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CRICK, Odile (1920-2007).  Portrait of Francis Crick, entitled "F. in The Green Door." Pencil on paper, 10 x 15 in., some fraying at edges, a little show-through from watercolor on reverse. Circa early 1950s.
CRICK, Odile (1920-2007). Portrait of Francis Crick, entitled "F. in The Green Door." Pencil on paper, 10 x 15 in., some fraying at edges, a little show-through from watercolor on reverse. Circa early 1950s.

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CRICK, Odile (1920-2007). Portrait of Francis Crick, entitled "F. in The Green Door." Pencil on paper, 10 x 15 in., some fraying at edges, a little show-through from watercolor on reverse. Circa early 1950s.

Francis Crick's wife Odile is best known for providing the drawing of the double helix which illustrated the first published announcement of the structure of DNA that appeared in Nature in April 1953. Born as Odile Speed in King's Lynn, Norfolk, she was an art student in Vienna when the Nazis occupied Austria in 1938. She joined the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS) as a lorry driver, but it was her skills speaking German that led to work as a code-breaker and translator at the Admiralty where she met Francis Crick in 1945. Following the war, she finished her art studies at St. Martin's in London.

The Cricks married in 1949 and were living at 'The Green Door,' when Crick and Watson asked her to draw an illustration of the double helix for their paper on DNA for Nature in 1953. Her simple yet elegant drawing of the intertwining loops of the double-helix represents the base pairs of nucleic acids, twisted around a center line to show the axis of the helix. The sketch was reproduced widely in textbooks and scientific articles, and has become the symbol for molecular biology, and its aspirations to understand the secrets of life.

Several exhibitions have been held of Crick's paintings of curvaceous female nudes; some of her models included her husband's secretaries and au pairs for their children. After he became famous, the couple became known for their bohemian London parties at their home, the Golden Helix. The Cricks moved to California when her husband became a professor at the Salk Institute in the 1970s. She died in La Jolla, California in 2007, aged 86, three years after her husband. A memorial exhibition of her art was held in her honor at the Salk.

This drawing depicts her husband reclining with a book on their sofa at their tiny rented flat in Cambridge, called The Green Door, at number 19 Portugal Place. It is one of very few drawings or paintings she made of him. It dates from the period from when they were living there following their marriage in 1949 and during the time when Francis Crick had begun work at the Cavendish Laboratory.

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