In and Out of California: Travels of American Impressionists

by Deborah Epstein Solon


The time has come to confront and challenge the mythology of the California Impressionist painter -- to look beyond the state's borders to discover how and why artists working in California in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries fit into the greater American art historical milieu. Evidence of California's perceived status as an isolated enigma abounds, perpetuated historically by critics on both coasts. Author Paul Karlstrom states: "California, from an Eastern perspective, has generally been seen as another country on the far edge of America, only tenuously attached to what is understood as Western Civilization."[l] Going a step farther, art historian Bram Dijkstra writes that "to the East Coast art establishment, the West remains, even today, a frontier of oddness and incoherence, a world of holy rollers and sand castle artists whose works...appear from time to time in New York galleries to help convince the world of the inherent sanity of Manhattan, Inc. The juju of place has ruled the American art world throughout the twentieth century."[2]

Since the early twentieth century, the focal point of the art world in America has been New York City. The reasons for this are fairly pedestrian. Without sufficient exposure for their work, artists were relegated to the equivalent of an aesthetic "no man's land." New York offered the greatest concentration of exhibition spaces, dealers, critics, journals, and patrons. Nevertheless, New York still suffered from a lacuna of exhibition opportunities for living artists in the early twentieth century.[3] For those artists working on the West Coast, particularly those who relocated from the East, a shared assumption evolved that without the acceptance and recognition of the East Coast art establishment, an artist was doomed, at best, to relative obscurity.

Nonetheless, the question of East Coast hegemony is more complicated and blurred. It is important to establish at the outset that most of the artists featured here received the same training in American schools and in Europe as some of the best-known American Impressionists. Many artists working in California spent time in the art colonies of France and on the East Coast. They mingled in the same circles and shared personal relationships with a wide spectrum of artists, and their work reflected these influences. Why, until recently, have they been neglected or, in the worst-case scenarios, completely ignored?

Part of the answer is geographic. Living in California, outside of the "juju of place," has been a detriment in terms of being rediscovered. Over the past twenty years, interest in American Impressionism has exploded in both the academic and commercial sectors.[4] Practically speaking, the concentration of scholars examining American Impressionism has, at least until recently, been located in the East. It is therefore not surprising that artists active in the East were initially scrutinized.

The publication of Impressionism: The California View in 1981 was a concerted first effort to investigate artists on the West Coast painting in an Impressionist style.[5] Since this decisive analysis, the scholarly dialogue has escalated to new and significant levels. A profound interest in "regional art schools" has surfaced, with what has been termed "California Impressionists" at the forefront of academic interest.[6]

The spotlight on "California Impressionism" has impacted the scholarship in various ways, some extremely positive and some less so. The growing level of interest unleashed a spate of exhibitions and books that have surveyed and, for the first time, studied artists in California during the early part of the twentieth century. However, with the classification "California Impressionists" has also come a less flattering result. For better or worse, these artists have been ghettoized. And even more insidious is a pervasive perception that they were not among the first rank. Although this is undoubtedly true in some cases and not in others, the same could be said of artists anywhere in the country. What makes this phenomenon especially curious is that the artists in question participated in major art centers throughout the nation and abroad. Some maintained bicoastal residences. In California they exhibited locally and were associated with notable dealers such as Kanst Art Gallery or Earl Stendahl. However, they also simultaneously exhibited at the National Academy of Design in New York, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, The Art Institute of Chicago, with important dealers in New York City, such as William MacBeth, and internationally.

We would never think of Childe Hassam as a regional Connecticut painter, even though he spent a significant amount of time there during the beginning of the century.[7] Nor would we think of John Twachtman, who lived and worked primarily in New England, as a "regional" artist. Why then do we consider Alson Clark, who was an expatriate for several years, traveled the world, and continued his national associations even after moving to California, a "California" painter? Maurice Braun, considered the dean of San Diego painters, went back and forth to the East Coast, temporarily living in Connecticut at one point before returning to San Diego.

The question remains as to why these artists have been isolated from the mainstream. It would seem that Western critics of the period were partially responsible, having fabricated a mythology that applied to "Western" painters. Cultural nativism, the desire to pinpoint what was unique about California, infused the critical literature. This boosterism, it will be shown, served to actually work against Western artists in a national framework. To understand the importance of this predisposition, it is first necessary to understand how cultural nationalism, the need to celebrate and extol the virtues of one's country, impacted the art historical dialogue in the mid- to late nineteenth century.

The grandiloquent landscapes of the mid-century fed the insatiable quest for information about the West. More specifically they evoked great national pride, celebrating a "natural history" in a country that, by European standards, had scant political history. The direction of American painting changed profoundly after the Civil War. As transportation back and forth to Europe became more viable, Americans moved from a position of isolationism to the realm of cosmopolitanism. The fashion for "things European" overtook American collectors, who generally preferred the work of European artists to work by their countrymen.

A mild change in attitude can be traced to the zeitgeist of the American Renaissance, beginning roughly at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. By the early1880s, some critics at home had begun to assail American painters returning from Europe to paint "American" scenes. It was acknowledged that European training encouraged technical prowess, however, these critics implored the returning expatriates to look at America not with French or German eyes, but to look at it through conspicuously American eyes.[8]

We see this specifically in the critical response to William Merritt Chase's scenes of Central Park, New York City, from the mid-1880s. Chase was the first major nineteenth-century artist to consistently paint this urban park. In his effort to embrace a local subject, he capitalized on the nationalistic cultural pronouncements that were beginning to drive the critical dialogue. One critic wrote that Chase had been "boldly and consistently original, seeking out his subjects in the neighborhood of New York City and painting them without any regard to the conventions of any school...." He added that Chase's scenes "indeed suggest to our wandering landscape artists that they should not keep their eyes hermetically sealed while in their own country."[9] Yet, even in 1887, Henry James wrote: "It sounds like a paradox, but it is a very simple truth that when we look for 'American art' we mainly find it in Paris."[10]

The discourse became more vitriolic on the eve of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. A reviewer reminded his colleagues:


The critics who go to Chicago next summer will not desire expressly to see and study the work...of those nominal Americans who are virtual Europeans in thought, style and sentiment.... What they will look for is art that is national -- American in subject and manner. [11]


This call for "American" subject matter reached a crescendo by the end of the century with diatribes railing against foreign influences. An article in Brush and Pencil proclaimed that the


United States cries for better art, more important and characteristic art, more vital and national art, and what does she do? She patronizes foreigners with her wealth, while she poses and with sweet patriotic speech exclaims. 'America for Americans." Give us American subjects she exclaims, but at the same time she decorates her walls with second-rate Venetian water colors and white-capped Brittany peasants, with sloppy copies of the old masters that she doesn't understand....[12]


Another writer noted, "at the present stage of our national development, we demand an art vivified from art which shall represent and parallel our social, intellectual and material stage of evolution.... Let us be thoroughly American; not narrowly and aggressively so to a point which provokes ridicule and caricature, but consistent, patriotic, and loyal."[13]

In California, not only was the spirit of cultural nationalism reflected in the dialogue, but also it advanced one step farther to a kind of cultural nativism, the notion that California, in its splendor and beauty, was superior not only to Europe, but to the rest of America as well. The nativist zeal was recorded as early as 1894 by a visitor from Chicago:


"It is a strange characteristic of those people there," he said, "an interesting but harmless hallucination that each one believes he possesses from his own veranda the finest view in Southern California... A is a queer country, but, after all, it is gratifying to find that there is some corner of the world where everyone seems to feel a contentment with his lot that arises almost to the dignity of a passion."[14]


This passion, or uncompromising fervor, has been described as an outgrowth of the "veritable orgy of boosterism" that reflected the California experience of the early twentieth century.[15] The notion of "California dreaming," a mythology of a land unequaled in its beauty, climate, and opportunities, permeated the popular California literature. In June 1914 a writer in the journal Western Art waxed poetic (if a little exuberant), over California's virtues:


No matter what may be the belief of one as to a future life, few there are -- if any -- who do not at some time during the present life desire for their own an ideal condition of existence. Many there are who have journied [sie] to the confines of our terrestrial world in search of an ideal land...and they have found such a land -- as near as may be -- in the Southland of California. And they have called it "The Land of Heart's Desire."[16]


Critics in California chided their Eastern contemporaries for failing to understand the Western landscape prior to passing judgment on the art: "No region is richer than California in what it has to offer a painter for serious consideration.... Every feature that exists from England to Central Africa, and from Spain to Greece, can be painted in California excepting the architecture."[17] And there were those who were openly hostile towards the supposed preeminence of artists on the East Coast. In 1916 a critic reminded readers "we come up against the appallingly big fetish of the superiority of the New York men, a fetish which will bust if you kick it hard. Why, when it comes to a showdown, should the men of the East paint better than the men of the West? We have the same intelligence in art, the same training -- and surely no one dare say that nature is less wonderful or less beautiful in California than in New York."[18] Antony Anderson, critic for the Los Angeles Times and the great apologist for Impressionism in California, posed this question: "California the graveyard of talent? It does not seem so to me. Rather, here lies the talent's richest and most nourishing soil, below its brightest sun and its dearest skies. That soil is no longer fallow -- it has begun to germinate -- and oh the signs of spring!"[19]

This nativism spilled over into the "artspeak" of the period. California was portrayed as the most fertile, awe-inspiring, and paintable environment for artists. California art writers wanted to stake claim to their artists -- even if that claim was hyperbolic and, in the worst cases, not even true. For example, in 1912 Eloise Roorbach extolled the virtues of Western artists:


The [Western] artists, imbued with spirit, have boldly shaken off every influence superimposed upon them from the outside, and are doggedly blazing their own trail to success or failure, content to rise or fall, by the honesty of their own ideals and efforts.... With but few exceptions, the Western artists have had practically no training, following only the guidance of their own genius, throwing aside what little schooling they happened to pick up in their student days. This is especially true of our landscape painters. . . .[20]


Although a glowing account, the assessment is, in the majority of cases, not accurate. Most Impressionist landscape artists who came to California were formally trained in the academic tradition. To assert that they had "shake[n] off every influence superimposed upon them from the outside" is to ignore completely their well-honed artistic lexicon. Certainly they used and applied their training to the Western landscape, but none was completely self-invented. Yet we are asked to believe that Western artists were "aesthetic pioneers."

In a moment of great optimism, a critic wondered if the "position of New York as the art center of the Western Hemisphere is being challenged by that of the younger and yet more assertive metropolis of the Pacific Coast, Los Angeles? The suggestion frequently heard nowadays, no doubt has created outbursts of ridicule among New Yorkers."[21] Writing in 1916, Everett Carroll Maxwell remarked: "I am convinced that students of art in America have missed a source of interesting study by neglecting to follow the trend of art on the Pacific Coast. This is partly due to the isolation of this sunset land from art centers of the East and middle West...."[22] Maxwell raises the specter of "isolationism," a concern noted today by scholars.[23] Alma May Cook, a West Coast art critic in the first part of the twentieth century, believed isolation "would prove a blessing for which we should thank a kind but unappreciated fate. Because of our distance we are more self-dependent, and therefore more self-reliant. We but hear of the latest 'style' in art. The newest 'ists' and 'ism" are but names to us."[24] One can easily conjure up images of the lone California artist, laboring in exile while the art world in the East forged ahead. Even in 1990, a writer noted that "given the distance, geographically, emotionally, and psychologically from the trenches of Europe to the beaches and meadows of California, clearly an element of escapism infused the aesthetic climate of the West Coast."[25]

This quixotic vision is in some ways diametrically opposed to certain realities. By the mid-1920s Los Angeles was a modern city, boasting more electric lights, automobiles, and telephones than any other city relative to its size.[26] Given current standards of travel and communication, the distance between coasts, and certainly between continents, was indeed impressive. However, artists working in California managed to travel and exhibit outside of the West with surprising regularity. And although some artists opted to live in California to put distance between themselves and the veritable "artistic rat race" of the East, they could easily be back in the hub when necessary or desirable. By segregating what was "Californian" about California art, critics suffered from a sort of selective amnesia.

In fact, the cultural nationalist methodology of interpreting American art infused the critical literature for a good part of the twentieth century. It was not until the mid-1970s that the focus shifted from elevating American art as purely a national phenomenon to looking at it within the international context.[27] This was in no way meant to denigrate or demean, but merely to consider American painting without the skewed cultural nationalist vision. Certainly by the 1980s the discipline of American art history had begun to reinvent itself by interpreting art through the framework of feminist theory, socio-cultural theory, Marxist theory, material culture, and any number of different perspectives.

At the same time that a virtual explosion of revisionist art history was being generated about Eastern artists, the basic factual understanding of Impressionist artists in California was still just being unearthed. Once again, various groundbreaking exhibitions, such as "California Light," 1990, propelled the field of California art history to the forefront. However, the premise of the exhibition was still to find out what was "Californian about California art" -- and in this case the answer was the "light." One scholar claimed, "light here erases as much as it delineates, and outshines as much as it illuminates. A fierce, aggressive light, it can devour, metabolize, and absorb its own subject. To the Southern California painter at his canvas, light does not exist to reveal form; sometimes form exists to reveal light."[28] However, climatologist Arnold Court writes that "not enough spectral measurements of daylight in various parts of the country are available to document any differences between California coastal daylight and daylight found elsewhere."[29] This most telling statement raises questions about the distinctiveness of California light and why this was needed as a justification for producing such a landmark exhibition.

The fact of the matter is that a number of artists who worked in California also worked nationally and internationally. By placing them in their larger context -- the locus of American painting -- it will become clear that many of these artists were far from parochial, but actually as cosmopolitan as their colleagues working in the East.

A critic wrote of Alson Clark (1876-1949) that "California can justly claim Alson Skinner Clark as her own. Although born in Chicago, and spending most of his time in foreign lands, it is here that he always returns with his canvases."[30] Antony Anderson, in his typically fervent fashion, proclaimed:

All globe-trotting artists land at some time or other in Southern California, and not a few of them unfurl their tents and decide to remain here forever and a day. It seems to be true, therefore -- what we have seen and heard so often stated in print and out -- that Southern California is the mecca of painters. For many years Alson Clark had been a pilgrim and wayfarer, carrying his painting kit with him from place to place, and judging from the pictures we have seen, having a mighty good time. Four years ago he came to Los Angeles -- and remained. [31]


To classify Clark as a "California" painter, or a painter from any particular region, would be to completely ignore the nature of his career and life. Clark spent a good portion of his early life as an expatriate. Beginning in 1889 he spent two years on a Grand Tour of Europe with his family. The comprehensive trip piqued his interest. Between 1895 and 1896 he studied at The Art Institute of Chicago. In 1896 Clark moved to New York to attend the Art Students' League and study with William Merritt Chase.[32]

He left for Paris in 1899 and enrolled at J.A.M. Whistler's atelier, the Académie Carmen, where he immediately met Eugene Paul Ullman and Lawton Parker, two of his classmates from Chase's school. Paris was intoxicating for the artist, who spent a good portion of his time looking at both Old Master and contemporary art. Writing in his journal in February 1899, he noted, "this morning we did not go into the studio, but went over to the Louvre and looked at the pictures. I am stuck on Velásquez's work and had a good look at it."[33] The potential for stinging Parisian criticism of aspiring young American students was realized for Clark on April 9, 1899, when he discovered that his work had been rejected from the Salon: "This morning I read about my being refused at the Salon the first thing when I awoke. I was of course a little disappointed, but not surprised as the thing isn't run much on merit but on pull and I won't today [sie] to anyone, especially a Frenchman. [Lawton] Parker and [Henry] Hubbell were also dropped."[34] Between 1899 and 1901 Clark was back and forth between Europe and America.[35] In 1902 he set up a studio in Watertown, New York, which was the city closest to his family's home in Comfort Island on the St. Lawrence River. Clark's scenes of Watertown vary from the stately Mansion of Leroy de Chaumont, c. 1902 (CAT. NO. 5) to The Black Race, 1902 (private collection), which highlights the result of urban pollution.

Watertown was not only the location of Clark's first one-person exhibition, but also the scene of his most important romantic involvement. Writing in 1899, Clark clearly wondered whether he would ever find a lasting relationship: "I believe if I had half a chance I would fall in love, but I think after all I will be an 'old bach' that is if I work hard. If I should be with a very fascinating girl for a while when I was idle I am afraid I would fall in love. So steer clear Ally and keep to work. You ain't good natured or forgiving enough to fall in love and are too selfish about the ones you like."[36] All that changed when he met Atta Medora McMullin who modeled for him in Watertown. The two fell in love, and in January 1902 Medora agreed to marry him. Writing about the event, Clark exclaimed: "Her parents are ok, and I am about the happiest boy in the world, I guess."[37]

Beginning in 1901, Clark began to exhibit at The Art Institute of Chicago, and did so continuously between then and 1925.[38] He and Medora also began to take regular trips between Europe and America, Medora noting that "we were always crossing back and forth in the winter months to take advantage of the cheaper rates. The trips were rugged and frigid, and after all these years ocean liners still mean to me ice-covered bows."[39] Clark continued to maintain a high profile in America, exhibiting consistently throughout the first years of the decade. In 1906 he was awarded his first one-person exhibition at The Art Institute of Chicago. Between 1908 and 1909 he held exhibitions in Chicago, at the Toledo Museum of Art, the Cincinnati Museum of Art, and the St. Louis Museum of Fine Arts.

In 1910, probably at the urging of his friend Lawton Parker (1868-1954), the Clarks visited Giverny, France. Parker, along with Frederick Frieseke (1874-1939) and native Californian Guy Rose (1867-1925), lived in Giverny during this period. The three eventually exhibited together at the Madison Art Gallery in New York, adopting the epithet "The Giverny Group."[40] The stylistic influence of Claude Monet, Giverny's most famous resident, can certainly be seen in Clark's work. His Summer, Giverny, 1910 (CAT. NO. 6) a light-infused, loosely rendered canvas, reflects the effects of Monet's Impressionism.

In 1913 a journalist friend who had just returned from an assignment at the excavation site of the Panama Canal suggested to Clark that he paint the Herculean enterprise. The Clarks left for the canal zone that same year, and he eventually executed a series of paintings of the construction done in situ (CAT. NO. 7) that were exhibited in the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915.[41] These scenes of mass excavations cannot help but remind one of the series produced by George Bellows of the excavation for the Pennsylvania Railroad's New York City terminal building.

Clark spent a portion of World War I temporarily marooned in France. Finally able to sail home to America, he enlisted in the Navy once the United States entered the war. Stationed in Europe, Clark returned to America with a serious ear ailment and longed to escape from the cold weather. The couple decided to move to California even though, according to Medora, "we had never been to California and knew nothing of its charms. I think we were unconsciously prejudiced against it through its promotion literature."[42] She later recounted the spontaneity of their decision:


We knew nothing of warmer American country; neither California or Florida had ever appealed to Alson, but California had one lure -- mountains.... The next night he returned with a long envelope full of two tickets to California. We packed and with our luggage and a letter to an ear specialist in Los Angeles bearded a train reluctantly for California. In the many times later when we returned to California with joy, we remarked on the contrast to that reluctant first advance. Alson had not spoken about painting on his return, but there had been so many demands that I had thought little about it; but on the way out to California he announced one night that painting was a thing of the past, and that he never cared to paint again.[43]


Clark never delivered on that promise. The artist settled in Pasadena, but traveled up and down the California coast. La Jolla Cove, 1922 (CAT. NO. 9) is an excellent example of his work from Southern California. Depicting a popular spot in La Jolla from a high vantage point, the work is reminiscent both stylistically and structurally of his earlier oeuvre. California's landscape fascinated Clark, but he certainly did not reinvent himself there as an artist. Instead, the landscape served as a vehicle to incorporate many of the techniques that the artist had honed throughout his career. And California provided something else. In an article entitled "European Landscape Versus California," Medora wrote frankly regarding an element of California's attraction that was not often discussed:


Background has an enormous influence on the painter. Briefly, he must get a punch from what's about without sensing the punch. That's why Europe has fed the painter. Spain is rampant with such spots, so is France; but both countries are barren of Mazda bulbs, jiffy heaters, open plumbing, sewers, floorplugs and gas at 22 1/2. The painter is human; he doesn't in the least object to having the rough spots in life smoothed for him, and thrown in with a landscape which stirs. He accepts with pleasure modern conveniences when they roll alongside continuous inspiration. He even succumbs to the lure of a tile tub, so long as he can see the mountains from the window just above it and cajole himself into the belief that he is laved by a mountain brook.[44]


When the Clarks moved to California, they were reunited with Guy and Ethel Rose.[45] In January 1921 Rose, the director of the Stickney Memorial School of Art in Pasadena, persuaded his old friend to teach some classes. As Rose's health declined, Clark eventually assumed the leadership role at the school. In addition to this work, he traveled to the High Sierra on painting expeditions with his friend the artist Everett Warner, and in 1922 he went to Mexico with the architect Garrett Van Pelt. Although Pasadena eventually became the Clarks' home base, Alson stayed active in the art world beyond the California borders, exhibiting, for example, in Chicago, well into the 1920s.[46] Clark did limit his traveling in the 1930s mostly to within California, with one trip to Europe in the summer of 1936. His legacy is that of a painter whose versatility and inquisitiveness propelled him around the world -- with his years in California an important component of his life's accomplishments.

Colin Campbell Cooper (1858-1937) spent the last several years of his life in Santa Barbara. The landscapes he painted from this period, especially the vignettes of gardens, underscore his belief that "charming as are the gardens abroad I do not think that anywhere in the world will be found anything more exquisite in that respect than the gardens of California at say Pasadena and Montecito."[47] One commentator noted that his "credo was beauty and he not only lived that credo but made it the keynote Of his art."[48]

Californians embraced Cooper, and his work was exhibited there soon after he relocated from the East in 1921. In 1924-25 he was given a one-person exhibition at the Fine Arts Gallery, San Diego Museum of Art, and also in 1925 a one-person exhibition at the Stendahl Art Galleries of Los Angeles. Two exhibitions in 1927, both solo shows in Los Angeles, were mounted at the Ainslie Galleries and at the Friday Morning Club.[49] Cooper's exhibition history in California is prodigious, however, it is important to note that as one of the pioneering painters of the New York City skyline in the early twentieth century, Cooper never lost his affiliations and connections to the Eastern art establishment. He was, in fact, remarkably capable of juggling his career so that he stayed in the public arena on both coasts.

Cooper first went abroad on a sketching trip to Holland in 1886, and went to France to study at the Académie Julian in 1889. Although Europe offered obvious advantages for promising artists, Cooper wrote about an aspect of these voyages that was rarely addressed:

Too many Americans go abroad to study art -- they go before they're ripe -- before they're equipped.... The temptations of the Old World are numerous -- far too numerous for the average young person to withstand successfully Yet fond parents send their children abroad, dump them in a foreign land without friends or relatives to look after them, and the results are often tragic. When the ambitious American has mastered his rudiments then he wants to go abroad and to three places -- Madrid in Spain, to see the Velásquez there -- Amsterdam in Holland, to see the Rembrandts -- and Paris, to get the artistic atmosphere. But if he can only go to one place let him go to Paris -- for artistic atmosphere has more inspiration in a pint of its air than have a dozen miles of art galleries.


Cooper was one of the earliest artists to be inspired by the "artistic atmosphere" of New York -- more specifically the giant skyscrapers -- that artists such as William Merritt Chase referred to disdainfully as "skyscraping monsters [that] have smothered quite out of existence as objects of beauty many of the old landmarks of this city...."[51] Cooper's opinion of the New York skyline could not have been more antithetical:


The meaning behind my pictures [of skyscrapers] would be precisely the same if I painted wooded hills and mountain turrets. They cannot help but say the same thing, for they are all a part of the poem of life. The only difference is in the metre. Here in New York -- it is tuned to a quicker, more strident music, but the song it sings does not vary. I hope I catch that stridency in my pictures, but more I hope I catch the sound of the notes behind it, for that is the important thing.[52]


He painted many sections of New York City, including ones in and around the downtown area such as The Financial District, Manhattan, c. 1908 (CAT. NO. 10), a view of Wall and Broad streets. The artist created a corridor of buildings on a trajectory into the sky, while managing to re-create the atmosphere of maneuvering through the rather narrow and winding streets. Sunlight, emerging through an opening in a row of buildings, floods one side of the canvas, creating shadows and highlights. Although passages are sketchy, Cooper retained a basic devotion to outline, never allowing his forms to dissolve. Not unlike the French Impressionists' fascination with Paris, Cooper embraced the modernity of New York and celebrated its position as the emerging financial capital of the world. In 1913 Cooper went to India, producing exotic scenes of the Taj Mahal at Agra. He traveled as far as Burma where the palaces and tombs, such as Shwe Dagon Pagoda, Burma, 1915 (CAT. NO. 11) -- a rendering of Oriental architecture -- are studied with the same verve with which he approached the buildings of New York City. In Africa, he was intrigued with the markets in Morocco (SEE CAT. NO. 12).

Cooper's fascination with California was no less passionate, probably initiated through his involvement in the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. He and his wife were in Los Angeles in April 1916 and visited the Panama-California International Exposition in San Diego, where several of the artist's works were also exhibited. He painted scenes of the San Diego Exposition, including them at the American Watercolor Society exhibition in 1917.[53] In 1921 Cooper became dean of painting at the Santa Barbara Community School of Arts, but he concurrently maintained a separate New York residence for many years. Although he was a vital member of the Santa Barbara art community, an examination of his exhibition history substantiates just how comfortable he was on either side of the country. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Cooper exhibited California scenes at venues such as the National Academy of Design, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the National Arts Club. Conversely, at Western venues such as the Exhibition of Santa Barbara Artists, the Artists of Southern California, the Academy of Western Painters, the California State Fair, the Los Angeles County Fair, and the Faulkner Memorial Art Gallery, Cooper routinely showed scenes of New York and Europe.[54] This chameleonlike ability to span the country was certainly not specific to Cooper, and provides a certain insight into the cross-pollination that existed between artists working on both coasts.

Maurice Braun (1877-1941) has been, until recently, an artist whose reputation in the East has been eclipsed. Lauded as a driving force in the art community in San Diego, Braun founded the San Diego Fine Arts Academy in June 1910, and was one of the founding members of the San Diego Art Guild (1915), serving as its president from 1917 to 1918. He was one of a core group of artists represented by the prestigious Kanst Art Gallery in Los Angeles. An article in the California Southland described Braun's arrival and adjustment to California in the following way:


In 1909 he arrived in San Diego, California, and he knew he had chosen the best place for him. He felt such a response in his own nature to the coloring and forms in this sunshine country. Down in that center of the world, practically isolated from art production, he gradually developed his individual landscapes. For twelve years he did not leave the state, but his sunny interpretations went out to all the large exhibitions in the East and into many private collections, fast building for him national fame as a painter of California landscapes. [55]


While it is certainly true that Braun developed a sound reputation in California, his pre-California history was not terribly different from that of other painters who relocated. The son of an immigrant family from Hungary (now Czechoslovakia), Braun lived in New York City and studied at the National Academy of Design from 1897 to 1900. He also trained with William Merritt Chase for one year, during which he undoubtedly acquired his love for outdoor painting and impressionistic brushwork. Between 1902 and 1903 Braun was in Europe, but it is unclear whether he studied at an academy.[56] Returning to New York, the artist relocated to San Diego in 1909. According to one source, he wanted to "escape the influence of other artists working in the area."[57]

To some extent that may be true. In San Diego he aligned himself with the Theosophical Society, however, Braun's involvement with that group and the effect of their teachings on his work has yet to be fully explored. His interest, as it evolved, focused on the hills and mountains of Southern California as seen in a typical work of this period, Southern California Hills, 1914 (CAT. NO. 1). Braun employed a light, feathery brush stroke with loosely applied paint, and favored pink, orange, or mauve accents. His landscapes are generally devoid of figures, focusing instead on the rock formations and vegetation that are unique icons of the California landscape.

Braun's star was on the rise during the teens. Not only was he admired in California, but he also maintained a high profile in the East and Midwest. Between 1911 and 1920 he exhibited at venues such as the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1911) the Milch Gallery, New York (1915); The Art Institute of Chicago (1914-15, 1919); the Museum of Art, Cleveland (1916); the Babcock Gallery, New York (1918); and the National Academy of Design, New York (1910, 1912, 1915, 1917-20).

In 1921 Braun returned to the East Coast. An article by his wife, Hazel Boyer, suggests that "the spell of California was broken, and a longing came to paint the environs of his boyhood days in New York and New England."[58] It is certainly plausible that after twelve years in San Diego the artist may have wanted to reconnect physically with the East Coast. The Brauns lived in New York City for a year, and then moved to Silvermine, Connecticut, and later to Old Lyme, Connecticut, both home to active art colonies. Braun's paintings from this period reflect the changing seasons, as in The First Snow, c. 1922-23 (CAT. NO. 2), a landscape carpeted in white, or Misty Morning, c. 1922-23 (CAT. NO. 3), where the deciduous trees have shed their leaves and autumn can be felt in the air. His critical acclaim continued throughout the three years he lived in Connecticut and was capped by a one-person exhibition in 1923 at the MacBeth Galleries in New York. Critics recognized Braun's capacity for national appeal. Writing in the International Studio, one commentator noted:

East and West, if they are only so far apart as Connecticut and California, usually do not meet as amiably as the main source of a landscape painter's inspiration. This is true in case he desired to paint them intimately, rather than as a traveler records his superficial impressions. Maurice Braun, having lived many years on both the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, is equipped by experience to paint each familiarly and he is further enabled by his manner of approach to do justice to their quite different types of landscape. [59]


Braun returned to California in 1924 to a warm reception in the press. "With the return of Maurice Braun to us, California welcomes back a poet in paint, whose tender lyrics have long charmed her eyes with their subtle harmony of delicate coloring. Three years in Connecticut have given him other themes in other keys, but he has approached nature in the same quiet and certain manner...."[60] Braun quickly reinserted himself into the Southern California art community, but continued to exhibit throughout the country during his lifetime. Like so many Impressionist artists, he was relegated to obscurity soon after his death. Furthermore, despite the resurrection of even the most marginal Eastern Impressionists, little attention was paid to him. Once back in California, Braun was effectively isolated from the critical mainstream, and ultimately of little interest to Eastern art historians in spite of his obvious ties. And although it could be argued that some of the artist's work is repetitive (not uncommon in prolific artists), his importance as a nexus between East and West was respected and heralded during his lifetime.

In 1927 a critic wrote that E. Charlton Fortune (1885-1969) created work that was "well known in Paris and Eastern art centers and should be discovered by those who say that we have no great painters in the West."[61] The irony is that Fortune has long been considered a "California" painter, in spite of her prolonged residences abroad and her participation in art exhibitions throughout the United States and Europe during her most active periods.

A native of Northern California, Fortune moved to Scotland with an aunt when she was just a child. Studying art in Edinburgh, and later at the St. John's Wood School of Art in London, she returned to California in 1905 to live with her mother and enrolled at the Mark Hopkins School of Design to work under Arthur Mathews.[62] Fortune's life and career were inexorably changed in the wake of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake: the family lost all of their possessions and even lacked a permanent residence. Ironically, this unfortunate state of affairs actually presented a window of opportunity for Fortune to pursue her studies in New York at the Art Students' League with the help of a scholarship and financial assistance from a family member. In 1907 she began classes with Frank Vincent Dumond, whom she referred to as "the most sympathetic and sensitive of teachers.. .uncompromising regarding the reasons why one wanted to become a painter."[63] During the years Fortune attended the school (1907-1910) the New York art establishment was beginning to assess the impact of Modernism. Robert Henri and The Eight -- although relatively traditional in comparison to the European avant-garde movements -- were changing the direction of American painting. Alfred Stieglitz was exhibiting the most advanced European and American artists at his 291 gallery. Modem dance, spearheaded by Isadora Duncan, whom Fortune remembered as having "opened a new world," was challenging the established norms.[64]

Fortune was aware of the most modem trends, noting, for example, that in 1911 she saw the first exhibition of the Futurists in Paris while attending "every exhibition in Paris that year twice and three times."[65] Nevertheless, she eschewed the various "ists" and "isms," maintaining that "it is better to do your darndest for yourself than hitch on to some other cart, and find in six months that the wheels won't move.... You can see the Art Student mind working through all these movements, and the more you see, the more damn sure you are that nothing whatever can be gained by outside influences but anything new must come from within."[66] Fortune's Before Sunset, 1920 (CAT. NO. 14) demonstrates that the artist retained her devotion to nature. However, she also simultaneously developed a signature bravura brushwork that pushed the boundaries of Impressionism. Her canvases are so forceful that one critic observed, "the type of this artist's work is very strong -- unusually so for a woman -- her stroke having the vigorous decision customarily attributed to men only, although Miss Fortune is by no means bereft of the feminine touch."[67]

By 1913 Fortune was back in Monterey. During the teens she taught summer classes, earned a silver medal at the Panama-Pacific Exposition, and gained the respect of colleagues and critics. Although she was considered a "California girl" from the perspective of more xenophobic natives, Fortune's notoriety actually extended far beyond the borders of her home state, and she longed to return to Europe. World War I made travel abroad impossible, however, by 1921 she was on her way. Stopping in New York en route to England, she exhibited two canvases at the National Academy of Design. Even more significant was her nomination by William Ritschel and Luis Mora for membership in that august organization. Fortune continued to exhibit at the National Academy of Design during the 1920s, sending works back from Europe.

In England, Fortune immediately organized an exhibition of California scenes at the Grieves Gallery. The British press reacted enthusiastically, one critic calling the show "modest, but really brilliant."[68] Another commentator found it hard to believe that "these powerful California landscape scenes have sprung from a female artist.... Miss Fortune's display deserves more than the usual attention because it shows a logical development in freshness and sincerity of vision, not at all manifest in much misguided new art which babbles in the baby talk of painting."[69]

Fortune settled in Cornwall at St. Ives, becoming part of the established art colony.[70] St. Ives offered a unique rhythm of life, based on the ebb and flow of the fishing boats in the harbor. The effects of light and movement intrigued the artist. Writing to her friend Ethel Grubb, Fortune described the astonishing scene of a group of gulls descending on the harbor:


Lately we have sun every day and the light and shadows add to the confusion and noise. Then the most extraordinary thing of all are the gulls, literally millions of them, looking like a snowstorm through a telescope, hang in a dense cloud over the town, the whole harbor is dappled with the shadows of them, like the shadows of a tree in leaf only all moving and wheeling so rapidly that the colours take on life.[71]


She memorialized these observations in Summer Morning, St. Ives, 1923 (CAT. NO. 15), where gulls tumble from the sky like huge snowflakes over the harbor. Fortune remained in St. Ives until 1924, exhibiting continually during her sojourn. An abbreviated list illustrates that between 1921 and 1924, she showed at venues such as the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (1921), The Royal Academy, London (1922-23), The Society of Scottish Artists (1922-24), the Salon des Beaux-Arts, Paris (1923), and the Sociètè des Artistes Françaises (1923-24).

In 1924 Fortune and her mother left St. Ives for St. Tropez in the South of France. St. Tropez offered its own charms. Fortune wrote about her reactions to the scenery:


Wherever one looked, one was astonished at the magnificent color.... Wine cargoes were carried by boats with lanteen sails, lemon and white and russet, and these in turn were hardly moored to the quays when other boats nosed into port to take their place.[72]


She described such a scene in pictorial detail in Wine Cargos, 1925 (CAT. NO. 16).

By 1927 Fortune returned to Monterey where she wasted no time exhibiting her European scenes at the Galeries Beaux-Arts in San Francisco. A reviewer believed the show underscored how Fortune was "the ablest thinker and producer of living women California painters."[73] It is, of course, ironic that she was immediately branded as a "California painter" -- in spite of her long exodus from California -- and the obvious fact that the subjects were entirely European.

The following year she exhibited nationally at venues such as the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC, and at the National Academy of Design, New York.[74] She continued to show her work locally nationally, and internationally, until the mid-1930s, when her focus shifted and she devoted herself to liturgical art.

William Ritschel (1864-1949) has been referred to as the "dean of Carmel artists."[75] Painting from his home in the Carmel Highlands, his "Castel a Mare," Ritschel produced exquisite seascapes such as Mammoth Cove, c. 1925 (CAT. NO. 55), which captures the glory of the Northern California coast. Arthur Millier, critic for the Los Angeles Times, described Ritschel this way:

Mr. RitscheI is known throughout America for the long series of canvases he painted from his rock-bound studio at Carmel. As Winslow Homer immured himself at Prout's Neck, so Ritschel built a castle on these western cliffs and by day and night watched the combers break, the surf tumble into jeweled lights, until he made himself master of the marine color-magic that sets him apart as the greatest marine painter of today.


As it would be inaccurate to refer to Winslow Homer as a "Maine" painter, so would it be to consider Ritschel's oeuvre necessarily synonymous with California. Although Ritschel was in California by 1909 (in Carmel by 1912), he was far from cloistered. He was lauded for his California images, nonetheless his reputation far exceeded the boundaries of California. A native of Nuremburg, Bavaria, Ritschel traveled throughout Europe as a youth, studied at the Royal Academy in Munich, and spent several years as a sailor. Immigrating to New York City, he quickly became part of the art community. He began exhibiting at the National Academy of Design in 1905 and did so each year until 1938. In fact, until 1930 he was still listed with a New York address. He received the academy's Carnegie Prize in 1913 and was made a full academician the following year.

The artist painted scenes of New York, such as A Winter Morning, East River, 1912 (CAT. NO. 53). A view looking south, it captures the frigid air and atmosphere of New York on a winter day. Steam coming from a docked ship in the foreground promises the only suggestion of warmth. Such an urban subject, which would have been typical for a New York Realist painter, fit easily into Ritschel's repertoire.

Throughout the teens Ritschel continued to win national fame at, for example, the National Arts Club (1914), the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (1915), and the Philadelphia Arts Club (1918). By the 1920s he had developed wanderlust, and spent a good portion of the decade traveling throughout Europe, the Orient, and the South Seas (SEE CAT. NO. 56), living, for example, in Gauguin's former home in Tahiti, After a two-year trip around the world beginning in 1924, Ritschel returned to America and held an exhibition of his paintings from this journey at the Milch Gallery in New York.[77] That same year, 1926, a California seascape was exhibited at the Royal Academy in London to excellent reviews, and he won an honorable mention at the Paris Salon.[78] In 1930 he was awarded the Isidor Prize at the Salmagundi Club in New York, an honor he had also garnered in 1923.

Ritschel wrote eloquently about how art could enrich life, expressing views formed through years of sustained work and travel:


Life is incomplete, however worthy, useful or successful it may seem, without a full understanding and knowledge of the finer impulses and of the meaning of art. Most people suffer from... the lack of inspiring opportunities of their everyday existence, and their life is practically wasted. Through the medium of art, which opens the channels in a higher understanding of what is true and fine, their life will be made more complete.[79]


During the Depression he even suggested that a new Cabinet position, Secretary of Art, be established. According to Ritschel, this individual would bring the plight of artists to the forefront and help establish collaborative projects similar to Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration's Federal Art Project: "The duties of a secretary of art would be to foster art through granting appropriations for architects to design buildings, artists to paint pictures for them, sculptors to make statues, etc. Promising young artists would be subsidized, given security in which to develop their talents."[80]

Although Ritschel preferred the seclusion of his Carmel home when he was in America, he saw himself within a greater scope. In fact, his memorial exhibition at the Carmel Art Association included works from such places as the South Seas, Venice, Majorca, Capri, and California -- just a small sampling of his artistic diversity and his international interests.

When Guy Rose (1876-1925) left for Europe in 1888 and returned briefly to his native state of California in 1891, a reviewer noted with pleasure that Rose had made significant strides in France, and that "America might add another to her growing list of names of men who have risen to sufficient promise in art to demand recognition, not only in their own country but abroad and to California would fall the pleasant privilege of claiming his birth and early surroundings."[81]

In 1916 Antony Anderson wrote a review of a Guy Rose exhibition in Los Angeles. Anderson, in his great defense of California Impressionists, suffered from the biases of cultural nativism:


Guy Rose was born within the sound of the bells of San Gabriel, but he has lived and painted for so many years in and near Paris that he would be quite expatriated if he were not so sturdily American. In fact, he did paint very much like a Frenchman when he came to Los Angeles a year or two ago.... Nevertheless, he paints better now and when you have studied and compared the twenty-one pictures he is now exhibiting on the west wall of the gallery in Exposition Park, I think you will agree with me. He is a stronger painter today, you will admit -- and a more American one, and certainly a more western one. And why not? After all, he belongs to California and the "finish" of Paris did not remake him.[82]

To understand how distorted it was to suggest that he belonged to California, we need only remember that between 1888 and 1914 Rose resided mainly in New York City or France. Or to put it another way, for over twenty years -- a major portion of Rose's productive career-- he was physically absent from California.
[83] When Rose was reevaluated in a major 1995 retrospective, he was referred to by one author as the "hero of California Impressionism."[84] Without a doubt Rose was a pivotal figure when he returned to California. Clearly he helped to solidify the predominance of Impressionism in his native state. Rose crafted extraordinary paintings of California, including, for example, A Carmel Pine, c. 1918 (CAT. NO. 60). However, as soon as the epithet "hero of California Impressionism" is attached, an artist who should be considered within the greater history of American painting becomes relegated to the annals of "regionalist" painters -- meaning until recently in the nuances of artspeak, that he was a less serious and accomplished artist. It is crucial to remember that Rose exhibited in tandem with the luminaries of American Impressionism, such as Childe Hassam, Frank Vincent Dumond, and Theodore Robinson, to name just a few. While his best work is certainly on a par with these artists, his position has been diminished by a persistent tie to California and the lingering perception that "those" painters were somehow substandard.

Rose has lately come more into the public view, a result of the escalating prices his works have brought at auction and with dealers, and he is one of the first painters whose works have broken the barrier between "Western" and "Eastern" painters. One of his works was even recently included in a major retrospective of American art and art criticism at the National Academy of Design in New York, where the artist justly shared the limelight with the likes of Winslow Homer, Childe Hassam, John Singer Sargent, and Thomas Eakins.[85]

To date, Rose is also one of the best researched and documented of those artists who spent time in California. Will South's 1995 catalogue on the artist is a comprehensive investigation of Rose's life, therefore a detailed biography here is unnecessary. However, simply to get a sense of the breadth of Rose's presence in America, it is worthwhile to trace the exhibition history of November Twilight, 1908 (CAT. NO. 57). A critic noted that "its quality makes one forget brushstrokes, paint and all the mechanics of painting. The color is exquisite. It seems fragrant and fragile, as if it were not content with satisfying the eye, but offered enjoyment to the other senses as well."[86] Painted in Giverny, it is a work of contradictions: diffuse, yet solidly constructed, muted, yet luminous. November Twilight was exhibited, for example, in the following places: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia (1909); The National Academy of Design, New York (1910); The Art Institute of Chicago (1911); Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Diego (1915); Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art (1916); and Stendahl Art Galleries, Pasadena, California (1923). Many of these venues held any number of the artist's works over the years.

When Rose moved to Los Angeles in 1914, he continued to exhibit outside of California, such as at the MacBeth Galleries in New York City, The Art Institute of Chicago, and the National Academy of Design. Although he began to show his work much more extensively in California during this period, he did not limit that to purely California scenes. Rose understood the precarious position he and other artists in California faced from Western critics' distinctly cultural nativist point of view. Responding in the Los Angeles Times to a conflict surrounding the inclusion of Eastern painters (whose works were nonjuried) and Western painters (whose works were juried) in the First Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painters, 1916, Rose wrote:

There were no distinctions made between East and the West in fact some of the very best things shown are by men who have lived and worked out here but on account of lack of appreciation here now have headquarters or agents in the East.... Of the strictly local men, none were invited out of deference to the silly idea that seems to prevail here that every painter in Southern California is the best in the world.... What you say about the recognized big men's work not being better than the work done here makes me feel that you have not seen the pictures at Exposition Park, you know as well as I do that it is the artist, not the subject that makes good work.[87]


Rose was not only pragmatic regarding his own situation, but prophetic in identifying the ongoing and persistent struggle to understand painters in California during this period.

While reviewing an exhibition of paintings by Joseph Kleitsch (1882-1931) in 1928, a critic articulated the need for significant artists, such as Kleitsch, to be associated with Los Angeles:


Los Angeles is richer because this tropical bird of wonderful plumage [Kleitsch] has found a nest here. We must not permit a million chattering sparrows to drive it away. Think how many communities have become shrines of human pilgrimage, are remembered after a thousand years because a wandering genius once left his footprints there. Cities are ennobled because they have at one time entertained a noble in spirit.... We must pierce their statues in our public places, their canvases in our homes.[88]


Writing about Kleitsch's decision to relocate from Chicago to California, the ever zealous Antony Anderson launched into a diatribe, reminding his readers that the artist's Chicago friends were "trying hard to pull him back to his allegiances, assuring him, with the usual contempt for things western, especially in matters of art, that Southern California was the worst possible field for him." Anderson goes on to suggest that "Kleitsch only laughs at these well-meant but futile efforts. He knows that he is not buried.... With mutual confidence so well established what can we do for the cause of western art and particularly for western artists themselves? Anything and everything."[89] Interestingly enough, Anderson also maintains that Kleitsch was the "one artist in Southern California who may be considered the most cosmopolitan, if wide and extensive travel and study make for cosmopolitanism...."[90]

Through this study it is clear that Kleitsch was not the "most cosmopolitan," but one among a number of well-heeled and well-trained painters living in Southern California for periods of time. By framing him this way, however, Anderson makes the artist's decision to live and work on the West Coast that much more significant. This in no way suggests that Kleitsch did not have a noteworthy career in California. Arriving from Chicago in 1920 at the height of his fame as a portrait painter, Kleitsch broadened the scope of his interests. He settled in Laguna Beach, an art colony between Los Angeles and San Diego, whose residents included notables such as William Wendt, Edgar Payne, Gardner Symons, and Frank Cuprien. Kleitsch took up landscape painting, and was one of few artists who actually painted the town of Laguna, offering "old Laguna as Kleitsch knew and loved it -- Laguna before the era of electric lights, gas, paved streets and drinkable water."[91] The Garden Fence, c. 1923 (CAT. NO. 27) is a vignette of old Laguna with its batten-and-board houses scattered intermittently against the backdrop of the hillsides. His bold and sumptuous use of color, "sensuous painting with fat oil pigments," was heralded.[92]

Although Kleitsch lived in Laguna, he continued to travel, maintaining his ties especially with Chicago. (His connections to New York City were limited.) On July 15, 1921, Laguna Life reported that an exhibition of his Laguna Beach paintings, along with portraits, was on view in the Fine Arts Building in Chicago.[93] Based on the number and quality of his Laguna paintings, Kleitsch was enamored with the beach community. From the time he arrived until November 1925, when he set off for Europe, Kleitsch produced some of his most significant California scenes. Specifically why he left for a two-year hiatus is unclear. One critic posited that Europe offered a slower pace, allowing the artist "more time for thoughtful design and refinement of color and paint application."[94] It is hard to imagine the pace of Laguna in the mid-1920s as too much for Kleitsch, as the town was still small.[95] However, he had not been abroad in thirteen years and it appears he needed fresh material and insights.[96]

The two years he spent in Europe were extremely productive. Traveling to Spain, France, England, and Germany, Kleitsch returned from this European sojourn, according to one critic, "bigger, broader than he was two years ago."[97] In 1928 Stendahl held an exhibition of his European work including "a large picture of artists and beggars under a bridge arch [that] introduces us to the underside of Paris."[98] The subject of Reposer, 1927 (CAT. NO. 30), a study of those on the fringes of society, was a unusual foray for Kleitsch. He painted glimpses of Paris, a city that was clearly intoxicating (SEE CAT. NO. 28). The artist went to Giverny, a destination that by this time had long become part of a "pilgrimage" route for those associated with Impressionism (SEE CAT. NO. 29). Reviewing the Stendahl exhibition, even Antony Anderson had to admit that this was Joseph Kleitsch in a "radically different garb, European." However, he offered the caveat that the work was still "breezily Californian as ever."[99]

Kleitsch's last trip to Europe solidified and strengthened the artist's prodigious talents. Having been welcomed back into the California fold, he died only a few years after his return to America. The art community in Southern California viewed his passing as an enormous loss; Laguna Beach residents mourned his unfortunate death as a loss of one of their own. In his obituary, the South Coast News (Laguna's newspaper) lamented that "he was a part of the old village, a part of the new city, always willing to do his share in helping the individual or the community."[100]

While it is true that Kleitsch was an important figure in Laguna Beach, it is also essential that he be appreciated and understood for his work in Chicago and in major European centers. If we examine his career in California in tandem with his greater oeuvre -- not isolated from it -- his position as a significant American painter becomes more distinct.

Jules Pagès, a native of Northern California, spent the better part of his life as an expatriate. The artist waxed rather poetic about his affections for San Francisco, writing that "whenever I go back, and I am on the ferryboat crossing the bay to San Francisco, the feeling sweeps over me, the emotion of homecoming that comes to me only there."[101] In spite of his obvious ties to his native city, it must be noted that Pagès spent over forty years living and working abroad, coming back to America for only relatively brief periods, and usually after a long hiatus. Nevertheless, in 1923, more than twenty years after Pagès settled in Europe, a critic declared that "California will always feel a possessive pride in Jules Pagès."[102] Even in 1937 the critic Alma May Cook, a loyal "California" spokesperson, referred to Pagès as "American-born and known in this country as an American painter, while in France he is regarded as a Frenchman because of his name and descent as well as his long residence in Paris.... Mr. Pagès is a loyal Californian...."[103]

It is not surprising that Californians wanted to claim Pagès as one of their own. After all, he was the only American to teach at the Académie Julian, and was willed an interest in the academy when its namesake died.[104] Awarded an honorable mention at the Paris Salon in 1895 and a gold medal in 1905, he was made hors concours at the Salon and elected a Chevalier de la Legion d'Honeur. His paintings were held in private and public collections, both in Europe and in the United States. Very few Americans (let alone those working in California) could claim such deep inroads into the inner sanctum of the Parisian art world. An eclectic painter who moved easily from landscape to genre scenes, his PIace Pigalle, n.d. (CAT. NO. 38) is an excellent example of the artist's interest in urban life.

Although Pagès was firmly ensconced in Europe, he served, for example, as a juror and a participant at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Between 1915 and the mid-1920s, he made occasional trips to America and sent work to California for sale. One critic wondered whether by including his work in California exhibitions, Pages was engaging in "nostalgia or only a desire to let us know what he is doing? All of them, perhaps. But I think it is the love of his native state more than anything else for Jules Pagès, despite his French name (which he pronounces in the American way, even in Paris), is a true blue San Franciscan...."[105] Nevertheless, it is probably fair to assume that finances, rather than pure patriotism, compelled the artist.

After a sixteen-year self-imposed exile, Pagès traveled to America in 1937 for an exhibition of his paintings at Stendahl Art Galleries. The critical response was positive, however, one reviewer was quick to point out that "the laurels are not being distributed merely because the Pagès works are those of a man who has spent a major portion of his life in France," and also quick to add that "neither would I seem to be implying that we have no painters hereabouts who as not as worthy of commendation. That would be silly."[106]

As World War II raged in Europe, the artist returned to San Francisco in 1941. It is interesting to speculate on whether or not he would have ever returned permanently if circumstances had been different. Unfortunately his time in San Francisco was limited, as he died only five years later, however, San Franciscans embraced their native son with, among other accolades, an honorary membership in the Bohemian Club and an exhibition at the Pent House Gallery in 1944.

A wonderful (if not amusing) example of nativist hyperbole is found in a small article on Gardner Symons (1862-1930) in the local Laguna Beach paper. "Gardner Symons," it begins, "although a Californian, is best known for his New England scenes."[107] Something, it appears, was at least better than nothing. Symons, in fact, was not a full-time resident of California. His records from the National Academy of Design covering the years 1899 through 1924 never list California as his residence. Neither is he listed with a California address in the records of The Art Institute of Chicago, or the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. However, as a "sometime" resident of Southern California, Symons easily made the transition from one coast to another, receiving accolades wherever his work was shown.

One of the most accurate descriptions of the artist was as "an ardent lover of open air, of space, and of the springing turf beneath his feet... a nomad, wandering frequently; now you hear of him haunting the breezy summits of the Berkshires; now off to a fisherman's cottage on the coast of Cornwall; now in his California bungalow planted in solitude between the mountain and the sea...."[108] Symons is particularly significant in Laguna Beach as one of the first nationally and internationally known artists to purchase land and build a studio in what was a then a small, isolated village. It is well known that Symons and William Wendt (who later became an icon of artists in California) were acquainted in Chicago, and traveled to California in 1896-97. In 1903 Symons purchased property in Laguna Beach, and lived there sporadically throughout his life.[109]

Not only was Symons well heeled, but highly regarded. In 1900 his work was included in the Paris Salon, and he exhibited in 1908 at the Royal Academy in London. (He was abroad between 1908 and 1909.) Symons was awarded the Carnegie Prize at the National Academy of Design (1909), the gold medal at the National Arts Club (1912), and the Corcoran Gold Medal (1913). He exhibited at the MacBeth Galleries, New York, between 1912 and 1914, and at the Pratt Institute in 1915. All of this, while still making his way back and forth to California, particularly to Laguna, to paint. If travel was difficult and California isolated, Symons did not seem to know it.

As an artist who prided himself on painting outdoors all year -- in spite of the weather -- it is no surprise that his snow scenes were especially admired. In Last Light, c. 1920 (CAT. NO. 62) and Winter Brilliance, c. 1925 (CAT. NO. 63), the white snow, like a carpet covering the ground, illuminates the canvases. One literally feels the cold breeze wafting off the frozen terrain.

In 1929 Stendahl mounted an exhibition of Symons's paintings with the work of artist Elmer Schofield. The two artists were friends, having met in Cornwall, England, where the expatriate Schofield lived (although he made frequent trips to America). When reviewing the exhibition in the Los Angeles Times, Arthur Millier was careful not to claim Symons as a "Californian," but did strongly assert the "American" character of the works:

Though Schofield lives in Cornwall, England, neither of them could be taken for anything but American. Their work has the breadth, directness, color, and delight in natural appearances characteristic of healthy American landscape painters.... Paintings like these are symbolic of America.... Just step outside and watch the wind and the light work miracles among the trees and the hills.[110]


When Symons died, he was eulogized by the Laguna Beach press as the "founder" of the art colony."[111] While he was not actually its founder, his early presence, along with his continued devotion to the colony throughout the years, encouraged other artists to travel to, and occasionally make their home in, Southern California.

Edgar Payne (1882-1947) is one of the artists most closely associated with California. The Sierra, the Southern California coastline, the area around Laguna Beach -- all of these were familiar stomping grounds for the artist. However, and not a little ironically, Payne is also one of the artists who most frequently traveled. He was referred to as "nomadic in spirit," and his life's work is a virtual travelogue of his voyages.[112] Or, as Antony Anderson put it, "Yesterday in France, today in California, tomorrow in Canada among the Rockies -- that's Payne's life, and he travels, of course, with plenty of fresh paints and clean brushes at hand."[113]

Payne was indeed peripatetic. A native of Missouri who had little formal art training, he arrived in California during the summer of 1911. As he worked in and around the Laguna Beach area, the significance of his presence was noted by one critic:

He will return to Chicago in a few weeks, bringing with him the spoils of his happy labor.... He declares that he will come back next he feels sure that... he will be able to drum up enough recruits to charter a car for California next summer.... Come back Payne, and bring the others with you. There is plenty of room in California, for it's a big State in every way. [114]


Payne did return to California (another artist who seemed impervious to the supposed difficulties of travel), where he created his signature studies of the Sierra Mountains, such as Sierra Lake, c. 1930 (CAT. NO. 42). His Sierra mountains scenes touched a particularly patriotic note with individuals, one critic noting that "no artist in my newspaper career has brought home to me how little we appreciate our own country like Edgar Payne. I wonder if even those who have been preaching to us to 'see America first' have appreciated what marvels there are in our own country to see."[115] Payne was a "pack mule," a man who "loved the solitude of the mountains and the sea," and was willing to endure difficulties of reaching remote spots to capture their timeless beauty. Or, as Fred Hogue aptly remarked, Payne, among others, was memorializing the majesty of a landscape in the threes of impending changes:


A score of landscapists and genre painters are writing the contemporary history of the first half of the twentieth century in Southern California. The groves they paint will disappear. The Laguna of today will not be that of tomorrow. The encroachments of trade and commerce will destroy the primitive beauty of some of the enchanted spots in the Southland; and the generations which come after will turn to these canvases as the records of a departed epoch. Progress, in some of its manifestations is deadly to art. [116]


Payne returned to Laguna in late 1917 after installing an enormous mural commission in Chicago. He and wife, Elsie, bought and remodeled a studio home. Unhappy with the town's lack of an exhibition space, Payne had a vision for creating a gallery in Laguna Beach that inspired the foundation for an art association, established in 1918, with Payne serving as its first president. When the Art Association began to consider building a permanent structure, Payne brought his friend -- and member of the Old Lyme, Connecticut, art colony -- the artist Robert Vonnoh, to Laguna to speak about what had been achieved in Old Lyme.[117]

While Payne was living in Laguna, he continued to exhibit in the East and Midwest, at venues such as The Art Institute of Chicago (where he showed continually from 1909 to 1925). By 1922 he and his family had set off again on another journey -- this time to Europe. Traveling to France, Italy, Switzerland, and various other locations, Payne recorded the grandeur of the European Alps and the rustic intimacy of small Italian harbors. The Valley Village, 1923 (CAT. NO. 39) reminds the viewer of nature's scale, as the small village is nestled in the shadow of a snow-covered monolith. Sardine Boats, c. 1923 (CAT. NO. 40), a scene that speaks to the traditions of life on the sea, was a subject that Payne painted many times with great enthusiasm. One reviewer claimed that his "pictures of the fishermen's boats of Brittany and Italy are the last word in glowing, shimmering color."[118] When he returned from abroad in 1925, he exhibited his European scenes at Stendahl Art Galleries, Los Angeles, among other places in the country.

By 1928 Payne was listed in the records of the National Academy of Design with a New York address, and Antony Anderson reported in 1929 that the artist was off to Canada.[119] During the 1930s and 1940s, Payne maintained a studio in Los Angeles, but continued to travel and exhibit throughout the United States. A wanderer -- entranced by California, but lured by the siren call of other landscapes -- he was able to integrate myriad experiences into a long and successful career.

A critic who was reviewing an Edgar Payne exhibition in the 1920s remarked that "a one-man show that comes post-haste all the way from Rome is an innovation even for Los Angeles, where we buy 'Blue Boy' pictures for a million dollars without the bat of an eye and sell our own native products for $10,000 a piece, with the same easy western nonchalance."[120] Interestingly enough, a parallel situation exists between the critic's description of the atmosphere that financially favored European work over American work, and the observation that today, in spite of what we know about artists working in California, a painting by Childe Hassam is generally valued at more than ten times that of a similar work by Guy Rose (see page 19). An elitist prejudice against American painting has kept it devalued in relation to European art. A similar kind of myopic vision eventually resulted in a bias against "California" artists, as opposed to their more highly regarded Eastern colleagues. The challenge is now to break these artificial barriers, and to understand California Impressionist painters within the greater sum of American Impressionism, and not as just one of its unequal parts.

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