Book: Diane Arbus: A Biography

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According to Gertrude, Diane was a large (nine pounds), beautiful baby with thick golden hair, translucent skin, and huge green eyes that held curious powers of observation. “Even as a baby she didn’t just look at you—she considered you.” At first a fierce, unspoken tenderness and mutuality existed between mother and daughter. On her nanny’s day off, Diane seemed to find pleasure and reassurance from literally clinging to Gertrude. “She’d never let go my hand.”

Diane’s description of early childhood is slightly different. In an autobiography she wrote at Fieldston School when she was sixteen she recalled that she was “cranky—always crying, yelling, screaming. I can always remember the feeling I had. I always felt warm and tired and there was warm sun on me and I didn’t want to wake up…”

During this time (except for trips to Palm Beach) Diane lived with her parents and brother at 115 West 73rd Street. When she was around four, the family moved to an apartment at Park Avenue and 90th Street. Thick drapes hung across the windows. “It was almost always dark,” Howard recalls.

There were two maids, a chauffeur named Scott, a cook named Eva, as well as Helvis, the German nanny for Howard, and a French nanny who To certain people Diane insisted she be addressed as Dee-ann, but she answered to “Dy-ann” as well. Howard shifted back and forth. In a letter he began “Diane—DEEANN?” Usually he called her “D.”

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