When Sharon Apostle bought her home on S. Irving Ave. in Windsor Square in 2012, she was impressed with the artwork by the former owner, Genevieve “Vivi” Chesebro, that was hanging throughout the house. The works, mostly portraits and floral paintings, were distinct, personal reminders of the home’s history, and of the artist and her family, who owned the home for 50+ years. Wanting to maintain that history, Apostle expressed interest in keeping a piece or two of the art after she bought the house…and Vivi Chesebro’s daughters, Alanna and Rolande, gave her two charcoal portraits of children, sketched by their mother, which Apostle has kept for the last five years to honor the artist’s legacy.
Recently, however, Apostle has decided it’s time for a change, and that she would like to return the portraits to the family or families that originally commissioned them. The trouble is, says Apostle, no one knows who the children in the paintings are. According to Apostle, Chesebro’s daughters told her that the children were not members of their own immediate or extended families, and the pieces were almost certainly done on commission. But whoever commissioned them has been lost to time.
Apostle says the portraits are large, 28″x 30″ and 29″ x 34,” and dated 2001 and 1995, respectively. She doesn’t know, however, whether they were done in those years from live sittings…or from older photographs — which could mean that the children are actually much older now than if they had sat for the portraits in the years noted. (In fact, their clothes and hairstyles do look like they could have been older…maybe even from the 1960s or early ’70s.)
Also, Apostle told the Buzz that the portraits are nicely framed, by a well-known framer on Third Street…but Chesebro was likely the framing customer, and the store probably wouldn’t ever have known the names of the children in the pictures.
So Apostle is throwing the mystery out to the community…to see if anyone recognizes the children in the portraits, and can help her return them to the family or families that might have originally commissioned them.
To help solve the mystery, and maybe help identify some people who might have known the Chesebros during the time the portraits were done, Apostle provided the Buzz with a bit more information about Vivi Chesebro and her family:
- According to her obituary, Vivi was born in Los Angeles in 1918, to Albert and Marie Louise Wilcox. Albert Wilcox was a diplomat, so the family lived in South America for several years, and Vivi spoke five languages fluently.
- Vivi married Marvin Chesebro, a lawyer, and raised six children – Bruce, Gordon, Kevin, Alanna, Rolande and Mark – in their Irving Ave. home.
- During her life there, in addition to her career as an artist, Vivi was a prominent supporter of the LA County Art Museum and the LA Philharmonic.
- She was also a member of the Ebell of Los Angeles.
- Vivi died on May 18, 2015 in Monterey, CA, at the age of 97, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease…and she is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City. (Apostle said Chesebro was actually buried with some of her beloved roses from the Irving Ave. house.)
- Although the Chesebros were very social, threw a lot of parties, had a large family, and were very well known in the neighborhood at the time they lived there (her daughters, Alanna and Rolande also attended Marlborough School), her children – now in their 50s-70s – have all moved away, so local residents who may have known them are rapidly dwindling.
- Vivi Chesebro painted mostly portraits (many of which, Apostle said, seemed to be of historical figures and diplomats), and floral arrangements.
- She also apparently had many local customers for her works, one of which Apostle saw hanging in a nearby neighbor’s house at 6th and Windsor not long ago.
So that’s what’s known at the moment. If anyone recognizes the faces of the children in these two portraits – or has a connection to someone who may have known Vivi Chesebro and might know who the children are – please leave a comment below, or send a message to the Buzz at [email protected], and we’ll put you in touch with Apostle. We’d love to help solve the mystery and return the portraits…and we can’t wait to find out the full story behind the artwork.