The Cuban-born, Spanish artist Federico Beltran Masses (1885-1949) is one of art history’s more colourful characters. Beltran Masses settled in Paris in 1916, and is best known for his dramatic portraits of seductive women, a selection of which can be seen in an exhibition of his works at London’s Stair Sainty
gallery (until 24 March). The show features 16 paintings made between 1911 and 1934—highlights include his most scandalous work, Salome (1918). But Beltran Masses also stands out due to the company he kept. In 1925, “Beltran Masses went to Hollywood as the guest of his friend Rudolph Valentino; he introduced the artist to a fast crowd who soon become both sitters and patrons,” says a gallery statement. Charlie Chaplin was also a fan of the artist, along with the film legend Joan Crawford who is depicted in the 1932 painting Pasión in a melancholic embrace with her then husband, the movie heart throb Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Some archive images show the artist’s celebrity chums including this fascinating snapshot of Beltran Masses with Fairbanks Jr. in front of two striking standing portraits of the lovers. The celebrity couple were caught on canvas in Paris in the early 1930s.