the white goddess: a goodbye to judith bledsoe

Graves” first muse…the first after he articulated his White Goddess theories, was Judith Bledsoe. Judith, by all accounts, was a naïve young girl who found in the older Graves something of a father figure whose intellect and worldly knowledge was appealing. Graves found in her the physical embodiment of the White Goddess. It seems that in the case of Judith, as in the muses that followed, who or what the person might actually have been seemed less important to Graves than what he believed the person to be. And so Judith who at first was clearly enamoured with the attention she was receiving began to buckle under the pressure and, as R. P. Graves reports, Beryl “… took Judith out to lunch alone, and quite calmly asked her whether she wanted Robert or not. To which Judith could only protest, quite honestly, that she loved Beryl and Robert more than her mother and father, and that she had no intention of doing anything to injure their marriage” (The White Goddess, 188). –source, robertgraves.org

Judith and RP

judith and the author at the bowers museum, santa ana, california

it has been reported that my dear friend, judith bledsoe, has died. i have tried to reach her children without success so details are not available which makes it an even sadder event; their silence a rebuke of the many friendships their mother nurtured over the past several decades. [on july 5, 2013, i received notes from both of judith’s children which have been posted in the comment section of this post. perhaps i judged them too harshly, but at the time i wrote this tribute i was saddened by their silence. mea culpa.]


m. (the author’s life partner), judith, and the author at a gallery opening, san diego, california

there are several pivotal events in my long career as an art dealer, one of the most vivid is selling my first bledsoe painting to the daniel’s. “blue house at st. pompon” with it’s vivid hues and little black cat sleeping on the railing of the balcony above the street, was not a large painting, but the joy judith brought to it, with her free brush work, layers of colors applied then stripped away, little border of contrasting hues making the whole a polished jewel, touched this young couple so deeply — they stood in front of it — and later sat in front of it in the gallery’s viewing room while i stood and discussed its merits as a work of art; its emotional pull working on me as well as them.


new work, studio visit, paris, 2000–2003

i was new to the business of art, but i connected then to her joie de vivre (it is best said in french, not english, and no, i’m not being a snob, dropping the occasional french ‘mots’ because i believe it elevates this discourse, it is because it best represents who judith is/was), her obvious happiness, her palette filled with colors that pulled at the hem of your shirt like a child wanting attention but too well-behaved to whine, her brushwork a busy intersection in paris, her adopted hometown.


new work, studio visit, paris, 2000–2003

her studio, on rue falguière in montparnasse, had been chaim soutine’s and it always tickled me to think what the ghosts of his tableaux mortes with their sides of beef, the dead fish, the torture, and the pain of his palette and brushwork now thought of the abundance of life that filled the studio. she once told me that she liked to sometimes strip naked and dance in the night, taking “a moonbath” and scandalizing the neighbors.


new work, studio visit, paris, 2000–2003

of course i fell in love with her before i met her, and then fell under her magnetism, her generosity, her lovely crooked smile and self-deprecating humor, and her obvious, but well-hidden delight at being loved for her art when we finally met that first journeyman year of my art career. she had a way of touching you, physically touching you while in conversation that included you in her fantasies and droll humor, as if you were her compatriot in bohemia, the jangle of her heavy north african jewelry (she had a home on the spanish island of mallorca, a family home where she had been when she met robert and beryl graves as a teenager–the white goddess of graves’s poetry theoretics) an undercurrent to the liberation of spirit that bohemia promises to the staid, the square, the suppressed.

after that first meeting, we saw each other almost yearly until the early ’90s, after which my career trajectory changed, but we continued to stay in touch, exchanging holiday greetings (oh, how we looked forward to our card from judith, always hand-made, with her decorated envelopes and loose-handed script scrawled from side to the other–a card from paris!) and quarterly phone calls to get caught up on gossip, art, life, loves, the troubles and triumphs of our lives. we grew closer.

later in that decade, the opportunity came for our careers to cross again, and out to california she came, her doting fans congregating at galleries, restaurants, museums, and our homes. she and i drove down the coast one day and it is a drive i’ll remember more for what wasn’t said than what was, although the life experiences she shared with me were reassuring in their “it happens to all of us” familiarity. it was  watching her look at the passing ocean, the open chaparral, a wistfulness and quietness that settled over her that i’d not seen in her before that has stuck with me all these years later.

she loved liberally and late in life found a soul mate in a russian emigré, sergei, a portrait of whom graces a wall of our home today not unlike the one of him at the top of the three paintings posted here. up until about a year ago, our phone conversations continued to be filled with remembrances, and who, what, when, where. about six months ago when we spoke there was a noticeable disconnect in her voice; she was pleasant, but was complaining that her children “had hired someone to get her from one place to another” which she did not like at all and that they were there now, “cleaning up my apartment” (which of course, more than likely needed it, house-keeping not her ‘thing’), she signed off with a distracted au revoir.

a week ago, a mutual friend of ours called and told me she’d heard that judith had died. a friend and collector of judith’s work had told her he’d seen it on another gallery’s website. i contacted them for details, but they only said they’d forward my message to her children. i wrote to the son using the email address i have, no response; we called her home, no answer, just eerily her recording, “c’est judith. je ne suis pas là…”

ciao, judith, je t’aime.

judith passed 17 february 2013. she would have been 85 this year.


23 Responses to “the white goddess: a goodbye to judith bledsoe”

  1. March 23, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    Robert, this is so moving. So sorry for your loss and her childrens’ lack of….je ne c’est pas. Your words make me sad that I hadn’t shared in the joy of knowing her too. Thank you for giving this glimpse to us.

    • March 23, 2013 at 9:42 pm

      Thank you. Someone said to me today that I looked so happy in that photo of her sitting on my lap and I responded, “that’s what she was capable of doing, making you the happiest you’ve ever felt.” It was her gift.

  2. 3 carolyn solomon
    April 13, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Just found out about Judith today and am very sad. with the passing of Marcel Jack and Judith I truly feel an end of an era. Yes, I join you with so many happy remembrances of Judith sharing her love of every aspect of nature and every moment of every day. Carolyn Solomon

  3. 5 Tabitha S
    April 22, 2013 at 6:40 am

    My home is filled with vibrant colors of happiness…Judith’s lithograph series. I am so sorry for your loss. This is a loss for the world. I am deeply saddened by the news. Has her death been confirmed?

    • April 22, 2013 at 7:23 am

      Hi Tabitha, it is indeed a loss for the world. Thank you for your kind words. I’ve not been able to confirm her death with her family or through other channels. I have no reason to doubt the gallery who originally had said she had died, but still…

  4. 7 Nina Marucci
    May 12, 2013 at 3:43 am

    Hello…..just by chance I found your wonderful tribute to Judith, three months after she departed this mortal coil. I was her best friend during the past twelve years, and saw her through her disastrous descent first into illness…shingles brought on by a fight between her children which almost broke her heart (they made up but after the damage was done.) Then she sank into dementia and it was incredibly sad to see this glorious free spirit so confused, irritated by being forced to have her house full of people….nice ones, fortunately….who had to take care of her when she couldn’t comprehend why that was necessary. She thought she lived in several different places, had four cats, and was completely disoriented. I spoke with her twice a day by phone, even during her summers in Majorca, and tried to keep her tied to reality by reminiscing about the past, which she managed to hold onto until the end. Her last words to me, the day before she died in the hospital, were “are we in Spain?” I would be most happy to enter into correspondence with you or even have a phone conversation so I can fill you in on Judith’s last years. Thank you for your tribute…I hope to hear from you. Nina Marucci

    • 8 Summer LOZON
      June 7, 2014 at 11:20 pm

      Judith was my grandfathers love, me. Charles C. Morrey. I would love to know more about her and what happened, she was very dear to our California family. My email is lozon.summer@gmail.com
      Please feel free to contact me
      Summer sunshine

      • June 8, 2014 at 7:04 am

        Dear Summer,
        Your grandfather must have been the “Colonel” then. Judith always spoke so fondly of him whenever she was out here. I believe she had, many years ago, created a small lithograph of him in all his regalia, a quite charming piece, filled with love and her wonderful wit. I know she always held him very near to her heart. Judith passed away early in 2013 after struggling with dementia. Sadly, her family chose not to reach out to her many friends and loves around the world, which was their right, but it’s still hard to understand why when Judith had so many friends. I hope her paintings still bring you and your family much pleasure, as they do us in our home.

  5. May 13, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    hi, this is robert patrick. i received a lovely note about judith from a friend of hers in australia which i thought i’d share with you:

    thank you for your loving tribute to Judith Bledsoe. Nina M. e.mailed me today to tell me about it and reading it five minutes ago did me a lot of good. I got close to Judith over twenty years of visiting Paris annually, I have hanging in my kitchen wall the still life of vegetables and fruit you photographed in her studio, I saw her weekly, for a walk together with her carer, during October – November 2011, and the streets of Montparnasse she and I mooched around together over all those years are pallid without her. She deserves better from her Paris family – both as parent and painter – than the carelessness, or rather, disregard they have shown in the matter of contacting friends and admirers overseas at her death. I’m in Paris again for some weeks later this year, and I’ll do a tour d’honneur around her favourite places, bringing bright flowers to leave in her memory.

  6. May 19, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    me again. another lovely note from an admirer of Judith’s living in Amsterdam:

    Hello Robert,
    I don’t think that we met when I was based in San Diego as a journalist/film festival person, etc. I had the pleasure of interviewing and photographing Judith Bledsoe for the Union-Tribune and was thinking of her very strongly tonight. She inspired me to follow a childhood dream to live in Europe and though my destination was to be Paris, it shifted north to Amsterdam, where I have been since 1987. I was rading about Judith on her website and then a link using a past tense reference to Judith caught my eye and I learned of her passing; thanks for your eloquent tribute to her. I am sorry I will not be able to meet with her again as I had hoped. Her work remains, and her memory for those whose path she crossed. All best, Joan

  7. June 9, 2013 at 7:57 am

    Hi, it’s Robert again: this wonderful tribute was written by Sam Lowry, a friend and collector of Judith’s whose mother, Nina (see above) was a close friend of Judith’s in her last years.

    “Judith Bledsoe’s voice, her manner of speaking, could only be those of one who’d lived her kind of life. Deep-toned, theatrical, conspiratorial, her verbal art was full of gentle gripe, always colored with fight to show she could bust the world in the chops on a whim.

    I guess the world would not bend to her kind of will, so although not defenseless, she floated within the world, and painted it. A child of her own childhood, she knew and cherished her loves and her old allure. But her art rarely had anything to do with that.

    It might just have been about the way what she painted made her feel. In the time I knew her, she would never articulate intent, process, allegory or reference. Who needed these? And amazingly, she drew no self-reference. Only people and things to see, each a feeling.

    In our house live four “Judiths”: a boat on a dark sea; a brilliantly colored party setting; a bright, cattish circus performer; and a blue-and-yellow Mallorcan garden, to which we wake each morning. She couldn’t tell you a thing about them. You can hardly look away.

    As dear Judith faded, her art faded just as gently. Maybe she couldn’t feel those people and things any more. That would have made her sad. Maybe in the end not even they would bend to her will. She dissociated. Her world went in two. We’ll never know how.

    Judith Bledsoe, the tall and proudly blonde California girl who got herself swept up young by the literati and into every kind of scrape in an eight-decade adventure, loved her garden, cat, family, friends, studio, pretty girls in stylish dresses, and color, color, color.”

  8. 13 Ivan Feder
    July 5, 2013 at 11:07 am

    Dear Robert,
    it saddens me tremendously to read these things being said about my sister and I. I never received your e-mail (wrong address?) Of course I would have responded would I have received it. My sister and I did our best to inform all of Judith’s friends. I am very sorry that you were not included as I know how close a friend you were to Judith. She always said the best things about you.
    This is a terrible mishap and I hope you will understand that in that moment of absolute grief we might have forgotten to inform some of the people she knew.
    Please know that Judith’s spirit lives on with her children!

    Thank you Robert for being such a good friend to Judith and I hope we can be in touch to mend things up.

    ps: Also, would you please remove the video from this site as it was intended to be viewed only by close friends and family. I am sure you will understand that. Thank you.

    • July 5, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      Dear Ivan,
      Thank you for your note. I am so sorry for your loss. As I wrote in reply to your sister, it came as quite a shock to find out about Judith’s passing in such a round-about way…she was a good friend and we will miss her dearly. I’ve amended my post in light of you and your sister’s comments and have removed the video. Take care and all the best to you and yours, Robert

  9. 15 Katia Feder
    July 5, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Dear Robert,

    The Robert Patrick we have heard so much about from our mother Judith….
    Ivan my brother somehow happened to stumble on your blog and saw this lovely tribute you wrote for her, and it has made me cry again.
    Thank you for all the things you wrote about her they are so true.
    It has been very hard for us to overcome the sadness of her absence.
    I also want you to know that we didn’t get in touch with you, only because we did not find an address or phone number, her papers were not really in order. I knew about you but did not know how to contact you, I hope You will accept our apologies and that you will understand.
    We would love to talk with you or correspond and tell tou more about her, but maybe on more if a private basis?
    I really hope to will get in touch
    All the best and
    Sincerely yours
    Katia Feder

    • July 5, 2013 at 3:06 pm

      Dear Katia,
      Please accept my sincere condolences on the passing of your mother. I truly appreciate you reaching out and I apologize if my post hurt you (I will amend it now). It was quite a shock for me to hear of Judith’s death in such a round-about way, but I can certainly appreciate the distress her passing has caused you. No matter the age, it is always difficult to lose one’s mother. My partner and I loved your mother dearly–our relationship was one that we will always treasure. One of my favorite paintings she did of you was a large canvas of you standing in a red frilly dress that she said the two of you had made out of tissue paper. I can still see it in my mind’s eye and it never fails to make me happy. I wish you the best and thank you for the note.

  10. 17 Marc Davidson
    September 19, 2013 at 11:07 am

    Dear Mr. Patrick,
    I was quite startled to learn through this blog that Ms. Bledsoe had died. What a great loss. I met her only once, back in the 1980s in New York City but was quite taken with her. I find upon looking that there is no article about her on Wikipedia and I think you might be the perfect person to contribute one. I hope you will look into it.

    — Marc Davidson (former art gallery owner)

    • September 19, 2013 at 5:14 pm

      Thanks, Marc, for the note. I didn’t know there wasn’t a Wikipedia page and that’s an excellent idea. I’ll look into it. She was a special woman and a wonderful artist and will be missed greatly by all those whose lives she touched.

  11. October 1, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    Thank you for telling us about Judith Bledsoe’s death and for your lvoely tribute to her – I sadly never got the opportunity to meet this wonderful woman and I was very sad to know she had a studio on the rue Falguière in Montparnasse (I always stay a very short distance away on the rue Duroc when I am in Paris and I have walked down that street so often). Back in 1979, I purchased 13 of her prints in her series “Zodiac” when I was a student in Boston and I still love them today – you can really see her soul in her works. I had sent her an email two years ago when I discovered her website, as I had a guest professorship at the Paris Conservatory for one semester and I wanted to meet her. But, I did not get a response and I was too shy to telephone her; I will always regret never having just picked up the phone. Again, I thank you for your wonderful tribute to her and for sharing your stories with us. Sincerely, James David Christie

    • October 2, 2013 at 5:42 am

      James, I’m sure she would’ve loved to have met you. She was generous with her time and the unexpected always intrigued her. Thank you for sharing your love of her work.

  12. 21 Marcy Lindheimer
    September 5, 2017 at 9:32 am

    Just read the comments here. So sad to hear of Judith Bledsoe’s passing. We have loved the many lithographs we have of hers for years. How lucky you were to have her as part of your personal world. We feel lucky to have come upon her work. I can remember walking in NYC at least 20 years ago, and coming upon the Gallery that sold her works. We found the colors in her work dazzling and the loveliness and joy moving and we snapped up 8 lithographs , only to buy more a few months later. Her lithographs still makes us so happy.

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© Robert Patrick, and Cultivar, 2008-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, photographs and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert Patrick and Cultivar with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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