© Laura Walker

Dorothy Brett (1883-1976)

In March 1924, (Frieda) Lawrence and Dorothy Brett arrived in Taos and stayed with Mabel Dodge Luhan. Initially, they all got along well, “but tensions gradually built… (and) Mabel, in a burst of generosity (and probably to keep Lawrence in Taos) offered Lawrence a tract of 160 acres on her ranch” located some twenty miles North-West of Taos. The Lawrence’s first named it the “Lobo Ranch” and then the “Kiowa Ranch”, while today it has been known as the D. H. Lawrence Ranch”, ever since it was acquired by the University of New Mexico in the 1950s.

Lawrence refused Luhan’s offer, but it was accepted by Frieda and the deed was in her name. After some renovations, the trio settled at the ranch in May/June 1924 and Brett took the smaller of the two cabins on the property. She spent much of her time there painting or she would assist Lawrence by typing his manuscripts. Among Brett’s accomplishments when living with the Lawrences were her “exceptional.. handyman skills, including carpentry”, but “the three women — Frieda, Mabel and Brett — competed for D.H. Lawrence’s attention (and) the rivals often got along fairly well with one another, but sometimes not”.Early in 1926 Brett and the Lawrences met again on Capri. From there D. H. Lawrence and Brett travelled to Ravello, where they stayed together for ten days, while Frieda remained on Capri.

After the Lawrence’s left New Mexico in 1925, and his death in 1930, Simmons notes that:
“Brett remained alone on the ranch before moving into Taos. There she lived in poverty for several years, in one case obliged to share an outhouse in winter with neighbor and author Frank Waters. She managed to survive by selling her paintings of Pueblo Indians, cranked out for the tourist market at give-away prices. In time, though, her art took on a mystical quality and began to be snapped up by museums around the country.”

She became a United States citizen in 1938. In later life, she became admired as one of the leading personalities of Taos. Living alone in her small home outside of town, she was fawned on by the Taos elite during infrequent visits to town. One close friend was Navajo artist RC Gorman.

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