Benjamin Chambers Brown

2011/06/02 § 1 Comment

Brown's "Laguna Vista" is at the Laguna Beach Museum of Art

Benjamin Chambers Brown

Dean of Pasadena Painters

By Jeffrey Morseburg

Benjamin Chambers Brown (1865-1942) was known as ‘The Dean of Pasadena Painters.’ He was one of the leaders of Pasadena’s artistic and intellectual community for more than forty years and a vital figure in Southland art.  Brown’s earliest works exhibit the influence of the tonalist aesthetic, but soon after settling in California he adopted the painterly brushwork and chromatic palette of Impressionism.

Benjamin Brown was born in Marion, Arkansas, and he received his initial training at the St. Louis School of Fine Art. Trained in photography, Brown made his first trip west in 1885. He sketched in and around Los Angeles, but returned to St. Louis, unable to make a living in Southern California, which then has a very small circle of collectors and a lack of exhibition venues. Brown then sailed for Paris, where he studied for a year at the Academie Julian.

After he arrived back in St. Louis he struggled to build a following for his still-lifes until he and his family moved west to Pasadena, arriving in the San Gabriel Valley around 1895.  In his early years in the Southland he painted with the limited palette and closely-related values of Tonalism, but as Impressionism took hold in California, his palette brightened and his brushwork loosened. Brown took on students in order to augment his income from art sales and one of them was Eva Scott Fenyes (1846-1920). Both Benjamin Chambers Brown and his younger brother Howell Brown, who concentrated on printmaking, maintained a long friendship with Eva Scott Fenyes (1896 – 1930), the amateur watercolorist and one of Pasadena’s most important patron of the arts.

Brown's San Bernardo Mountains

Brown was a tall, gaunt man with an eccentric personality.   He was a gentle soul and like his brother Howell, he was a lifelong bachelor and the siblings lived with their mother until her death. The Brown home was the site of artistic discussions and hosted a salon for Pasadena intellectuals. The Brown brothers were founders of the California Society of Printmakers and helped popularize the graphic arts in Southern California. Like John Gamble (1863 – 1957) and his friend, Granville Redmond (1871-1935), Benjamin C. Brown’s paintings of California poppies became popular with collectors. At the turn of the century, the spring rains would bring bright fields of poppies to the Altadena meadows above Pasadena. Brown only had to venture a short distance from his home to paint the swaying eucalyptus and golden poppies.

Brown was also one of the founders of the California Art Club, which helped to popularize the Impressionist style in Southern California and he served as its President from 1915 to 1916.  Later in their lives, the Brown brothers made extended trips to Europe and North Africa, where they painted and sketched. In California, he painted frequently along the coast- in Yosemite and the high Sierras. Brown also traveled east to the desert near Palm Springs to paint, a favorite spot for many San Gabriel Valley painters. The elderly Pasadena artist continued to paint and make prints through the years of the Great Depression and died in Pasadena in 1942.  Copyright 2001-2011, Jeffrey Morseburg, not to be reproduced without the specific written permission of the author.

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 Artistic Atmosphere of Sam Hyde Harris

2011/05/18 § Leave a comment

"Carmel Vista" 16" x 20" Oil on Board

Sam Hyde Harris

The Atmosphere of the Southland

California Art Club

by Jeffrey Morseburg

Sam Hyde Harris (1889-1978) was one of the best-known artists of the San Gabriel Valley – the painters who lived beneath Mt. Wilson and the peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains, northeast of Los Angeles. He is best known for his works of the 1920s and 1930s – paintings that are alive with the unique atmosphere of Los Angeles.  Harris had the ability to capture the morning overcast that enveloped the local foothills, the layer of smoke and dust that the Santa Ana winds bring to the arid valleys of the Southland. However, he was equally adept at capturing the rustic beauty of the Carmel Peninsula or the Laguna Coast, where the sun plays “hide and seek” with the mist and clouds.  Harris was known for works that were memorably composed and that had a clear, crisp, but limited palette that honestly portrayed the conditions he found out-of-doors.  He believed in verisimilitude, in recording the truth of what he saw in the desert, mountains and coasts of his beloved California.

Sam Hyde Harris was born in Middlesex, England in 1889, but immigrated to the United States with his family in 1904. His speech bore traces of his British origins the rest of his life. Harris was so artistically gifted that he began working as a commercial artist as a teenager, and he carried a letter of recommendation from his British employer when he settled in Los Angeles at the age of fifteen. He was an industrious young man and he worked as a sign painter, designer and commercial artist for different firms before opening his own studio in 1914.

Although the young immigrant was already a successful commercial artist, he wanted to be a fine artist and master the depiction of the rugged land that was new to him, so he enrolled in classes at the Los Angeles Art Students League and the Canon Art School, where he studied with the Impressionist painters Frank Tolles Chamberlin (1873-1961) and Hanson Duvall Puthuff  (1875-1972), and the early modernist Stanton McDonald-Wright (1890-1973).  Harris began working with Puthuff in 1906 and the two became life-long friends and comrades, traveling all over California in pursuit of the highly atmospheric moods that they loved the challenge of capturing.

While Harris was designing the orange crate labels that became a symbol of the good life in California to beleaguered citrus lovers in colder climes and his beautifully composed promotional posters for the Union Pacific and Santa Fe Railroads, he gained confidence in his easel paintings and began exhibiting his plein-air works.  His first recorded exhibition was in 1920 with the California Art Club and for the rest of his life, he exhibited with great regularity.

In addition to painting with Hanson Puthuff, Harris also traveled and painted with Jean Mannheim (1862-1945) and Edgar Payne (1883-1947).  In contrast to many of his fellow artists, Harris also liked to paint urban landscapes and he did many paintings of the old farms of the San Gabriel Valley as well as the east side of Los Angeles.  He did some wonderfully atmospheric paintings of the old barrios of Chavez Ravine, where Dodger Stadium was eventually built, and the finest of these works is in the collection of the O’Malley family, who owned the Dodgers and brought them to Los Angeles.

"Autumn, La Quinta" 25" x 30" Oil on Canvas

In the 1930s Harris began painting the waterfronts of Newport Beach, San Pedro,  Sunset Beach and even San Diego.  Most of these works depicted anchored boats and the lazy waterfront in the morning overcast.  As the years progressed he fell in love with the desert, traveling east to the low desert around Indio and Palm Springs in the company of other painters like Jimmy Swinnerton (1875-1974), Jack Wilkinson Smith, and Victor Matson (1895-1972).  In his later years, Harris altered his technique and his work became harder edged and more economical, but he maintained the same emphasis on capturing the unique light and atmosphere of the area he was painting.

Harris was part of the small Alhambra art colony that had developed around Champion Place, at the east end of San Gabriel Valley community of Alhambra, hard against the old wash that carried water from the mountains during the rainy season.  The group of Alhambra artists included the painter and cartoonist Clyde Forsyth (1885-1962), the western painter Frank Tenney Johnson (1888-1939), Jack Wilkinson Smith (1873-1949), and the sculptor Eli Harvey (1860-1957). Famed illustrator Norman Rockwell was a summer resident.  Harris lived near Champion Place on Hidalgo Street, but took over Jack Smith’s old “Artist’s Alley” studio in 1949.

Harris was one of the few major California plein-air painters who lived into the 1970s, and only a few years after his passing his work began to be rediscovered along with that of his friends and comrades in the California Impressionist movement.  In 1980 Harris was the subject of one of the first retrospective exhibitions devoted to a California Plein-Air painter, when the much-missed Peterson Galleries in Beverly Hills mounted an exhibition curated by the art historian Jean Stern.

Sam Hyde Harris was a member of the seminal California Art Club, the Painters and Sculptors Club and the Laguna Beach Art Association.  During his long career he won many awards at major exhibitions.  His work is in the collections of virtually every major institution that collects California Impressionism, including the Irvine Museum and Fleisher Collection as well as major private collections across the United States.  He was the subject of a major retrospective at the Pasadena Museum of History in 2007 and 2008 and a large book was produced to accompany the exhibition.  Copyright, 2010-2011, Jeffrey Morseburg, not to be reproduced without author’s express written permission.

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.

William Wendt: The Sculpted Landscape

2011/05/18 § 1 Comment

"Verdant Hills" by William Wendt

William Wendt

The Founding Father of California Impressionism

Founder and President of the California Art Club

by Jeffrey Morseburg

In the history of California Impressionism, William Wendt (1865-1946) was the one indispensable figure. Because of the quality of his bold, masculine landscapes and his many abilities as a leader, the art scene in southern California coalesced around the figure of the quiet, sober German immigrant.  William Wendt’s mature style reduced the elements that he saw in nature to broad forms. His short, vigorous brushstrokes gave a heroic solidity to the hills and rocky outcroppings that he favored in his work.

Wendt’s works were rarely panoramic, for he liked to get close to paint. When he painted a hill near Laguna Beach or Morro Bay, the size of it in relation to the size of the composition gave the image an iconic quality. It was this ‘big picture’ approach of Wendt’s that made his the artist that eastern or western viewers thought of when the considered the California landscape.

Wendt was a deeply religious man and his love of nature was reflected in each and every painting, and a number of his works were given religious titles. With little deviation, Wendt took his compositions directly from what he saw on location. He was not one who felt he could ‘improve’ on what God created. The ‘style’ that we know him for today was not a labored attempt at finding a mannered way to paint but the natural outgrowth of his unique artistic voice.

"Creeping Shadows" by William Wendt

William Wendt was born in Bentzen, Prussia, in 1865- soon to be a part of the re-unified Germany. He attended rural schools and worked unhappily as a cabinet-maker’s apprentice before immigrating to America at the age of fifteen. Wendt joined an uncle in Chicago, where he attended school and began working as a commercial artist.

With only a few evening classes at the Art Institute of Chicago for formal training, Wendt began painting out-of-doors in his spare time. His earliest works was in the tonalist style, then favored by leading American painters. In 1893, he won the Yerkes prize in the Annual Society of Chicago Artists Exhibition, an event that helped launch his professional career.

Wendt made extended painting trips to California with fellow painter, George Gardner Symons (1862 – 1930) in 1894 and 1896. At the request of the Rindge family, he painted a series of canvases on Rancho Malibu in 1897. In 1899, he held an impressive show of his works of California in conjunction with its 12th Annual Exhibition.

"Vibrant Spring" by William Wendt

It was clear that Wendt had fallen in love with the California landscape, but it was not until 1906 that he put down his roots in southern California, purchasing Elmer and Marion Wachtel’s home in the Highland Park district. He brought his new bride, the sculptor, Julia Bracken Wendt (1871 – 1992), home with him to California. Wendt forged a successful career in the Golden State and was one of the few California artists to build a following in the Midwest and the east.

Wendt was instrumental in the founding of the California Art Club, the organization most responsible for the dissemination of the Impressionist aesthetic in southern California. He served as president for six terms, a record in the early years of the organization. Wendt opened his Laguna Beach studio I 1912 and helped form the Laguna Beach Art Association eight years later. It was Wendt’s skill and reputation that helped popularize plein-air Impressionism in California eighty years ago, and he remains its most original voice today.  Copyright, 2001-2011,Jeffrey Morseburg, not to be reproduced without author’s specific written permission.

The Silence and Solitude of Granville Redmond

2011/05/18 § Leave a comment

Granville Redmond - Sunset Through the Trees - Private Collection

Granville Richard Seymour Redmond

From Silence and Solitude to Sunlit Poppies

by Jeffrey Morseburg

Rendered deaf and speechless by scarlet fever at age three, Granville Redmond (1871-1935) communicated with the world through the visual language of his art. Although he was personally drawn to ‘pictures of silence and solitude,’ his Barbizon inspired landscapes did not reach the same heights of popularity that his colorful paintings of California poppy fields achieved.

Redmond’s early works were moody depictions of the southern California landscape. Gradually his palette brightened and his work became more painterly as he came under the spell of Impressionism. Many of Redmond’s mid-life works were painterly, with brighter colors, but they remained part of the tonalist aesthetic. In the final stages of his career, the artist’s palette became intensely colorful, and he relied on a surface that was thick with impasto, giving his paintings a decidedly post-Impressionistic quality.

Granville Redmond in his studio

Granville Redmond was born in Philadelphia in 1871. The Redmond family moved to San Jose, California, and shortly thereafter, they enrolled Granville in the California School for the Deaf in Berkeley. His teacher, a naturalist named Theophilus Hope d’Estrella, recognized Granville’s artistic talent and saw to it that the boy received the encouragement he deserved.

After his graduation from the school for the Deaf in 1890, he was awarded funds to attend California School of Design, where he studied under Arthur Matthews, a leader in the Northern California Arts and Crafts movement. In 1893 another scholarship allowed him to venture to Paris, where he attended the Academie Julian, rooming with the deaf sculptor, Douglas Tilden.

In 1895, Redmond had the distinction of having his huge painting, Matin d’Hiver, accepted to the Paris Salon, an impressive feat for a young American painter. In 1898, he returned to California, settling in Los Angeles, where he met and married a deaf woman, Carrie Ann Jean.

"Nocturne" by Granville Redmond

In Los Angeles, Redmond lived in the Highland Park area and painted with Elmer Wachtel and Norman St. Clair. Established in southern California, he began to forge a career as a painter and gained a reputation for his landscapes. In 1908, Redmond moved bacck north where he often painted with Xavier Martinez (1816 – 1943) and his old friend from the School of Design, Gottardo Piazzoni (1872 – 1945).

Because of his deafness, Redmond was gifted in the art of pantomime and he utilized his skill to garner work in the silent film industry. Redmond developed a friendship with the famous actor, Charlie Chaplin, who learned pantomime routines from the deaf painter, and used Redmond in some of his films. In addition, Chaplin gave Redmond a studio in which to paint that was located on the movie studio lot. He painted throughout southern California, from the Laguna surf to the poppy fields in the high desert. Redmond’s usual sensitivity to nature is evident in every work, whether it is a luminous painting of the surf lit by the moon, a quiet pol in the late afternoon, or the hills of poppies and lupine for which collectors still clamor. Copyright 2001-2011, Jeffrey Morseburg, 2001-2011, not to be reproduced without author’s specific written permission.

"Lifting Nature's Veil" by Granville Redmond

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