Born 23 April 1930, Bath, England
Writes under: Meryle Secrest
Daughter of Albert E. and Olive Edith May Love Doman; married David W. Secrest, 1953 (divorced 1965); Thomas G. Beveridge, 1975; children: Cary, Martin, Gillian
June Doman is a writer of lengthy biographies of prominent artists and art critics, beginning with fairly obscure ones but quickly moving on to world-famous personages such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Salvador Dali. When dealing with people from the early 20th century, Doman's writing is a tribute to extensive research of personal documents. When writing about people of the late 20th century, she relies on extensive interviewing, not only of the person themselves, but also every conceivable connection they might have. Despite the possibility of having too many corroborated details in her biographies, Doman rejects the view that the writer's style should take second place in the struggle for accuracy. Instead, she believes that the biographer should be interesting to read as she writes in a way that reflects her own point of view.
While growing up in Bath, England, as an only child, Doman found herself in a college-bound curriculum after being tested at the age of eleven. At the age of eighteen, however, she emigrated to Canada with her parents. Immediately she began working on the Hamilton, Ontario, newspaper, writing about city politics before being named editor of women's news. After a brief return to England in 1950, Doman married David W. Secrest on 23 September 1953 and moved to Columbus, Ohio, where she raised three children while working as the food editor for the Columbus Citizen. In the late 1950s, she moved to Washington, D.C. because her husband had secured a political science fellowship. For a time, she wrote freelance for the Washington Post before being signed on as a full-time reporter. At first she remained a writer of women's news; then in 1969 she was granted the privilege of writing for the arts and entertainment page. At last she had found her niche.
Doman wanted to be a novelist, but after a single attempt, she gave it up. Fascinated by the life of a fairly obscure early 20th-century Italian portrait painter by the name of Romaine Brooks, she decided to try to write a biography. Between Me and Life: A Biography of Romaine Brooks (1974) received superb reviews in both the United Kingdom and the U.S., but did not sell well. Despite this, Doman quit her job to be a full-time freelance writer in 1975.
Still enamored with art and people connected with it, Doman selected the noted Russian-American art critic and appraiser of Italian Renaissance art, Bernard Berenson, as the subject of her next book. Being Bernard Berenson (1979) was praised for its psychological acuity and vivid portraiture. It was nominated for both the American Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. While researching for her book about Berenson, Doman met with Sir Kenneth Clark, a British baron also known for his knowledge of Italian Renaissance art. For two years during his youth he studied under Berenson. Doman was so impressed with his personality that she chose him as the subject of her next biography. Kenneth Clark: A Biography (1985) was beset with many problems, most notably by the fact that Clark objected to what was written about him, forcing a rewrite that did not remain true to Doman's intent.
After writing a biography of the world's best-known surrealist painter called Salvador Dali (1986), Doman chose to write Frank Lloyd Wright (1992). For the first time, a biographer of the famous architect had access to the complete microfiche Wright archives, and Doman was praised for producing a definitive one-volume biography that could only be superseded by a multivolume scholarly study.
Next Doman turned to music to write Leonard Bernstein: A Life (1994), a biography of the famous American conductor and composer. In 1998 she remained in the field of music to write Stephen Sondheim, a biography about the famous American composer and lyricist for the Broadway stage. For this book, Doman received Sondheim's cooperation and massive amounts of information from his friends, family, and colleagues. Critics noted that the book was exemplary in its attention to detail and its successful portrayal of Sondheim's inner life. The revelation of his homosexuality drew the most notice, to Doman's surprise.
In addition to awards from the Canadian Women's Press Club and the Hamilton Press Club in 1950 and 1951, respectively, Doman was selected for a Guggenheim fellowship for the years 1981-82.