Not very often, but sometimes it happens. An artist makes a major contribution to what we loosely term "art history" without his name becoming a household word. That certainly would be the case with a young man born near the turn of the century just outside Paris. His name was Jean LeGrann. When he was just a young boy, his parents moved to the Montmartre section of Paris where he grew up on the streets amongst the Bohemian artists, anarchists, leftist radicals, and other street riffraff who also chose to make this section of Paris their home. It was there he met artists such as Matisse, Whistler, Picasso, Sargent, and Pollock. In fact, as a boy, he was the model for one of the acrobat figures in Picasso's Family of Saltimbanques. He also posed for Picasso's Boy Leading a Horse. Years later, in 1970, Picasso again painted him in Seated Old Man.
With this kind of background it was only natural that Jean LeGrann should grow up to become an artist. The only problem was, he also grew up just in time to fight a war. And the war did terrible things to him. It left him with one less leg and nightmares of mustard gas and incendiary shells exploding over his head. After the war, he struggled to pick up what was left of his life and his art studies, first at the Sorbonne and later, fleeing the harsh economic times in France, he came to this country where studied art at M.I.T. It was here he met his wife, Sybil, who just happened to be the daughter of Vassily Kandinsky. Kandinsky led him into Impressionism, saturating his palette with brilliant color, and evoking from his brush a new realism seldom seen in the New York art world at the time.
LeGrann's work began to sell; not specatcularly, but well enough that he and his wife could afford a modest existence in New York's upper East Side. There they became the parents of a lovely young daughter born in 1930. They named her Constance. Her father, as father-artists are prone to do, often painted her picture. She was a beautiful child. He had great hopes that she would also become an artist. In 1953, he saw his hopes fulfilled, but not quite as he'd expected. In passing through Times Square, he was startled to see his daughter's face on a movie poster. The words read: Bistro Bitch. His daughter had made her debut in the fledgling art film industry, and though mild by today's X-rated standards, when he crept inside the dirty, darkened theater, he saw a side of his daughter no father should see. He fled a short time later in tears. He never saw or spoke to his daughter again even though she went on to make many more films and was even nominated for an Academy Award. She had changed her name. Today, we know her as Natalie Wood.
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