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Mary Austin

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She moved to the art colony at Carmel-by-the-Sea, California about 1907. There Austin was part of the cultural circle that included: Jack London, Ambrose Bierce, Harry Leon Wilson, George Sterling, Nora May French, Arnold Genthe, James Hopper, Alice MacGowan, Gelett Burgess, Sinclair Lewis, and Xavier Martinez. She was one of the founders of the local Forest Theater, where in 1913 she premiered and directed her three-act play Fire. Austin was reportedly involved in all aspects of Carmel's Bohemian society, which included contributing an essay to the village magazine in 1909, as well as unencumbered sexual and "homoerotic attachments. " In July 1914, she joined William Merritt Chase, the distinguished New York painter who was teaching his last summer class in Carmel, at several society "teas" and privately in his studio, where he finished her portrait. The well-known artist Jennie V. Cannon reported that he began the painting as a class demonstration after Austin claimed that two of her portraits, which were executed by famous artists in the Latin Quarter of Paris, had already been accepted to the Salon. Apparently, Chase was not deterred by Austin's "pushiness and claims to extra-sensory perceptions," but was more interested in her appointment as director of East Coast publicity for San Francisco's Panama-Pacific International Exposition. On July 25, 1914, Chase attended her Indian melodrama in the Forest Theater, The Arrow Maker, and confessed to Cannon that he found the play dreary. Apparently, Dr. Daniel MacDougal, head of the local Carnegie Institute, paid for most of her production costs, because of his not-so-secret love affair with the writer. When one of Chase's students, Helena Wood Smith, was brutally murdered by her Japanese lover, Austin joined the mob who disparaged local authorities for their incompetence. After 1914 her visits to Carmel were relatively brief.



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