Neltje lives on the Little North Fork of Crazy Woman Creek in Wyoming. She is an abstract expressionist painter who has had solo exhibitions at the University of Wyoming Art Museum and the Yellowstone Art Museum among many others. “North of Crazy” tells her “fascinating life journey.” Hear from her on this episode of “The Write Question.”
“A fascinating life journey.” — Booklist
Neltje was brought up in a moneyed world of cultural prestige with the expectation that she would become a socially-gifted wife and mother. Her childhood was marred by her parent’s abandonment and alcoholism; their focus was only on her brother.
At age nine the family friend who took her riding sexually abused her. This secret was to haunt Neltje. Marriage to Sargent seemed to offer an escape, and for a while it did.
Their life together was filled with travel, parties and martini-fueled evenings entertaining the literati. Theodore Roethke slept in their bathtub and once, during a manic bender, held a knife to Neltje’s throat. W. Somerset Maugham offered advice on sex in marriage. Other writers, artists and friends included Daphne du Maurier (who made a pass at Neltje’s mother), Raoul Fleishman (co-founder of the New Yorker), Gertrude Lawrence, Oskar Kokoschka (a painter who was a contemporary of Picasso) Bertrand Russell, Georges Simenon, and Bennett Cerf.
When her children were aged five and seven, the marriage fell apart. John Sargent’s philandering and her family’s power struggles over money had taken their toll.
After two years of soul searching Neltje obtained a divorce, put her life together, met a writer /painter from London whom she eventually married and moved her family to Wyoming where her children went to a two room school house.
Years later, Neltje led a long battle to have Doubleday Publishing go public. Her mother, brother and Sargent fought back and won partially,…