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 Cyril Kay-Scott  (1879 - 1960)

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Lived/Active: New York/Colorado/Kansas/Missouri      Known for: portraits of notables

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Les Rochers devant la mer
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following, submitted October 2005, is from Lloyd Beldon Lacey of Enid, Oklahoma.

As a personal project I researched the life of Cyril Kay-Scott, partly because I knew his Phyllois Crawford, his fourth wife very well when I lived in Santa Fe.

His real name was Frederick Creighton Wellman; he was the father of Paul Wellman and Manly Wade Wellman, both well-known authors.  He abandoned his first family, and married a woman who was an accomplished concert pianist.  Then, leaving her, he "ran away" to South America with a young woman from New Orleans, at which time they decided to use false names, presumably to escape being traced by her family.  She became Evelyn Scott, now recognized as an important figure in women's literature. Her book Escapade is an account of their hardships during their stay in South America.

He also wrote a book of autobiography, titled Life Is Too Short, which is not to be trusted completely because he had a self-serving personality that tended to enlarge his accomplishments beyond reality.

It was commonly believed that they never married, because it conflicted with their beliefs about "freedom" from the constraints of society and its rigorous demands for conformity.

In a telephone conversation with a member of the family, I was told that the "Scotts" had indeed been married and that a copy of the marriage license was in the papers left by Wellman. (I need to renew my research to refresh my memory about the location of those papers.)  I was told that they decided to marry largely to legitimize their son, Creighton Scott.

Wellman's third wife was Phyllis Crawford, who wrote a handful of books under the name of Josie Turner, as well as her own name. I knew her quite well when I lived in Santa Fe, but she never talked about the marriage, and my impression was that it was more than a disappointment to her.  Much of what I learned about that situation came from gossip from Mary Rose Bradford (widow of Roark Bradford) who was a contempory and knew the couple during the period from 1929 to the early 1930s.

Much of Wellman's biography as Cyril Kay-Scott is overshadowed by the story of Evelyn Scott.  The remainder of his story is somewhat obscured by his tendency to avoid truth.

While in Santa Fe, he opened a school for artists, which apparently was not a raging success but not entirely a failure, either.  He suddenly decided to move to El Paso, and as I recall his motive was similar to his plan for a school for artists. Not long afterward, he moved to Denver to become the head of the Denver Art Museum, a post that he did not have for very long.  About that time, he appears to have turned most of his energies to writing.  As I recall, my research said that he moved back to New York.  The Wellman family was reunited during the mid-1930s, and an article written by Paul Wellman about that event is in the files of the Kansas City Star.

In my telephone conversation with that member of the family mentioned above, he told me that an aunt, a sister of Frederick Creighton Wellman, was reported to have said "All you have to do to get along with Fred is to adore him."

I have never done much with my research, but I may not be finished with it. I think the Wellmans are more fascinating than the "Kay-Scotts." Nevertheless, it's quite a good story that has not been fully developed, in my opinion. I may decide to expand on it, and one track to follow will be the archives containing papers from both Cyril and Evelyn.  If I don't get around to enlarging the story, perhaps what is found here may provide clues to lead someone else to the trail.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A portrait painter, muralist, author, art educator, "administrator, physician, bacteriologist, linguist, and economist",  Frederick Creighton Wellman painted under the name of Cyril Kay-Scott.  He was born near Independence, Missouri, and earned a medical degree from the Kansas City Medical College in Missouri.  He lived for a short period in Enid, Oklahoma and then was a Medical Officer in Angola at the American Mission.

An expert in tropical medicine, he worked for nine years in Central Africa, was briefly in London, and then taught on the medical faculties of the Oakland, California Medical College and at Tulane University in New Orleans.

In 1913, he eloped with a young woman, Elsie Dunn, from New Orleans while married to his second wife, and they went to New York City and took new names with him becoming Cyril Kay-Scott and she Evelyn Scott---a name for which she later became known as a poet and novelist.

The couple lived in Europe and Brazil for five years, and he held a variety of jobs including  bookkeeper for the Singer Sewing Machine Company, rancher, mining engineer and farmer.  After World War I, they lived in Greenwich Village in New York, and Kay-Scott became a pulp-fiction writer under the name of Richard Irving Carson.  He also managed an estate in Bermuda and there determined to become a painter. 

For art training he went to Europe and studied at the University of London and in Paris at the Academie Colarossi with Tony Robert-Fleury, Francois Qualvee and Leon Bonnat.  He did numerous portrait commissions and became a specialist in watercolors.

Cyril Kay-Scott returned to America in 1928, and married for a fourth time and settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico where he founded the Kay-Scott School of Painting, which became the El Paso School of Art.  He also established a school of painting in San Antonio.

In 1931, the Santa Fe School was merged with the University of Denver as a summer school, and he became Director of the Denver Art Museum and Dean of the College of Fine Arts at the University of Denver.  He also wrote a weekly art column for the Rocky Mountain News and was elected to the City Art Commission.

Three years later he resigned from the museum and moved to New York and worked as a WPA (Works Progress Administration) artist on a mural project with one of his five children.  In 1943, his biography, Life Is Too Short, was published.

His work can be found in the collection of the Denver Art Museum.

John and Deborah Powers, Texas Painters, Sculptors and Graphic Artists, pp. 269-270

These Notes from AskART represent the beginning of a possible future biography for this artist. Please click here if you wish to help in its development:
Artist was referenced in Sain, Lydia. Kansas Artists, compiled by Lydia Sain from 1932 to 1948. Typed Manuscript, 1948.
Susan Craig, "Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945)"
This and over 1,750 other biographies can be found in Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945) compiled by Susan V. Craig, Art & Architecture Librarian at University of Kansas.

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