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Author photo. Drawing by Jerome Myers ~ George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

Drawing by Jerome Myers ~ George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

Beatrice Wood (1) [1893–1998]

This page covers the author of I Shock Myself: The Autobiography of Beatrice Wood.

For other authors named Beatrice Wood, see the disambiguation page.

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Beatrice Wood was born in San Francisco to wealthy socialite parents. When she was five years old, the family moved to New York City. She was raised to be a proper young society lady, with a year of education in a Paris convent, followed by finishing school, and summer trips to Europe. At 18, she rebelled against being a debutante, and announced that she wanted to become a painter. Accompanied by a suitable chaperone, she was allowed to study painting at the Académie Julian in Paris, then took private acting and dance lessons with members of the Comédie-Française. However, with the onset of World War I, she reluctantly returned to New York City. There she joined the French National Repertory Theatre, performing more than 60 ingénue roles in two years under the stage name "Mademoiselle Patricia." She met Henri-Pierre Roché, a French diplomat, writer and art collector (author of Jules et Jim) who became her lover and introduced her to the world of modern art. Marcel Duchamp, another lover and friend, introduced her to the New York Dada group, which included Mina Loy, Man Ray, and Joseph Stella. She began sketching and painting and exhibited in the 1917 Independents exhibition. She also help found the avant-garde magazine The Blind Man. In 1918, she went to act in Montreal, where she married the theater manager to escape her mother's control; the union was unconsummated and was later annulled by her parents. She went back to NYC and then moved to Los Angeles to be closer to her fiends, art collectors Walter and Louise Arensberg, and the Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti. In 1933, she took a ceramics course at Hollywood High School and then rented a small shop in Los Angeles where she sold her pottery. Eventually, she progressed to making complex pieces, with elaborately decorated surfaces, which were acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as well as leading department stores such as Neiman Marcus and Marshall Fields. She built a home in Ojai Valley in 1947, across the street from Krishnamurti, and opened a studio and showroom. She did drawings and paintings as well as ceramics. She published her first book, The Angel Who Wore Black Tights, when she was in her 80s. A few years later she published her autobiography, I Shock Myself (1985), which was followed by Pinching Spaniards and 33rd Wife of a Maharajah: A Love Affair in India. She also wrote books under the pseudonym Countess Lola Screwvinsky. She was the subject of the 1993 documentary Beatrice Wood: Mama of Dada.

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