Oil on canvas, 34 x 26 inches
Andrée Dutcher Schafer Rexroth (American 1902-1940) also known as Andrée Schafer.
Poet Kenneth Rexroth married Andrée Dutcher [Schafer] age 25, in 1927, when he was 22, claiming to have fallen in love with her at first sight when he saw her in the doorway of the apartment building in Chicago where he was renting. She was a commercial artist and fine art painter. The impoverished couple hitchhiked from Chicago to Seattle for their honeymoon, continuing on to San Francisco. The poet encouraged Dutcher to give up commercial art, to focus on fine painting, and she agreed to give him feedback on his writing. They shared many interests in what Rexroth described as a “perfect relationship.” However, their marriage deteriorated. They drifted apart over political disagreements, Andrée joining the Communist Party, and because of her increasing mental instability and thoughts of suicide. They divorced after nearly a dozen years together, and in 1940 Andrée died of complications from epilepsy. Her death triggered great sadness in Rexroth, who wrote a number of elegiac poems in her honor. Here is one:
Died October 1940
Now once more gray mottled buckeye branches
Explode their emerald stars,
And alders smoulder in a rosy smoke
Of innumerable buds.
I know that spring again is splendid
As ever, the hidden thrush
As sweetly tongued, the sun as vital —
But these are the forest trails we walked together,
These paths, ten years together.
We thought the years would last forever,
They are all gone now, the days
We thought would not come for us are here.
Bright trout poised in the current —
The raccoon’s track at the water’s edge —
A bittern booming in the distance —
Your ashes scattered on this mountain —
Moving seaward on this stream.
Rexroth also vividly described his feelings for her in his autobiography:
“Just before Christmas I went over to call on Kenneth Thorpe one bright warm late afternoon. As I came up the steps of the red brick and sandstone Richardson house on Walton Place a girl opened the door ahead of me. She was dressed in a dull crimson coat with gray wolf fur at the collar and hem; she had deep chestnut hair, an oval face, a pale ivory skin with bright red cheeks, horn-rimmed glasses, and brown eyes with a gaze of incredibly angelic purity and seriousness. She smiled and said, “Aren’t you Kenneth Rexroth, Kep’s friend?” I said yes, scarcely able to speak. She said, “My name is Andrée Dutcher.” Harriet was alone in the Thorpe apartment. “Who is that girl, Andrée Dutcher, who lives downstairs?” I said. “She is a young commercial artist,” she said, “and she’s very anxious to meet you.” “I just met her at the door,” I said. “Did you like her?” Harriet said. “I intend to marry her,” I said. “Well!” said Harriet, “I guess we had better get started. I’ll ask her up to dinner.” She came to dinner and we sat about, talking about nothing in particular. Early in the evening we left together and she invited me into her room. From then on we were never apart, except to fulfill the routine tasks of life, for eight years. Shortly after Christmas we were married in the Church of the Ascension.”