Obituary: Eila Hershon

Eila Hershon, painter, film-maker: born Brookline, Massachusetts 14 July 1932; married first Hannes Jahn (marriage dissolved), 1991 Roberto Guerra; died New York City 16 November 1993.

EILA HERSHON was an outstanding international documentary film-maker. A formidable and very successful independent producer- director, Hershon was also extremely stylish in person. A close friend of designers such as Karl Lagerfeld (who collaborated with her on her film series for Channel 4 The Story of Fashion), Hershon preferred to carry her tape-recorder in a quilted and chained Chanel shoulder bag and was to be seen in the front row of fashion shows always clad in tomorrow's fashions from her favourite designers.

Hershon started her creative life as a painter whose figurative essays on the human figure were almost masculine in their solidity and power. Born in Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1932, she attended the Boston Museum School and, in 1953, went to Switzerland to work with Oskar Kokoschka. Some years later she made a 30-minute film portrait of the artist at home in Switzerland which examined the penetrating depth of his work through examples from collections in Europe and the United States.

In the early Sixties Hershon began to exhibit her work in the United States and in Germany, where she lived in Cologne during her first marriage to the graphic designer Hannes Jahn. Before giving up painting and turning to film- making in 1966, Hershon had been given eight solo shows in the United States, London, Germany and South America. Her work is featured in leading museums and private collections in Europe and the United States.

At the very outset of her filmmaking career, Hershon met Roberto Guerra through the Maysel brothers, the New York film-makers. Guerra had trained as an engineer in Lima, and made films in Peru, before moving to New York to pursue his career. Hershon and Guerra's partnership, beginning in 1968, spanned 25 years of the closest and happiest artistic collaboration imaginable. Their films are characterised by a subtle sense of involvement with their subjects, built up over months of careful preparation, getting to know their subject and their subject getting to know and in particular appreciate Hershon's extraordinary empathy, particularly with creative artists.

A strong, determined woman herself, Hershon relished the challenge of making film portraits of equally strong women, amongst whom were Coco Chanel, Estee Lauder, Helena Rubinstein and, notably, the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Hershon's 60-minute portrait of this great artist was the first important film to be made about her. Other artists also came under her close and sympathetic scrutiny; she made film portraits of the German Surrealist Konrad Klapheck and Hans Haacke, the kinetic and conceptual artist whose recent Venice Biennale Pavilion caused an international stir.

The history of the cinema itself attracted her attention in the early Seventies and her close friendship and collaboration with Henri Langlois, the remarkable man who saved thousands of films from destruction and founded the Cinematheque Francaise, resulted in a 50-minute film portrait and in the extremely important and as yet unfinished 120-minute film Seventy Five Years of Cinema.

Films made by Hershon, always in collaboration with Guerra, appeared on Channel 4 and numerous other international television stations. Hershon and Guerra were inseparable when making films, for which Guerra operated the camera while Hershon asked the questions, and also inseparable in life. They married in 1991.

Eila Hershon's friends, among whom I was lucky to be included, will remember her enormous energy, enthusiasm and somewhat eccentric capacity for organisation on an international scale. She ran her life using a series of calendars amongst which the one called 'Beautiful Ireland', featuring hand-coloured photographs of Irish provincial life, remains a particularly affectionate memory. She enjoyed encouraging the young, and she also loved showing very old films to friends at home in London or in her apartment in the Trump Tower, often accompanying the film with Chinese take-away.

Above all, in her films as in her life, Eila Hershon was an inspired listener whose sympathy, common sense and sure creative judgement are private memories as permanent as the documentaries which will be her public memorial.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week