Austin Curator Talk with Katie Robinson Edwards: Mentoring A Muse

Charles Umlauf a mentor for Farrah Fawcett and a muse for his traditional style sculpture, found each other in the Art Building of the University of Texas at Austin in the fall of 1965.

Before Farrah Fawcett

Farrah embraced a hidden talent in the arts through Umlaufs’ guidance. Studying life-drawing and sculpture, Farrah initially focused  on self-portraiture, influenced by professor Umlaufs’ technique of emphasizing distinctive features. The iconic “m”-shape was then created to denote Farrahs’ upper-lip. Umlauf was not the only person to be enamored by Farrahs beauty, after being nominated for “ten most beautiful” on the UT campus a Hollywood publicist reached out to Farrah and encouraged her to move the Los Angeles to pursue a modeling career. Dropping out of college in her first year, she moved to L.A. and her relationship with Umlauf only grew stronger. Farrah tried to continue the arts in a small shed outside her home, plaster casting and drawing when available and frequently contacting Umlauf through letters and phone calls. Over the years Farrah collected many of Umlaufs works including sculpture, drawings, and lithographs. Farrah was drawn and owned many of Umlaufs biblical works, associating them with her childhood growing up catholic. She owned all four of Umlauf pietà lithographs among drawings and sculptures of Christ. These were donated to the Blanton Museum of Art after her passing in 2009 and borrowed by the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum to bring together once more the kindred spirits of Umlauf and Farrah. Katie Robinson Edwards, curator of Mentoring a Muse created harmony between an unlikely relationship that brings context and an insider’s perspective to the iconic actresses’ life before the big screen.


Coincidence or Intentional?

Farrah Fawcett, 1976
Photograph by Bruce McGroom
Farrah Fawcett, Nude Torso, n.d., bronze, Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Bequest of Farrah Fawcett (Photograph by Maryhelen Murray)


This iconic photo was taken in the back of the photographer Bruce McBrooms’ pickup truck in 1976, using only what they had on hand, a Mexican blanket became the backdrop. Comparing this photo to Nude Torso where Farrah explored a similar body shape in a bronze sculpture. Bring up the question, was the idea of the iconic best-selling photo pre-conceived through sculpture before her modeling career?

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