In the Days of Roger and Lucia
When Roger and Lucia Wilcox would come to their winter home on Sanibel Island in the 1950s and 1960s, they led a relatively quiet life. People on Sanibel were aware that the couple was well-known in the East Hampton, New York, artists’ world, where they often entertained and organized events. In Long Island, their names were frequently in the newspapers. But Sanibel people respected their privacy.
Lucia Anavi was born in Beirut in 1902. Her mother was French, and her father was
Lebanese. Early in life, she started to
become a gifted painter, sculptor, and cook.
So at age 14, she left home to live in Paris.
There she became a part of a legendary group of artists,
including Piet Mondrian, Picasso, Marc Chagall, Carlos Montoya, Max and Jimmy
Ernst, and many more. Some of them
encouraged her to go to night school, so she enrolled in the Académie Ronsard.
In 1938, she and her partner at the time, Fernand Leger,
left Paris for New York at the urging of arts patrons Gerald and Sarah Murphy,
who were wary of Hitler’s rants about “degenerate artists.” Lucia urged other artists to follow them from
Paris to New York.
She had little money, but she did own a painting by
Utrillo. After she sold that painting, in
1946, she bought a rambling, deteriorating house on Abraham’s Path in
Amagansett, East Hampton. She married
Roger Wilcox, a painter and inventor, and together they renovated the big old
house in the 1950s, turning it into not just a home but also a gallery and a
place to host weekly barbeques through the summer season. At those barbeques and in picnics that she
packed for her husband and his friend Jackson Pollock, she showcased her
culinary talents – learned in Lebanon, and refined in Paris.
Sometime in the 1950s, Lucia and Roger started wintering in
Sanibel. They both were actively
involved in the 1957 Sanibel Shell Fair.
Lucia amassed an excellent collection of shells; to display her collection, she designed two
In the winters of the early 1960s, they would stay in an old
house on Del Sega Road. By 1963, they
were planning to build a new home nearby, “on the point” near Blind Pass, which
is now known as Porpoise Point. That
home was completed by 1965. Roger and
Lucia were able to spend many happy winters on Sanibel Island.
Meanwhile, Lucia’s career in art was succeeding. In the summer of 1968, she had an important
showing of her paintings and sculptures at the Benson Gallery in Bridgehampton,
New York. In an interview with the
Islander newspaper (August 15, 1968) about the upcoming show, Lucia said, “My
painting is essentially intuitive. I
follow my inner vision, which guides my whole life. From my observation, I see no difference
between natural and supernatural. There
is magic which makes each painting a mysterious event, a new image of human
feeling. I might use any technique to
express my vision. The means may change
but the spirit is the same.”
Four years after that interview, just a few months after her
70th birthday, Lucia suddenly went blind. The cause was an inoperable tumor in her
nasal cavity. For over 12 weeks, she had
radiation therapy at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in New York.
Even with the blindness, she was able to continue to create,
using ink instead of oils. Free of the
headaches that she experienced before the tumor was irradiated, her spirits
improved. She told a New York Times
reporter, “I claim to see better than anybody.
I have eliminated all the details.
My mind is free of static. I
don’t have any distractions.”
Following the onset of Lucia’s illness, Roger subdivided
their Sanibel land into 9 lots, now known as the Wilcox Subdivision or Porpoise
Point. He began to sell the land, piece
|Sunset, looking from Porpoise Point across Sunset Bay to Albright Island.
Lucia died in New York in 1974. In 1975, Roger arranged for her shell collection and specially designed tables to be donated to the City of Sanibel.
Subsequently, Roger sold their home on the point in
1976. But he still owned, with David
Liber, Albright Island (also known as Albright Key) between Porpoise Point and
Captiva. In 1980, Liber and Wilcox argued, unsuccessfully, that Albright Island
was under the jurisdiction of Lee County (which would allow far more
development) and not the City of Sanibel (which would allow only one home to be
Liber and Wilcox sold the island to Parker and Joan Quillen,
who gave it to Princeton University in 1984.
In 1990, Princeton sold the island to the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation
Foundation. That land is now part of the
vast stretches of preserve on and near the west end of Sanibel and south end of
Captiva. Roger and Lucia Wilcox’s
subdivision is now home to seven houses on a private lane, tucked away in the
shade of old trees, between Dinkins Bayou and Sunset Bay.