Before Farrah Fawcett (1947-2009) became an international icon following her role on the hit television series, Charlie’s Angels, she studied art as an undergraduate student at the University of Texas at Austin with Professor Charles Umlauf from 1965-1968. Farrah catapulted to fame in 1976 when photographer Bruce McGroom shot the world famous red swimsuit poster that that sold a record-breaking 12-million copies.
After Fawcett’s death in 2009, she bequeathed her personal art collection to the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin. The Blanton has loaned over thirty objects to the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum, in Austin, bringing the one-time student’s and professor’s art together for a first ever exhibition.
The UMLAUF presents these works plus others from the UMLAUF and private collections — many of which have never been seen—in an exhibition titled Mentoring a Muse: Charles Umlauf & Farrah Fawcett running through August 20, 2017, and the public finally gets to see a new and extraordinary aspect of an actress heretofore only narrowly known for her broad smile and bombshell looks.
While much is known about Fawcett’s public life — her television and film career, including four Emmy and six Golden Globe nominations — her interest in art remains far more enigmatic. Although she left UT for Hollywood before completing her degree, she maintained her sculptor’s practice for her entire life, keeping an art building on the property of her Hollywood home. Fawcett maintained an ongoing friendship and correspondence with Umlauf for decades, visiting him and his wife Angeline when she was in Austin and attending the award ceremony when Umlauf became Texas Artist of the Year, presented in Houston in 1985, with Fawcett’s then partner Ryan O’Neal.
The star was a native of Corpus Christi and epitomized stratospheric blonde beauty that ranks — even according to legendary artist, Andy Warhol — with the aforementioned Marilyn Monroe, and punk legend, Debbie Harry. Warhol’s portrait of her conveys a molten sexiness, and he was clearly enthralled by Fawcett’s red lips and vivid blue eyes. Thus, Umlauf was not alone in finding her appropriate as a “Muse” — even before she achieved celebrity, Fawcett seemed to engender a state of UMLAUF Mentoring a Muse, 2 mind that was conducive to triggering artists’ needs to capture cultural expression via singular beauty.
Fawcett collected Umlauf’s work and continued to sculpt for her entire life. The actress sent plaster casts of her own sculptures to Umlauf, who then shipped them to his Italian foundry for casting in bronze. Mentoring a Muse: Charles Umlauf & Farrah Fawcett explores how the aesthetic influence traveled both directions: Umlauf made a tremendous impact on her style and remained, in Fawcett’s words, her “favorite teacher.” Likewise, she exerted a muse-like influence on his work. He created dozens of sketches and sculptures of Farrah Fawcett, both from life and memory.
The UMLAUF will also present archival material directly from its collection, including handwritten letters (on baby blue and pale pink stationery) from Farrah Fawcett to Charles Umlauf.