The Santa Cruz Art League; The Carmel Art Association

by Betty Hoag McGlynn



The following two essays were written in 1986 by Betty Hoag McGlynn, art historian. They are essays written for, and included in, the book titled Plein Air Painters of California, The North, edited by Ruth Lilly Westphal and published by Westphal Publishing, Irvine, California, ISBN 0-9610520-1-5


The Santa Cruz Art League

The beautiful seaside village of Santa Cruz was a popular sketching ground for artists throughout the nineteenth century. Most influential in the 1890s was the plein air painter Frank Heath. Shortly after the turn of the century he organized the Jolly Daubers, a group who painted outside with him. In 1919 the Jolly Daubers metamorphosed into the Santa Cruz Art League which had a large membership of both artists and patrons. In 1928 the league held the first of its annual state-wide exhibitions of paintings by California artists. It set a high standard which was to be continued for three decades. Selection of work from many entrants was juried by respected professionals. (In 1929, for example, William P. Silva and William C. Watts selected 193 works.) The pictures were exhibited in three categories: oils, pastels, and watercolors. Each category received first and second prizes (from $500 down to $15 in 1929). Special awards also were given. All pictures were for sale, and the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce in 1929 contributed money for a special catalog listing the prices. The annual was circuited by the Western Association of Art Museum Directors and generated excitement throughout the state about the possibility of being accepted and the opportunity of seeing what others had been doing all year. Since the date was always early in the year, it did not conflict with the Oakland Art League's fall annual or the September State Fair in Sacramento.

It is commendable that the Santa Cruz Art League was able to maintain its shows throughout the Depression; possibly those cash awards were really appreciated by many of the contestants. At any rate, enter they did, most from the San Francisco area, followed closely by Oakland and Berkeley, with many from the Monterey Peninsula. Of course Santa Cruz was represented, and Southern California sent work from Los Angeles, San Diego, Laguna Beach, and Hollywood. Otherwise there was a cosmopolitan peppering: Belvedere, Morro Bay, Menlo Park, Fresno, Scott's Valley, Mill Valley, etc. Catalogs from the Santa Cruz annuals present a representative cross-section of early twentieth century California art.

The Carmel Art Association

Today the Monterey Peninsula is famous for its many art galleries. Granddaddy of them all, and most popular, is the Carmel Art Association, an artists' cooperative. Membership is granted only after severe jury selection. As a result the public, at no charge, can enjoy a constantly changing display of the area's finest art.

Carmel-by-the-Sea was established in 1903 by a pair of real estate developers with avowed intent to form a community of culture on beautiful Carmel Bay. They offered "creative people" such irresistible temptations as $50 building lots. Soon the woods and dunes were dotted by tents, lean-tos, shacks, and eventually cottages and mansions. Some people came as summer residents only; others were permanent. The first noted artist to build a home was Sydney Yard, shortly followed by his student Jessie Short; photographer Arnold Genthe; the Englishman Arthur Vachell; and Yosemite painter "Chris" Jorgensen. They were an active group. An Arts and Crafts Society was formed in 1905; two years later it acquired a clubhouse, and in 1922 built the Circle Theatre.

As the art colony grew, so did tourism, partly due to public zeal for traveling during those early days of the automobile. Visitors were attracted by the quaintness of Carmel-by-the-Sea. There were storybook houses, Trees grew in the middle of streets whose corner signs were whimsical. Above all, Carmel-by-the-Sea was the place to observe "real Bohemians." And the artists were eager to have those tourists see (and buy) their works. However, there were few places to properly display them. Both the Arts and Crafts Hall and the theater were inadequate. Only a few commercial galleries existed. A half dozen professionals printed invitations to the public to attend afternoon teas at their studios.[1] Such open houses were expensive for the hosts, and the visitors often got lost in the woods while hunting for the various cottages.

Finally, on August 8, 1927, twenty artists met in the studio of Josephine Culbertson to hear Jennie
Vennerstrom Cannon, a new resident, tell about the founding of the Laguna Beach Art Association in 1918. Enthusiastically, a Carmel Art Association was organized along the same lines: to advance knowledge and interest in art, and to create a spirit of fellowship between local artists and the community.

The organization thrived, attracting members from nearby Monterey, Pacific Grove, Carmel Valley, Pebble Beach, and Big Sur. But the Depression brought rugged problems. In desperation, in the summer of 1931, an effort was made to arouse the public's pride in its art colony and to make people aware of the monetary crisis. An impressive exhibition was held of paintings by the four resident National Academicians: William Ritschel, Paul Dougherty, Arthur Hill Gilbert, and Armin Hansen. It turned the tide. By the end of 1933 the association was able to purchase the property where its charming galleries are still located, just a few steps from the post office in Carmel-by-the-Sea.



1. Arthur H. Vachell, M. DeNeale Morgan, Ferdinand Burgdorff, Ida A. Johnson, Josephine M. Culbertson, Louise Fisher MacDougall


About the Author

Betty Hoag McGlynn is the daughter of Montana artist Elizabeth Lochrie and daughter-in-law of Thomas McGlynn. At the time of writing of this essay, Ruth Westphal described Betty Hoag McGlynn as an "Art historian, writer and contributor to numerous historical publications."


Editor's note

Essay courtesy of Westpahl Publishing, Irvine, California

For biographical information on artists referenced in this essay please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 5/28/11

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