D.H. Lawrence Forbidden Art – Taos, New Mexico - Atlas Obscura
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Taos, New Mexico

D.H. Lawrence Forbidden Art

Reproductions of nine oil paintings banned from England in 1929 coyly hidden behind a curtain in a New Mexico conference room. 

For years, nine D.H. Lawrence oil paintings that were banned from England in 1929 hung in a back office of the Hotel La Fonda de Taos. Reproductions of those original forbidden paintings now hang behind a curtain in the hotel’s conference room.

Painted during the height of Lawrence’s infamy, following the publication of his erotic novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, the nine works were among the twelve originally exhibited at the Dorothy Warren Gallery of London in 1929. Not surprisingly, given his reputation, local authorities soon confiscated the paintings and labeled them obscene.

Lawrence was offered two choices: remove the paintings from England forever or have them destroyed. He chose the former, and thus began their unlikely journey to the American Southwest.

Lawrence sent the paintings to his home of Vence, France, where they remained until his death in 1930. Frieda, his widow, subsequently moved to New Mexico with the banned paintings in tow.

Why New Mexico?

A decade earlier the American patroness Mabel Dodge Sterne Luhan had invited Lawrence and Frieda to Taos with the goal of convincing the author to write about the area. While that book never happened, she did convince him to stay awhile with a sweet deal—swapping a 160-acre ranch for the manuscript of Sons and Lovers.

It was to this ranch that Frieda returned, and when she died in 1956, her third husband sold the paintings to the local owner of the Hotel La Fonda de Taos, Saki Karavas. Karavas, in turn, kept the paintings in his hotel office until his death in 1996.

Correction: The paintings currently on display are reproductions. After years of displaying the originals, the hotel decided to secure the originals in a separate location.

Know Before You Go

To view the reproduction paintings and listen to a pre-recorded tour, you'll need to pay the front-desk staff $3 per person. Depending on your timing, there could be a wait or the conference room could be in use, so consider calling ahead. Don't pull the curtain on your own.