5 FAQs and Myths about Artist Beatrice Wood
By Thea Fiore-Bloom, Ph.D.
Kevin Wallace (director of The Beatrice Wood Center For The Arts ) has fielded many questions over the years from curious fans of Ojai’s beloved Beatrice (1893-1998).
Here are 5 of the most FAQ’s Wallace gets asked, alongside some surprising answers.
#1 FAQ: Was Beatrice Wood on The Titanic?
Answer: No, but…
Beatrice wasn’t actually on the Titanic.
But she was the historical inspiration for James Cameron’s character Rose in his 1997 blockbuster film “The Titanic.”
“It’s easy for those who are not writers or in theater or film to get confused about such things,” said Wallace. “It’s said that fiction is the best manner of telling the truth.”
“And Beatrice was right about the same age as Rose at the time of the disaster. Beatrice’s family summered in France. So like Rose, she did cross the ocean on big ships in a similar manner.”
James Cameron drove up to Beatrice Wood’s home in Ojai for her 105th birthday to bring her a VHS copy of his film after it came out (see photo above.)
But Wood only watched the first half as she felt it would be sad. As Wood put it: “It was too late in life to be sad.”
# 2 FAQ About Beatrice Wood:
Was the novel and later François Truffaut film Jules et Jim based on the love triangle that took place between Beatrice Wood, Marcel Duchamp, and Henri-Pierre Roché?
“It’s easy to understand why someone would assume this,” said Wallace.
“The book Jules and Jim was written by Henri-Pierre Roché. And Roché was involved in a relationship with Beatrice and Marcel Duchamp. There are similarities.
Beatrice said that she’d read Jules and Jim but she didn’t recognize the characters, events or conversations.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Writers tend to be inspired by something and then make lots of changes – which is the case with Cameron and “The Titanic.”
Roche claimed that Jules and Jim was modeled on the lives of other people he knew, which is likely true.
He wrote [an unfinished] book called Victor, which was directly inspired by his relationship with Beatrice and Marcel.
Victor was Marcel’s nickname back then.
And the female character in the book is named Patricia (which was Beatrice’s stage name at the time.)
Beatrice Wood read that book and didn’t recognize the characters, events or conversations in that book either,” said Wallace.
# 3 FAQ About Beatrice Wood Question: Beatrice Was a Big Feminist, Right?
Answer; No, Not Exactly.
“This was a question that came up while Beatrice was alive,” said Wallace.
“Women would visit her at home, assuming that as a strong, independent woman, who had found success on her own, that it must be the case that Beatrice Wood was an ardent feminist.
Wood instead irritated visitors by saying that she would ‘give it all up for a man,’ or make other statements in that vein that would shock them,” said Wallace.
“This was partially because Beato was rebellious and a Dadaist until the end (though she claimed not to really know what Dada was) – and she really loved to shock people.”
“At the same time, Beatrice Wood was all about the relationships between men and women – which was obvious in her work.
Beato’s hero was Annie Besant – a female Suffragette from the previous century, but she found the Feminist Movement of the sixties and seventies to be in opposition to the roles that men and women play in each other’s lives.”
#4 FAQ About Beatrice Wood: Woods Was Financially Supported by a Husband or Wealthy Family, Right?
Answer: Absolutely not.
“It is an assumption based upon sexism that being able to live the independent life of an artist meant that she was supported either by her wealthy family or a rich husband.
Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Wallace.
“Beatrice walked away from what her family wanted her to be and took great pride in making her own living. There was no rich husband or lover.”
“She did have a couple of wealthy women friends who would help her out financially now and then when she was really struggling – but Beatrice was a proud woman and wouldn’t ask.”
“When she learned that her first husband Paul was borrowing money from her friends to pay his gambling debts she was horrified and insisted upon personally paying it all back.”
In her later years, Wood quipped that the only partner she could count on to still be there when she wakes up the next morning was the mountain she lived alongside.
“People who visit the Center often ask about her children,” said Wallace, “and it’s an understandable assumption – she was a beautiful, romantic woman.”
But Wood never had children.
“It’s more that it just never happened than, that she planned it that way.”
# 5 FAQ Question About Beatrice Wood: Beatrice Loved and Accepted Her Age, Right?
Answer: No. Actually, She Usually Claimed To Be 32.
Wallace: “There’s a video interview where the interviewer mentions Beatrice’s age – at the time she was in her nineties – and the interviewer made a comment that contained an assumption that Beatrice must be proud of her age.
Beatrice responded; ‘Heavens no – I don’t think about it.‘
She didn’t consider herself elderly – often claiming to be thirty-two.
When I first came to meet her in Ojai, she flirted with me and it was obvious that she didn’t view herself as an elderly woman,” said Wallace.
“I heard this from a number of other men.
It was true.
And the thing was when you were sitting and talking with her, the idea of her being elderly, just dissipated.
You definitely had the sense you were speaking with a young woman.”
Wood once wrote the following in a letter to a friend:
“I hang on to the statement of scientists that there is no such thing as time. Therefore join me in telling everyone you’re thirty-two. This allows me to go after young men and plan grabbing husbands from my girlfriends [Mind you, Wood was 103 when writing this].
Choosing to live in the timeless, I am now at the easiest and happiest time in my life.”
— Beatrice Wood
Do you love the work of Beatrice Wood?
Are you inspired by her life?
Let me know in the comments below, I would love to hear your thoughts.
You may also like to read or listen to my article: Beatrice Wood: What No One Tells You About Her, Why She Isn’t Famous & How She Can Make Your Art Life Blossom.
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