The Journey
The Painting
The Play

Frida Kahlo's Portrait of Dorothy Hale

El Suicidio de Dorothy Hale (The Suicide of Dorothy Hale)

Myra Bairstow's Discovery of the Life & Mysterious Death of Dorothy Hale

In the early morning hours of October 21, 1938, actress Dorothy Hale was found dead on the sidewalk in front of her apartment building, the Hampshire House, on Central Park South in New York City. Her death was quickly ruled a suicide. Twelve days later, socialite and playwright, Clare Boothe Luce, met famed surrealist Frida Kahlo at the artist's first solo exhibition in New York City. Both Luce and Kahlo knew Dorothy Hale. Frida Kahlo was asking questions about the apparent suicide when Luce spontaneously surprised the crowd at the Julien Levy Gallery and hired Kahlo to paint a portrait of Dorothy Hale as a gift for her grieving mother. After much deliberation, Kahlo painted one of her most famous paintings, “El Suicidio de Dorothy Hale”. But it was not a beautiful portrait of Hale as Luce had anticipated. Instead, the painting depicted the actual death sequence of Doroth y Hale falling in stages from her apartment window and landing on the sidewalk. Initially, Luce wanted the painting destroyed. Instead, she had sections of the canvas painted over and then placed it in storage for several decades before donating it anonymously to the Phoenix Art Museum.

When art scholar and author Myra Bairstow became fascinated with Frida Kahlo's famous painting over a decade ago, she began an enthralling adventure she never expected. Her research of “The Suicide of Dorothy Hale” led her to unearth several mysteries and controversies regarding Dorothy's death and circumstances, the involvement of key White House officials from the Franklin Roosevelt Administration and more. These discoveries were inspiration for her off-broadway play, “The Rise of Dorothy Hale” and for her museum lectures, the most recent being at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Myra is currently writing a book on the life and death of Dorothy Hale.

The Official Dorothy Hale Blog