Background: Dorothy Brett was born on 10 November 1883. Brett was a British painter, remembered as much for her social life as for her art.
Education: In 1910 Dorothy enrolled at the Slade School of Art where she studied until 1916, and began to be known by her surname only. Along with other female art students there she had her hair cut short (for the time) in a style that led Virginia Woolf to call them ‘cropheads’. Through fellow student Mark Gertler, she met Lady Ottoline Morrell and began mixing in an artistic and literary circle that included Clive Bell,Bertrand Russell, D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, Augustus John, Aldous Huxley, Gilbert Cannan, and George Bernard Shaw. Her sister Sylvia became Ranee of Sarawak.
Achievements: After visiting Taos for the first time in 1923 at the invitation of Mabel Dodge Luhan and then returning to London, D. H. Lawrence held a dinner party at the Cafe Royal (which he called “The Last Supper”). There he tried to recruit friends to move to Taos in order “to create a utopian society he called ‘Rananim'”, an idea which he had first proposed in a letter of 3 January 1915. While almost all who attended had “agreed to follow Lawrence to New Mexico….when it came to the actual packing for departure, there was only one recruit – the Honorable Dorothy Brett”.
In March 1924 Lawrence, Frieda Lawrence, and Brett arrived in Taos and stayed with Luhan. Initially, they all got along well, “but tensions gradually built… (and) Mabel, in a burst of generosity (and probably to keep Lawrence in Taos) offered Lawrence a tract of 160 acres on her ranch” located some twenty miles North-West of Taos. The Lawrences first named it the “Lobo Ranch” and then the “Kiowa Ranch”, while today it has been known as the D. H. Lawrence Ranch ever since it was acquired by the University of New Mexico in the 1950s.
Lawrence refused Luhan’s offer, but it was accepted by Frieda and the deed was in her name. After some renovations, the trio settled at the ranch in May/June 1924 and Brett took the smaller of the two cabins on the property. She spent much of her time there painting “or she would assist Lawrence by typing his manuscripts,” among which were St Mawr and The Woman who Rode Away.
Among Brett’s accomplishments when living with the Lawrences were her “exceptional.. handyman skills, including carpentry”, but “the three women — Frieda, Mabel and Brett — competed for D.H. Lawrence’s attention (and) the rivals often got along fairly well with one another, but sometimes not”. Early 1926 Brett and the Lawrences met again on Capri. From there D. H. Lawrence and Brett travelled to Ravello, where they stayed together for ten days, while Frieda remained on Capri.