Lilian Whitteker (American, 1895-1978)
Artist Lilian Eveleth Whitteker was born in Wyoming, Ohio in 1881. Her father was a Freemason and worked as a seed-herbalist. An ancestor on her mother’s side is Sir Rowland Hill, the British inventory of the postage stamp. At the age of eighteen, Lilian enrolled in the Cincinnati School of Fine Arts. In 1910 she attended the Boston School of Fine Arts and won a bronze medal at the Salom des Beaux-Arts in 1917.
While attending an exhibition in New York in 1919, she met a distant cousin, American architect, and landscape designer William Perry Dudley (1891-1965). Discovering Touraine during a convalescence to treat a war wound in 1918, Dudley bought in 1922 the castle site of Montbazon (Indre-et-Loire) which he supervised the restoration until his death and where he lived from 1922 to 1939 with Lilian as his companion and mistress. When Miss Dudley finally joined her husband in Montbazon in 1925, Lilian returned to America, returning to Montbazon in 1926 after the death of her father. The Dudleys divorced in 1938- Lilian remained close friends with Miss Dudley while William left France at the beginning of World War II.
Lilian remained in France against the advice of authorities to return to America. In September of 1942 she was arrested by the Germans as a “citizen of enemy country.” She was places in the Vittel camp and was liberated in March 1943 on the intervention of Charles Bedaux and his American wife.
After the war she lived for a short time at Montbazon relying on the income of the sale of some of her paintings and selling goat cheeses she made in Montbazon. In 1958 she was suffering from vision problems and underwent cataract surgery which unfortunately did not restore all of her visual faculties. In Touraine after the war, Whitteker became friends with sculptors Jo Davidson and Alexander Calder. They would influence her work to become more abstract. She exhibited almost every year from 1923 to 1978, only interrupted by the Second World War.
When William Dudley committed suicide in April of 1965, Montbazon Castle was returned to the town of Montbazon according to his will. The town at first ensured that Lilian could remain at the castle, but after years of legal complications, Lilian moved in 1970 to a retirement home in Montlouis-sur-Loire. Here at the retirement home, she set up a workshop to continue to paint. She died in 1979 and is buried in the cemetery of Montbazon.
In 1963, the City of Tours emptied their civic museum to devote the space to an exhibition of her work and another retrospective exhibition was held after her death in June of 1997 in Montbazon.
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