Artist Emil White; Henry Miller’s Friend
Emil White, artist and sidekick of author Henry Miller, died last week in his redwood cabin in Big Sur, friends said. He was 88.
White’s cabin was full of mementos of his lengthy friendship with Miller, the “grandfather of the sexual revolution” who also died at the age of 88 in 1980.
White passed away in his sleep last Thursday after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Friends said White’s health had been deteriorating for the last several months. Last April, dozens of friends flocked to his cabin, perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific, to celebrate his birthday.
“People were streaming in, and women were hugging and kissing him and bringing him flowers and cakes,” White’s sister, Toni White of Chicago, recalled. “He was very fond of women and they were very fond of him.”
White, considered one of Big Sur’s pioneers, painted canvasses noted for their primitive, minutely detailed style. They are shown in art galleries in the Monterey area, as well as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Minneapolis and throughout Europe.
White began his painting career around 1944, after being introduced to the beauty of the Central Coast by Miller, his idol and friend who lived in the area from the early 1940s to the early ‘60s.
By the late ‘40s, news clippings referred to White as “the mayor and president of the Chamber of Commerce of Big Sur.”
White dedicated most of his adult life to Miller, first as his trusted companion and then as curator of the Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur.
While Miller, some of whose novels were once banned in the United States, was considered the grandfather of the sexual revolution, White was its most avid practitioner, according to Ephraim Doner of Carmel Highlands, a longtime friend of White.
“He thought of himself as one of the great lovers of women,” Doner said. “I think Emil was the essence of Henry’s ideas. Henry was just amusing and entertaining. He threw things into the air. Emil lived them.”