An Inventory of His Collection in the Art Collection at the Harry Ransom Center
The portraitist and painter Don Bachardy was born May 18, 1934, in Hollywood, California, to Jess and Glade Bachardy. Jess Bachardy was an airplane tool planner at Lockheed Corporation, and Don grew up in a middle-class neighborhood. In early childhood he started drawing, and his subjects were always people. As a pre-adolescent, he developed an interest in the movies to which his mother took him and his older brother Ted, often to the disapproval of their father. Bachardy considers his early love of movies a major influence, as he became interested in looking at people from gazing at close-ups of movie actors on the large screens. From an early age he drew from photographs of actors.
After high school Bachardy enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles, but found that he hated it. He left UCLA and enrolled at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, and later studied for one year at the Slade Art School in London. In 1961 he had his first one-man exhibition at the Redfern Gallery in London.
During his freshman year at UCLA, Bachardy was introduced to Christopher Isherwood. In 1953 Bachardy moved into Isherwood's ocean-view home in Santa Monica, where they lived together as lovers until Isherwood's death in 1986.
During his career as a portrait artist, Bachardy has done portraits of many well-known figures and celebrities, including many of the movie stars he watched as a youth. He has also drawn many members of the literary circle of Isherwood and W. H. Auden. In 1984 Bachardy received much publicity (and touched off a controversy) when he used an expressionist style with bold colors for the official portrait of Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Jr., to be hung in the California State Capitol Building.
In 1968 Bachardy co-wrote with Isherwood the Broadway play A Meeting by the River. Bachardy has also published collections of his portraits, including Stars in My Eyes (1999) in which he describes his methods and tells of his experiences of the thirty-three celebrities included.
The Don Bachardy Art Collection comprises eleven original portrait drawings by Don Bachardy. Most are of well-known figures and acquaintances, as rendered in ink, conté crayon, pastel, or charcoal. The works are listed alphabetically by portrait subject in the following Item List. Titles are transcribed from the items, and cataloger's titles appear in brackets.
The portraits of Yannis Boras, E. M. Forster, Chester Kallman, Elizabeth Mayer, and Igor Stravinsky are from the collection of Chester Kallman and W. H. Auden.
Open for research. A minimum of twenty-four hours is required to pull art materials to the Reading Room.
Purchases (R6488, R6853) 1975, and Gift (G11450), 1997
Helen Young, 2003