Doris Lindo Lewis (1909 - 1995)
Ear and Feather, c. 1930
Oil on canvas
24 x 18 inches
Signed at lower right: Lewis
Estate of the artist
Artist and environmentalist, Doris Lewis divided her life among Massachusetts, the Caribbean, and South Florida. Her paternal grandparents descended from old New England families and built a house on Boston's Marlborough Street when the Back Bay neighborhood first opened. Later, some of the family moved to Cambridge, where several in-laws had lived for many years; one had married Longfellow's son, Ernest.
On her mother's side, Lewis descended from the prominent "Anglo" Lindo family of Jamaica and Costa Rica. Her grandfather was one of the eight partners of Lindo Brothers, members of which owned extensive plantations for coffee, bananas, and sugar in Jamaica and Costa Rica.
Born in 1909 at the Cecil Lindo (her great uncle) Historic House on Parque Morazan in San Jose, Costa Rica, Lewis returned to a family plantation "El Sitio" at Juan Vinas, with her father, Sidney Lewis (formerly of Cambridge, Massachusetts) and her mother, Daisy Lindo Lewis (later Voorhis). For a few years just before and during World War I, Sidney Lewis ran mining interests out of Wheeling, West Virginia, but decided to return to Costa Rica in 1919 when his daughter was ten. The family stopped in New York on the way, staying with Doris Lewis's grandfather, August Lindo, on Park Avenue. Before embarking, her father traveled alone to Cambridge to visit his mother for a few days and suddenly died. After her father's death, Lewis was taken by her mother to live with members of the Lindo family in Jamaica for one year, possibly at her great uncle Robert's plantation, "Sunnyside," two miles outside of Linstead.
Then Lewis and her mother migrated to Cambridge to live near her father's family. In the Boston area she attended the Buckingham School, the May School, and the Museum School. Moving to South Yarmouth, Cape Cod, in the late 1920's, Lewis at a young age became associated with a group of New York, Boston, and Cape Cod artists and writers, including Dodge McKnight (friend of Isabella Steward Gardner), poet Conrad Aiken, and novelist Malcolm Lowry. Lowry wrote perhaps his most famous letter to her, a thirty page love letter, which remains in her family.
Other artists who were close associates were Howard Gibbs, Harold Dunbar, Byron Thomas, Frederick Wight, and Alice Stallknecht. For over sixty years Lewis was a close friend of Catherine Huntington, who owned the Provincetown Playhouse and kept Eugene O'Neillsí plays alive during the 1940's. She also painted Huntington's portrait.
On Cape Cod Doris Lewis at first painted typical Cape landscapes in oil, but soon moved on to surrealistic drawings, which exhibited in Cambridge in the early 1930's. At the same time she produced a strong body of modernist oils, which exhibited at the Provincetown Art Association, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and other locations. She also painted in New York and Boston.
Through her mother's family, Lewis maintained keen interest in the Caribbean, and in 1937 married Anglo-Jamaican Edward Henriquez in Havana, where she spent the next twelve years. Henriquez had been educated at Belmont Hill School, which was founded partially for him and his brother by the Atkins family, who had extensive holdings in Cuba (sugar) and in Belmont outside Boston. An "Anglo" herself, Lewis, unlike many North Americans, showed great interest in and love for both native peoples, Cuban Hispanics and Blacks.
Briefly in the late 1930's when her husband's sailboat was being built, Lewis lived under primitive conditions among Afro-Cuban sugarcane workers some distance from the cultivation of Havana. During the day the men toiled in the fields, and Lewis was struck by the spiritual faces of the women left at home especially by their long-suffering and innocence. The only art materials she had with her were conte pencils and a sketch pad. And so were born twenty-five character-full portraits in an exhibit, "Faces of Afro Cuba," which showed posthumously at the African Meeting House on Beacon Hill in 1996.
In 1949, Lewis returned to the States to live in Florida for the rest of her life. There, in addition to pursuing her own artwork, she personally encouraged countless artists, potters, and gardeners, as well as serving on various county- and state-wide boards and founding the Ceramic League of Palm Beach County. She also performed a busy, vocal, and courageous role in Florida's environmental movement and is credited as one of the leading activists to save the Everglades.
She died in 1995 at her home in West Palm Beach.
Source: Sydney Lewis, daughter of the artist, and Denis Glover, Chatham, Massachusetts