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

Franz Bischoff

2011/05/16 § Leave a comment

Franz  Bischoff

The California Colorist

California Art Club Founder

by Jeffrey Morseburg

Franz Arthur Bischoff (1864-1929) was one of the most innovative colorists of the early Southland painters. Even his smallest plein-air studies reveal the dynamic range of his palette and his unusual color choices. Bischoff’s landscapes featured fluid, expressive brushwork with dabs of intense color applied in an almost mosaic-like fashion- perhaps an outgrowth of his background in china decoration.

Bischoff arrived in the Southland as a successful ceramic artisan and floral watercolorist, but there is no evidence that the forty-two-year-old artist painted landscapes before he arrived in California. His California landscapes seemed to be an organic response to the beauty of the land and the influence of the California painters who befriended him. Although he continued to paint his richly colored florals for patrons in Los Angeles, he dedicated his last fifteen years of his life to the California landscape.

Franz Bischoff was born in Stein Schonau, a small town in Bohemia, then part of the large Austro-Hugarian Empire. When he was twelve, Bischoff began his apprenticeship in the ceramics trade. At eighteen, he went to the cultural capital of Vienna for a more formal education in ceramics, watercolor paintings, and applied design.

In 1885, Bischoff sailed for America, joining the massive wave of immigration from middle Europe. Initially, he found employment as a china decorator in New York. Later he moved to Pittsburg and then to Fostoria, Ohio. In 1890 he married Bertha Greenwald, and after they started a family, the Bischoff moved to Detroit, Michigan, where Franz opened his own school and studio. He began to build a national reputation for his richly painted vases and plates, usually decorated with roses.

Franz Bischoff - Emerald Cove - Private Collection

Although Bischoff first visited Los Angeles in 1900 and purchased a lot in South Pasadena in 1905, the family didn’t move to Southern California until 1906. In 1908, he built and impressive home and studio along the Arroyo Seco in South Pasadena. Bischoff exhibited his florals and landscapes in his studio gallery and began to build a following for his work in Southern California. In 1909, he helped to form the California Art Club and participated in its First Annual Exhibition in January of 1911. In the early years of his landscape career, Bischoff painted along the waterfront in San Pedro and down in the Arroyo near his Pasadena home, where he enjoyed the patterns of light and shadow. As the Bischoff family summered near Corona del Mar, he ventured down the coast to paint in Laguna Beach. Gradually, marine subjects became a significant part of his artistic ouvre.

Possibly inspired by the dramatic early works of Edgar Payne, Bischoff began painting in the Sierras, but his treatment of the subject was more expressively colorful than that of Payne’s. During the 1920’s he began to paint the central California coast near Cambria and Morro Bay. In the last phase of his career, Bischoff produced his most distinctive series of paintings, including large-scale compositions of Point Lobos and the Carmel Coast. After a last painting trip to Utah’s Zion Canyon in 1928 with the artist, Christopher Smith (1891 – 1948), the aging Bischoff passed away of heart failure in 1929.  Copyright 2001-2011, Jeffrey Morseburg, not to be reproduced without author’s specific written permission.