Beatrice Wood (1893 – 1998) was an American artist and studio potter, who late in life was dubbed the “Mama of Dada,” and served as a partial inspiration for the character of Rose DeWitt Bukater in James Cameron’s 1997 film, Titanic.
Beatrice Wood was born in San Francisco, California, the daughter of wealthy socialites. Despite her parents’ strong opposition, Wood insisted on pursuing a career in the arts. Eventually her parents agreed to let her study painting and because she was fluent in French, they sent her to Paris where she studied acting at the Comédie-Française and art at the prestigious Académie Julian.
Dada and the Avant-garde
During this time period, Wood was introduced to Marcel Duchamp, who in turn introduced her to her first great love interest,Henri-Pierre Roché, a man fourteen years her senior. She worked with Duchamp and Roché in the 1910s to create The Blind Man, a magazine that was one of the earliest manifestations of the Dada art movement in New York City.
Roché, Duchamp, and Jules et Jim
Though she was involved with Roché, the two would often spend time with Duchamp, creating a love triangle. Biographies of Wood traditionally link Roché’s novel (and the consequent film), Jules et Jim, with the relationship between Duchamp, Wood, and himself. Other sources link their triangle to Roché’s unfinished novel, Victor, and Jules et Jim with the triangle between Roché, Franz Hessel, and Helen Hessel. Beatrice Wood commented on this topic in her 1985 autobiography, I Shock Myself:
Roché lived in Paris with his wife Denise, and had by now written Jules et Jim … Because the story concerns two young men who are close friends and a woman who loves them both, people have wondered how much was based on Roché, Marcel, and me. I cannot say what memories or episodes inspired Roché, but the characters bear only passing resemblance to those of us in real life!
Beatrice Wood and Marcel Duchamp (far left) at Coney Island, New York, June 21, 1917.
FILM: Jules and Jim
Jules and Jim is a 1962 French film directed by François Truffaut based on Henri-Pierre Roché’s 1953 semi-autobiographical novel about his relationship with writer Franz Hessel and his wife, Helen Grund.
Beatrice Wood, 105, when asked the secret of her longevity she would simply say: “Art books, chocolates and young men.”
Untitled (Two Women) earthenware with glazes by Beatrice Wood, 1990