Royalty with a Hint of Mystery Comes to the Chávez Library

Letitia (Tish) Evans Frank held a rightful place in Santa Fe royalty. Her grandparents included Mabel Dodge Luhan, the famous Taos personality; artist and architect William Penhallow Henderson; and poet Alice Corbin Henderson. Daughter of Alice Henderson Rossin and Josh Evans, Tish became a dancer, earning a master’s from Vermont’s Bennington College, then working with Martha Graham’s dance troupe at the Juilliard School of Music. Though she claimed residences in New York and Maine, Santa Fe was home, and her service to this community and to our museums was tremendous.

A trustee for the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, she also served on the Women’s Board and the International Folk Art Foundation board, and was chairperson for the School for American Research’s board of managers, 1981–83. She helped persuade legislators to create the Hispanic Heritage Wing at MOIFA, build the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture’s permanent exhibition and, most precious to us, create the New Mexico History Museum.

After her death in 2009, her nephew Nat Mauldin (son of famed cartoonist Bill Mauldin) began overseeing her estate, which included boxes of correspondence and other ephemera that he gave to the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library. Included in the gift were two compelling portraits.

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One is a 1958 painting of Tish by Sidney Simon, a sculptor and founder of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. (His works are held in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Corcoran Art Gallery, among others.) The other portrait was a detailed sketch of a man that was signed by Gerald Cassidy, one of the early members of the Santa Fe Art Colony.

But who was the man? Librarian Tomas Jaehn couldn’t place him, so he reached out to the library’s Facebook fans, his Brainpower & Brownbags Lecture regulars, and a history-based Listserv. A few names were suggested, including author Oliver La Farge. But the likely answer turned out to be the most logical one: Paul Frank, Tish’s husband.

“It makes perfect sense,” Jaehn said.

The collection still must be sorted, so for at least a little while, you can see both portraits by visiting the library. We honor Tish’s generosity to us by sharing her memory with you.