Betty Lane was born in 1907, in Washington D.C., the daughter of a Marine Corps officer and one of six children. She was considered something of a phenomenon. But she was not a good student, and except for the actual doing of music and art, she got very little classroom education. She was painfully aware of this all her life.
In her early 20s she had already studied in Paris and was now recognized as a serious talent. Beyond her studies in Paris and occasional classes later, Betty was never again a student-artist. In fact she clearly recalled the moment when, still in her twenties, she decided to go her own way: "I knew I was still ignorant and not a good painter, but I was my own painter, and I would have to find out - not be told." Others are better able to point out what influenced Betty's work, which continued to evolve throughout her lifetime. She knew many artists, and admired some, but she never painted like them. She paid a price for this independence and freedom. By the end of World War II, her early success was fading. With the New York school on the rise and painters like Jackson Pollack being celebrated, Betty was out of fashion and she would remain so, more or less, for the rest of her life. She took it harder than she would let on, but it would not stop her painting.
For the rest of her life Cape Cod was Betty's happy hunting ground. The beaches on Cape Cod Bay near her home in Brewster fascinated her. When the tide is out the water recedes a mile or more revealing vast sand and mud flats dotted with occasional large rocks, populated by screaming sea gulls and visited by walkers with their scampering children and delighted dogs. The beach presented an ever-changing spectacle and Betty painted it for decades in many moods and styles.
By any measure Betty's life on the Cape was her happiest period, but she hardly settled down. She went to Europe many times over the next few decades and often to Mexico. She was a fearless traveler and thought nothing of doing the Greek Islands alone on a shoestring, sleeping overnight on the decks of inter-island steamers. She toured the Soviet Union when that was still unusual and daring, and crossed Australia by train, an expedition which even she had to admit after the fact was extremely tedious. As she grew older she kept insisting that each trip would be her last until finally she sent us a post card written on the bus down from Boston which read "I think I'll stay home now," which she finally did when she was 81.