Charles Bradford Hudson

2011/05/27 § 1 Comment

"Wildflowers Along the Monterey Coast" by Charles Bradford Hudson

Charles Bradford Hudson

The Quiet Impressionist

by Jeffrey Morseburg

Charles Bradford Hudson (1865-1939) was a quiet painter.  While a number of his artistic comrades on the Monterey Peninsula were gregarious bohemians, he was content to let his art speak for itself.  Although Hudson was one of the first residents to adopt the broad palette of Impressionism for his landscapes, his approach reflected his precise, careful, scholarly nature.  His paintings often focused on what may be best described as the quiet side of nature, the native flowers and grasses that grew in the sandy soil along the coast. His solidly structured compositions, elegant draftsmanship and exquisitely applied brushwork stand in stark contrast to the dramatic views of the windswept cliffs that many of his contemporaries painted.

Hudson was born in Oil Springs, Ontario, Canada, where his parents lived temporarily, and he grew up in Washington D.C..  His father was John Jay Hudson and his mother was Emma Little Hudson.  Hudson’s family had deep roots in America, descending from William Bradford, the Colonial Governor of Massachusetts.  Because his father was academically inclined, Hudson was a scholarly boy, fascinated by history, science and art.

Because education was important to his family, he took a degree at Washington’s Columbian University before moving to New York, where he studied at the Art Students League under George DeForest Brush (1855-1941), famed for his Indian subjects and with Munich-trained William Merritt Chase (1849-1916).  In 1893, Hudson embarked for Paris, where he enrolled at the Academie Julian.  He studied at the private school under William Adophe Bouguereau (1825-1905), one of the great academic masters of the era.  Because Hudson was a talented and observant writer, he was able to pay for his art education by serving as a correspondent for the Atlantic, one of America’s premier intellectual publications.  By the time he left Europe, Hudson’s work had developed to the point where it would later be included in the International Exposition in Bergen, Norway in 1898 and the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900, with his work earning a silver medal in each fair.

When Hudson returned from Europe he began a career in illustration, providing pictures for national magazines and books.  Two of the books that he illustrated were “The Forging of the Sword” and other poems by Juan Lewis in 1892 and “A Ranch on the Oxhide.”   He also continued writing articles for periodicals like Cosmopolitan and the Atlantic.. Hudson married Christine Schmidt (1869-1972) in 1893 and the following year they had a son, Lester J. Hudson (1894-1974), but the relationship didn’t last.

"Spanish Bay" by Charles Bradford Hudson

Hudson had always been interested in the natural world, and he found a second calling by painting illustrations of fish and animals for scientific publications.  He illustrated a scholarly work on the preparation of specimens for display in 1891.   Because of the quality of his work and his dedication, Hudson was hired to go on expeditions funded by the Bureau of Fisheries.  On trips to the Caribbean, the Great Lakes, the rivers of California and the Pacific Coast, he would paint examples of fish as they were caught and identified.

Hudson worked closely with the naturalist David Starr Jordon, first president of Stanford University, who wrote a number of scholarly works on fish with Dr. Barton W. Everman of the Bureau of Fisheries.  On a trip to Hawaii with Jordon the artist met a young San Jose schoolteacher named Claire Grace Barnhisel, who was on her way to the islands to teach, and a romantic relationship blossomed between artist and teacher.  After working with Hudson on a number of scientific expeditions, Jordon described him as the world’s finest illustrator of marine life – someone who could combine accuracy and beauty – and some of the scholarly volumes they collaborated on are highly sought- after collector’s items today.

In 1898 Hudson put his illustrations, easel paintings and scientific collaboration on hold to join the ranks of volunteers for the Spanish-American War.  Commissioned as a lieutenant, he was sent to Cuba, participated in the victorious Siege of Santiago, and then served on the staff of Col. George H. Harries, who led the 1st District of Columbia Infantry.  Because the war was so short, the unit saw little action, but Hudson distinguished himself enough to be promoted to Captain, and many people referred to him as “Captain Hudson” for the rest of his life.

Hudson was introduced to the Monterey Peninsula through his scientific work, for even then the region was famous for the incredible variety of marine and mammalian species that populated its shores and sea. The artist was drawn to the area purchasing a home in Pacific Grove, where he brought his new wife Claire after their marriage in December of 1903.  Once settled in the coastal hamlet, Hudson began to paint scenes of the sand dunes and flora of the peninsula as well as the ocean, often with the subtle effects of the setting sun.  He exhibited at the Del Monte Art Gallery in Monterey, with the local art organizations and sent paintings north to exhibitions at the Bohemian Club and at Gump’s,  the antique dealer in San Francisco.

After moving to the Peninsula, Hudson came to love and romanticize the days of the “Californios,” as the residents of Alta California called themselves before the Americans gained control of the state in 1848.  In 1915 he did an article for Sunset Magazine titled “California on the Etching Plate” where he wrote wistfully about the days of the Carmel Mission and the Monterey Presidio.  Hudson illustrated the article with etchings of some of the historic adobes of the peninsula.  Because of his historical interest in early days of Monterey, he became an early preservationist list and an advocate for the timeless Spanish methods of building.

Fortunately, Hudson’s interest in historic preservation was passed onto his children. His oldest son, Lester, lived in Washington D.C., but spent summers with his father in California.  While on vacation at one point he met a local girl, Margret MacMillian Allen, who became his wife. The Allens were enlightened ranchers who owned a large parcel of land south of Carmel, which included the dramatic cliffs and bays of Point Lobos.  During and after his long and distinguished naval career, Admiral Hudson and his wife were active in preservation efforts and instrumental in the Allen family’s deeding Point Lobos to the state of California.

Cover of Hudson's book, "The Crimson Conquest"

Settled in his cozy home and studio near the Asilomar resort, Hudson wrote two books, “The Crimson Conquest” (1906) which was a romanticized telling of Pizzaro’s conquest of Peru and “The Royal Outlaw” (1917) a novel for young adults on the biblical story of King David.  He continued to write magazine articles and during World War I he wrote a analysis on German militarism for the New York Times Magazine.

After the San Francisco Earthquake the entire city had to be rebuilt, and one of the last major structures to be completed was the San Francisco Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.  Hudson painted some of the large murals that served as the backdrops for the dioramas featuring mounted specimens of the animals of the coast and islands of California.  When the academy finally opened in 1916, Hudson’s work was highly praised and remains on display today.

When the Carmel Art Association was formed in 1927, Hudson became a member, and he continued painting into his 60s, even as the artistic elite turned their back on the traditionalist painters.  In 1939, the year of the artist’s death, San Francisco hosted the Golden Gate International Exposition. Held twenty-four years after the Panama-Pacific Exposition, this was the San Francisco’s second World’s Fair, and Charles Bradford Hudson’s works were included.

Hudson’s works are rarely on the market, as many remain in the collections of his distinguised family. His artistic oeuvre includes scenes of Monterey, Carmel, Asilomar, the southern California coast an the Mojave Desert, all beautifully painted and subtly colored.  An in-depth biography of Charles Bradford Hudson is being perpared by scientist Victor G. Springer of the Smithsonian Institution and author Kristin Murphy. This book will cover his life, artistic and literary accomlishments and numerous contributions to science.

The Two-Fisted Impressionism of Edgar Payne

2011/05/18 § Leave a comment

"Rugged Slopes and Tamarack" by Edgar Payne

Edgar Alwyn Payne

From the High Sierras to Laguna Beach

by Jeffrey Morseburg

Edgar Payne  (1882-1947) was a California Plein-air Painter who worked in a highly masculine, two-fisted style that is instantly recognizable.  He was a prolific artist who is best known for “signature works” of the high mountain lakes of California’s Sierra Nevada, with their cool, sparkling pools kept in shadow by the glaciered peaks. He was almost as well known for his scenes of the California Southland, European fishing boats and paintings of the Navajos in the red-rocked canons of Arizona and New Mexico which are all highly prized by collectors.

"Breton Tuna Boats" by Edgar Payne

Edgar Alwyn Payne was born in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri and he struck out on his own at the age of fourteen.  He was always artistically talented and he worked as an itinerant house painter, sign painter and set painter for traveling theatrical productions.  While Payne is generally regarded as self-taught, he actually had some formal education during his travels at the Art Institute of Chicago and in Dallas, Texas.  He made his first trip to California in 1909, painting in Laguna Beach and visiting in San Francisco where he met Elsie Palmer, an artist who became his wife in Chicago in 1912.  In 1917 the Paynes left the Midwest for good, traveling west to Glendale, California where Edgar worked on a vast mural for the Congressional Hotel.  In 1918 the Paynes settled in Laguna where they established a studio and Edgar Payne became the founder and first President of the Laguna Art Association, which is now the Laguna Museum of Art.  Payne began painting extensively in the Sierras and within a short time he was indelibly associated with this chain of dramatic peaks, the backbone of California.  While Payne became a pillar of Laguna’s artistic community, he never stopped traveling, spending some winters in and around New York City and then traveling in Europe for two years. The Great Depression were hard years for artists and even in the twilight of his career, Payne was forced to teach to pay the bills. In an attempt to pass his hard-won knowledge on to younger generations of painters, the aging wrote The Composition of Outdoor Painting, which was published in 1941.    Copyright 2001-2011, Jeffrey Morseburg, not to be reproduced without author’s specific written permission. 

"Sentinels of the Coast" by Edgar Payne

The Decorative Impressionism of Richard E. Miller

2011/05/18 § Leave a comment

"The Pool" by Richard E. Miller

Richard E. Miller

The Decorative Impressionism of the Giverny School

National Academy of Design

California Art Club

by Jeffrey Morseburg

Although Richard Edward Miller (1875-1943) only spent a short time in California, his distinctive painting style and teaching appointment at Pasadena’s Stickney’s School influenced younger southland painters.  Miller’s works are characterized by a strong decorative element. Although he was a member of the art colony that sprang up around Claude Monet in Giverny, Miller never fully rejected the academic principles he learned in Paris and dissolved form into color and light. He never abandoned formal pictorial elements, favored compositions centered on beautiful women who are lost in thought and are dramatically back-lit by intense sunlight streaming through French doors.

Strongly influenced by James Whistler and the Aesthetic Movement, Miller rejected the Victorian-age emphasis on narrative content and worked instead at conveying what he described as a ‘pleasant optical sensation.’ Miller’s were never haphazard arrangements of elements that he painted alla-prima- they were carefully composed. Miller once said, “Atmosphere and color are never permanent. Paint won’t remain the same color forever. But the design will stay. And that is the creative part of it.” As artistic styles changed, Miller never strayed from his conviction that art was about ‘the creation of beauty.’

The artist Richard E. Miller

Richard Miller was born in the waterfront city of St. Louis in 1875. He grew up in a culturally rich environment  and bean painting seriously at an early age. Initially, Miller worked as a helper for the portrait painter, George  Eichbaum and received encouragement from his neighbor, ,Oscar Berninghaus (1874 – 1952).

Despite his father’s reluctance, Miller enrolled at the School of Fine Arts at Washington University. He studied at the St. Louis School with Edmund H. Wuerpel (1866 – 1958), a tonalist painter who had recently returned from France. To support himself during his studies, Miller worked as as commercial artist. Concluding his St. Louis studies in 1897, he saved money and sailed for Paris in 1899 with a scholarship in hand.

Like many other American artists, Miller went to the Parisian art capital to build on the knowledge he had obtained in the United States. First, he enrolled at the private Academie Julian, where he studied under Jean-Paul Laurens (1838 – 1921) and Benjamin Constant (1845 – 1902). After a year of study ‘working from the nude,’ Miller had a painting accepted at the Salon and won a third place medal.

"Sunlight" by Richard E. Miller

Miller struggled financially in Paris and even returned to St. Louis to teach for a year between 1901 and 1902. Back in Paris, Miller came under the spell of Whistler, whom he admired for his emphasis on design, his tonal and color harmonies and the eccentric painter’s ‘art for art’s sake’ ideal. Like Whistler, the young St. Louis painter was influenced by the simple sophistication of Japanese prints. Miller’s early French works exhibit these influences with their beautiful quality of line and quiet tonalities.

As me matured, Miller began to explore more dynamic color relationships. His works became bolder, though still harmonious, with a bravura brushwork that may show the influence of the Spanish artist, Joaquin Sorolla (1863 – 1923). By 1907, Miller had become a member of the Giverny colony of American Impressionists, where his friends and fellow artists, Guy Rose and Lawton Parker (1860 – 1954), had settled. Miller reached his mature style in Giverny, adopting a flatter, even more decorative approach to the figure.

Miller and his Giverny friend, Frederick Frieseke (1874 – 1939) , had a triumphant exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 1909. Miller’s rich, colorful paintings, with their exotic fabrics, found a steady market in America. He taught at the Academie Colarossi in Paris and sent paintings back to New York galleries. Like many other painters, Miller was driven home by the outbreak of World War I, when his career was at his peak.

"Cafe de Nuit" by Richard E. Miller

Back in America and at loose ends, Miller painted portraits and served on an Advisory Committee for the Panama-Pacific Exposition and was elected to the National Academy. He joined his friend, Guy Rose, in Pasadena, where they taught at the Stickney School. Miller had great difficulty in finding a studio to paint in, so he borrowed that of Eva Scott Fenyes (1846 – 1930), the present site of the Pasadena Historical Society and Museum. At the Fenyes mansion, Miller painted several characteristic works, some featuring the estate’s lush gardens and fountain.

Miller put down roots in Provincetown, Massachusetts, a picturesque fishing village on Cape Cod, where many other painters had already settled. He became a leader of the more traditionally minded art community in Provincetown, as well as one of its most sought after teachers Miller returned to France briefly, but remained in Provincetown for the rest of his career, returning to the nude and a series of naturalistic portraits late in his career. He died in Cape Cod in 1943.  Copyright 2001-2011, Jeffrey Morseburg, not to be reproduced without author’s specific written permission.

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