THE RELEVANT QUEER: Artist, Don Bachardy Born May 18, 1934

Mr. Bachardy at his home in Santa Monica, Calif. in June 2019.Credit…Alex Welsh for The New York Times

“I’m psychologically in costume when I work, and what I produce is a self-portrait from inside someone else’s skin.”

TRQ: Don Bachardy, Born May 18, 1934

Artist Don Bachardy, life partner of writer Christopher Isherwood, was born in Los Angeles, California. While he studied at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, and the Slade School of ARt in London, it was during his years at UCLA that he met Isherwood, who was thirty years his senior and already widely acclaimed as novelist and playwright. 

Isherwood introduced Bachardy to his social circle, including actor Richard Burton, artist Cecil Beaton and director Anthony Page. Celebrated by the LGBTQ community as pioneers, the two lived openly as a couple and collaborated professionally. 

Barchardy often worked with pencil ink, and his style is characterized by technical precision and an intrigue with the human body, face, and psychology. Bachardy’ s portraits of the author are featured on many of Isherwood’s novels. 

In 1961 Bachardy had his first solo exhibit at the Redfern Gallery in London, and went on to have gallery shows in LA, San Francisco, and New York. A portrait of the pair were painted by artist David Hockney in 1968. 

In 1966 Isherwood published A Single Man, and dedicated the book to Bachardy during a stormy period in their relationship. In 1973 Bachardy and Isherwood collaborated on Frankenstein: The True Story

Angelina Jolie, Joan Rivers, Tilda Swinton and Warren Beatty are just some of the celebrities who posed for Bachardy, who approached these portraits with a sense of realism that ignored any sense of fame or status. His portrait of Jerry Brown is the official gubernatorial portrait that hangs in the California State Capital Museum. 

In 1990 he published Last Drawings of Christopher Isherwood, his last portraits of his longtime lover and partner. In 2000, his book Stars in My Eyes became a best seller, and launched Bachardy to a new level of fame. In 2008, Barchardy’s relationship with Isherwood was featured in a the documentary Chris & Don: A Love Story. In 2009 fashion designer Tom Ford directed his film adaption of A Single Man, and featured Bachardy in a cameo role. 

Isherwood died in 1986. In 2014 Barchardy traveled to Berlin to speak with Katherine Bucknell, a scholar who had edited Isherwood’s journals and letters. Later describing the Bachardy’s relationship with Isherwood, Bucknell states that “They had this intimate family bond, almost like brothers,” says Bucknell from her home in London. “They took other lovers and so on, but thanks to this insoluble bond between them, they found a way to live and be happy and creative.” “Their bond was sexual, but it was also intellectual, creative and, above all, domestic,” Ms. Bucknell said. 

After Isherwood’s passing, Bachardy relied on Isherwood’s journals for comfort. He later started a relationship with an architect who was twenty-six years younger than himself, and had him move into the house he shared with Isherwood. 

Today Bachardy lives and works in Santa Monica, where he continues working. He contributes to The Christopher Isherwood Foundation, which oversees the creative legacy of the couple. 

Don Bachardy, in Santa Monica Canyon, Los Angeles, 1970s. Photograph by Michael Childers:Corbis
Don Bachardy in 2003 with two of his portraits of Isherwood, who died in 1986. (Francine Orr : Los Angeles Times)
Don Bachardy, “Doug Zimmerman”,© Don Bachardy 2019
Don Bachardy, “James Homel and Gary Domain”. ©Don Bachardy 2019
Don Bachardy – Henry Wudl, 2011 (Left) : Barbara Roisman Cooper, 2011 (Right)
Don Bachardy – Tim Hilton, 1992 (Left) : Fredrick Rocky Waters, 1992 (Right)
Don Bachardy – Terra Pak, 1994 (Left) : Bea Arthur, 1994 (Right)
Don Bachardy, Shahin, 2005. Acrylic on paper, 22 x 29 in. Courtesy of the artist and Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica.
J. Smith, 2004. Acrylic on paper. 29 1:2 x 22 in. Courtesy of the Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica. Portrait by Don Bachardy
Don Bachardy, Andrew Ferrero , 1991
Mr. Bachardy at his home in Santa Monica, Calif. in June 2019.Credit…Alex Welsh for The New York Times




The Guardian

L.A. Times

NY Times

CAMPAIGN: Dior Pre-Fall 2020 by Steven Meisel

ATTITUDE UK: George Admiraal & Jevan Williams by Mark Cant