Patrick Gabriel Hargrove and his twin brother Benjamin Gilbert Hargrove were born on March 13, 1905 in Alameda, California, to Gilbert and Nancy Jane Hargrove. As their father was an unofficial diplomat in China before and during the Xinhai Revolution, the twins rarely spent time with him in early childhood. This changed when Gilbert started importing Chinese art and artifacts in the late 1910s and early 1920s, and happily brought the eager young men with him on some of his travels. Benjamin obviously inherited his father's knack for immersing himself in another culture, whereas Patrick was fascinated by the art itself.
Patrick enrolled in art school in 1923, at the age of 18. By all accounts, he was eager and enthusiastic, if a bit full of himself, a characteristic thought to be inherited from his famous father.
Patrick's first showing was in his sophomore year. His work received lukewarm praise, mostly for technique. One of his fans was a young art journalist named Marianne Rush, and the two began a romantic relationship.
Although smart and talented, university was difficult for him. A product of the Jazz Age, he often found himself in clubs until early mornings, failing to show up in class the next day. Frequent drunkenness, bursts of violent anger, and womanizing also contributed to failing grades. His chronic infidelity also put a strain on his relationship with Marianne, and they parted ways less than a year later. After being placed on academic probation for a semester, Patrick was expelled.
For most of the next year, Patrick battled with alcoholism and depression, and attempted suicide at least once, possibly twice. (The vague police report left room for interpretation on the artist's intention.) When a chance meeting with Marianne occurred in the spring of 1927, he quit drinking and resumed studying art, this time on his own.
Patrick immersed himself in the study of early Impressionism. He would work feverishly in his studio for two and three days at a stretch, until exhaustion overcame him.
Using her contacts in journalism, Marianne was able to organize an exhibition of Patrick's new works at the Ghostwriter Gallery in Oakland on August 8, 1930. The night before, Marianne informed Patrick of his impending fatherhood. On the day of the exhibition opening, he wrote in his journal, "The sun rose on this day of beginnings, and I have not arms to embrace it all."
But the exhibition did not go well. Patrick Hargrove's work was uniformly panned as "safe," "restrained," and "derivative." In a rage, Patrick publicly insulted art reviewers, at one point even taking out a newspaper ad in which he insulted the appearance of one critic, the sexual proclivity of another, and maligned the parentage of a third. Whatever support he may have once had was lost, and he began drinking again. Marianne tried to get him to focus on preparing for the baby, with limited success. In 1931, their son Rubens Jean-Claude Hargrove was born.
In 1933, as part of an elaborate ruse, Patrick presented his father, now a world-famous art dealer, with a painting he claimed to be by Berthe Morisot but was actually hiw own forgery. Gilbert seized the work with great gusto and immediately sold it to the Nelson Gallery in Kansas City for $4,000. As a show of gratitude to his son, Gilbert took only 5% commission for the sale.
Having established a fictional connection to the European art world, Patrick continued creating paintings in the style of Morisot, Armand Guillaumin, and Paul Cezanne, and presenting them to his father, as well as various other dealers, to sell. Patrick and Marianne, who was apparently ignorant of the scam, enjoyed a very comfortable lifestyle, and in 1934, had another son, whom they named Titian Salvador.
They planned to marry in early 1939, and a content Patrick got sloppy with his counterfeits. Gerald Washburn, of the Mendenhall Museum, considering the purchase of a newly-discovered Edgar Degas painting entitled Backstage (Rehearsal), called on noted authenticator Benjamin Hargrove, Patrick's twin brother, to verify its legitimacy. When it was discovered to be a fake, an investigation ensued, and Patrick's chosen occupation was exposed. He was sentenced to two years.
The elder Hargrove was infuriated by the subterfuge, and was forced to spend much time and effort repairing relationships with clients who were now suspicious of the Hargrove name. Benjamin was simultaneously outraged with his brother's deceptions, and wracked with guilt over condemning his nephews to a fatherless life. For the duration of Patrick's sentence, Benjamin supplied Marianne, Rubens, and Titian with a comfortable allowance.
In 1941, B-movie studio Producers Releasing Corporation released Double Cross, a movie based on the Hargrove twins' story. John Carradine, himself an artist, played both brothers and created the paintings used in the film.
Patrick was released from prison in 1942. His convict status rendered him ineligible for service in World War II, and he found stable employment painting billboards.
Promotional poster for Double Cross, 1941
Double Cross stars John Carradine as both Patrick and Benjamin Hargrove in a film very loosely based on the sensational news story about the twin brothers. The low-budget film's release was overshadowed by the attack on Pearl Harbor, but it is notable for showcasing John Carradine's talent as a painter.
Patrick (left) and his twin brother Benajmin on a voyage to China to meet their father in 1929.
Gilbert Hargrove (1870-1940)
Nancy Jane Woodall (1876-1948)
Benjamin Hargrove (1905-1983)
Marianne Rush (b. 1906-1979)
Rubens Hargrove (b. 1931)
Titian Hargrove (b. 1934)
|This website is a companion to the "The Hargrove Family History" exhibit by Tara Varney and Bryan Colley at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which runs from December 2012 to March 2013. You can find out more about the artists at www.jupiterkansas.com.|