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Don Bachardy


Donald Jess Bachardy (born May 18, 1934 in Los Angeles, California) is an American portrait artist. He currently resides in Santa Monica, California.

Born in Los Angeles, California, Bachardy was the life partner of writer Christopher Isherwood, whom he met on Valentine’s Day 1953, when he was 18 and Isherwood was 48. They remained together until Isherwood’s death in 1986. A number of paperback editions of Isherwood’s novels feature Bachardy’s pencil portraits of the author. A film about their relationship, titled Chris & Don: A Love Story, was released in 2008.

Bachardy studied at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles and the Slade School of Art in London. His first one-man exhibition was held in October 1961 at the Redfern Gallery in London.

Since that time he had many one-man exhibitions in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Houston and New York. More recently, he had an exhibition at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, in 2004–2005.

His works reside in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the M.H. de Young Museum of Art in San Francisco, the University of Texas, Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, San Marino, California, the University of California, Los Angeles, the Fogg Art Museum of Harvard University, Princeton University, the Smithsonian Institute, and the National Portrait Gallery in London, England.

Six books of his work have been published. His life and works are also documented in Terry Sanders’ film The Eyes of Don Bachardy. He collaborated with Isherwood on Frankenstein: The True Story (1973). His book Stars in My Eyes (2000), about celebrated people whom he had painted, became a best-seller in Los Angeles.

One of Bachardy’s most notable works is the official gubernatorial portrait of Governor Jerry Brown hanging in the California State Capitol. (The California state official biography page for Governor Jerry Brown features a photograph of the painting.)

Most recently, Bachardy made a cameo appearance in the movie “A Single Man” (starring Colin Firth) based on Isherwood’s book of the same name — he portrays a professor in the teacher’s lounge, to whom Firth says “Hello. Don.” Bachardy told Angeleno Magazine in their December 2009 issue: “Chris got the idea for that book when he and I were having a domestic crisis. We’d been together 10 years. I was making a lot of trouble and wondering if I shouldn’t be on my own. Chris was going through a very difficult period (as well). So he killed off my character, Jim, in the book and imagined what his life would be without me.”

Bachardy still lives in Isherwood’s Santa Monica home (his place of residence for over 50 years), where he paints portraits for gallery shows and on a commission basis. He most recently showed a retrospective of self portraits (from 1959–2009) at Craig Krull Gallery in Santa Monica.

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