen a painting like it.” Funny how tangential fame made this painting of a girl whose face is unseen into such a star.

Though Rivera painted other iterations of this work, such as The Flower Seller, Grant helped bring this one to the spotlight, both through his own cachet, and by donating the work (along with a trove of French prints and a pair of oils by Eugène Boudin) to the Norton Simon Museum in 1980. Now in a museum setting, the piece is famous for its content - Rivera’s beautiful lilies (perhaps reminiscent of Georgia O’Keeffe’s rather, ahem, bodily, depictions of similar flowers), rather than the star who owned the painting for two decades.

Sources

Sources

  1. “Cary Grant and Diego Rivera Painting.” Once Upon a Screen, accessed May 4, 2019, https://aurorasginjoint.com/2018/11/24/celebrating-a-seventh-anniversary....
  2. “Cary Grant: Awards.” IMDb, accessed May 3, 2019, https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000026/awards?ref_=nm_awd.
  3. “Flower Seller by Diego Rivera.” DiegoRivera.org, accessed May 3, 2019, https://www.diegorivera.org/flowerseller.jsp.
  4. “Modern Matinees: Mr Cary Grant.” Museum of Modern Art, accessed May 5, 2019, https://www.moma.org/calendar/film/3815.
  5. Nelson, Nancy. Evenings With Cary Grant: Reflections in His Own Words and by Those Who Knew Him Best. New York: Citadel Press, 1991. Accessed online from https://books.google.com/books?id=oIksQz7tXUcC&pg=PA125&lpg=PA125&dq=car...
  6. Reynolds, Christopher. “Count lilies at Pasadena's Norton Simon Museum, inside and out.” From Los Angeles Times, accessed May 7, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/travel/la-tr-california-bucket-list-updates-coun...
  7. “"The Flower vendor (Girl with Lilies)" by Diego Rivera.” Flickr, accessed May 6, 2019, https://www.flickr.com/photos/mark6mauno/3129327902/in/photostream/.
  8. “The Flower Vendor (Girl With Lilies).” Norton Simon Museum, accessed May 3, 2019, https://www.nortonsimon.org/art/detail/P.1980.2.3/.