A Geza Kende portrait of Clara Bow owned by Bela Lugosi
Oil on canvas, signed and dated at lower right ("Geza Kende / 1929"), displayed in original carved giltwood frame. Depicting a nude Clara Bow sitting on a pale drapery backdrop. Bearing a partial period label on the reverse from The Painters and Sculptors Club of Los Angeles.
In 1929, Lugosi was touring the United States appearing in the play Dracula, soon to be optioned by Universal for a film adaptation. One of the audience members at a Los Angeles performance was the silent film star Clara Bow. Sound films had recently taken hold in Hollywood and Bow was anxious about whether her thick Brookyln accent would appeal to audiences. Having read in the press that Lugosi spoke his lines phonetically without knowing English, Bow was determined to find out more about the Hungarian actor. Bow biographer David Stenn describes their meeting: "Clara sat transfixed through Dracula, and when the final curtain fell, she made a beeline for Lugosi's dressing room. 'How d'ya know your lines?' she immediately asked him. Lugosi, who still spoke no English, gesticulated that he learned from cues by other actors. Without further ado, Clara invited him home'" (Stenn, Clara Bow: Runnin' Wild, NY: 1988, p. 140).
Their relationship was brief but apparently had a lasting impact on Lugosi as he commissioned a fellow Hungarian, artist Geza Kende, to paint this portrait of Bow. It is not believed that Bow posed for the painting herself, but rather than Lugosi commission a portrait in her likeness. The painting appears in famous 1930s photographs of Lugosi in his study, and indeed he kept it until his death in 1956. The companion painting, a portrait by Kende of Lugosi himself, sold at Heritage Auctions in 2004 for $86,250. A beautiful painting, associating one of film's greatest early stars and the iconic Dracula.
Overall: 44 1/2 x 40 in.; Painting only: 37 3/4 x 33 1/2 in.