Welcome to the William A. Karges Fine Art Blog

Welcome to the William A. Karges Fine Art Blog, where you'll be able to find information about Early California Paintings, including Museum Exhibitions, Current News, Events, and our gallery's new acquisitions of original paintings created between 1870 and 1940 by a wide variety of Early California Artists. We'll feature biographies, photographs, links to websites of interest to collectors, video tours, and detailed histories of some of California's most influential and intriguing artists.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Secret Life of Marion Kavanaugh Wachtel


The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.”
- Francis Bacon

The curse of the art historian is to be forever asking questions. Where? When? How? But every so often (and generally at the most frustrating moment), we find ourselves faced with an informational hollow, a query to which there are no search results. Such it is with the enigmatic painter whom the world has come to know as Marion Kavanagh Wachtel.


Marion Kavanaugh Wachtel

Records on the artist’s exhibition history, educational background, family, and ouvre are fairly extensive; information on her personal life, however, is not. We know that in 1904, Ms. Kavanaugh added the surname Wachtel – an understandable consequence of her marriage to fellow artist, Elmer Wachtel. Following her wedding, however, Marion chose another, somewhat more enigmatic name-change: she abandoned the fourth vowel in Kavanaugh, and it became the middle-name, Kavanagh. Scholarship on exactly what precipitated this latter change is sparse, though the move was not without precedent. Six years earlier, soon-to-be-renowned artist Granville Redmond changed his name from Grenville in a similarly befuddling move. Whether these subtle rebrandings affected the artists’ respective rises to prominence is unknown.




The events surrounding the meeting of Marion and Elmer are the matter of some debate, as well. The prevailing theory states that the two were introduced through renowned Dusseldorf-cum-Barbizon School painter, William Keith. By the turn of the century, Keith had long since established himself as a leading California landscape artist – so well known, in fact, that he was referred to as the “Dean of California painters.” It makes sense, then, that he was well acquainted with East Coast transplant and emerging Southern California landscapist, Elmer Wachtel.

Marion, for her part, had spent the last decade immersed in her painting. She studied under William Merritt Chase at the Art Institute of Chicago, taught courses for her alma mater, and traveled the Santa Fe Railway on a commission to illustrate the quintessential American Southwest. By the turn of the century she was widely regarded as one of the nation’s premier watercolorists – renowned for her bold tonalism and technical precision.

"Indian Summer" - SOLD

In late 1903, as the story goes, Marion was in San Francisco to exhibit landscapes depicting an area surrounding the estate of wealthy patron and entrepreneur, Elwood Cooper. Her pieces were well received, positively reviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle, and garnered the artist a measure of positive attention in the Bay Area. It is here that the artist came to the attention of the aforementioned Keith – and here that the general consensus among historians diverges.

One story says that Marion was studying directly under Keith for some period of time in San Francisco. Lacking definite bibliographic evidence, some will venture no further than to say that the two knew each other in passing. Those that assert the more intimate relationship go on to say that it is Keith who referred Marion to Elmer, the latter residing in LA at the time. Still others posit that it was of her own volition that Marion traveled to Southern California where she encountered the charming Elmer.  


  
"Santa Paula" - SOLD

Whichever story is true, it so happened that in 1904 Marion wed Elmer, and the two began their artistic lives together in Southern California. The couple settled in the Arroyo Seco near Pasadena. For the next 25 years, they would travel the region, painting the landscape as they saw it – Marion in watercolor, Elmer in oil. Marion became famous for her immaculate, deliberate washes; her vivid descriptions of the California landscape. Together with Elmer, their work was highly sought after and exhibited around the country, from San Francisco to Chicago to New York.

Though Marion received critical acclaim in her own right, watercolor as a medium was at the time still viewed as subordinate to oil (it isn’t until the 1920s that watercolor gained wide acceptances as high art). It is an interesting question, then, why an artist such as Marion – so renowned for her technical prowess – never sought the accolades afforded the medium of oil.

Although the official record on the matter is scant, historians are nothing if not happy to speculate.

It has been proposed that Marion refused to paint in oil out of deference to her husband, Elmer. Perhaps presaging the tumultuous relationship of Jackson Pollack and Lee Krasner in the mid-20th century, she was happy to avoid comparison and inevitable competition with her artist husband. This analysis gains credence through the events following Elmer’s death in 1929. For several years afterward, Marion was unable to bring herself to paint at all. When she finally picked up a brush in the early 1930s, she burst onto the scene with something the art community never expected: paintings in oil.


"Sierra Scene" - SOLD

In addition to a change in media, her palette brightened considerably. Whether this change was an homage to her late husband, or a personal expression that could only find voice after his death, remains a mystery.

Marion continued to paint and exhibit, both in watercolor and in oil, until her death in 1954. To this day, the truth behind her personal story remains largely obscured. Who was this enigmatic artist, really?

The work of Marion Kavanagh Wachtel is held in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum, the Irvine Museum, the Orange County Museum, the Santa Fe Railway Co., and the LA County Museum of Natural History.


Rob Pierce
William A. Karges Fine Art


For more information on Marion Kavanagh Wachtel, including available canvases, please visit us online at www.kargesfineart.com, or email the author at rob@kargesfineart.com








   

Thursday, March 21, 2013

"Granville Redmond - Color and Silence" by Rob Pierce


    The year is 1918. A hand-cranked projector rolls, flickering black and white, as the bawdy owner of the Green Lantern grabs one of his girls and tosses her into a crowd of revelers. “If you smile and wink, they’ll buy a drink,” reads the title card. The actor plays the part with gesticulating aplomb. And, indeed, there’s a reason why this particular man is so well suited to the silent medium: He is completely unable to speak.

    The film is Charlie Chaplain’s A Dog’s Life, and the loathsome dance hall owner is none other than California’s Impressionist laureate, Granville Redmond. While short lived, the artist’s foray into silent film is notable, as it demonstrates the multiplicity that Redmond exhibited in his artistic career – moving freely between French Barbizon inspired Tonalism and the bright, high-key color of California Impressionism. The latter style would lead to Redmond’s status as one of the most coveted (and collected) of Early California painters. Today, the paintings of Granville Redmond are found in private collections, universities, and museums up and down the California coast and across the globe. Though he would reach the top echelons of the American art world, the path to Redmond’s uncommon success was marked by uncommon hardship.

    On March 9th, 1871, Charles and Elizabeth Redmond gave birth to healthy baby boy, whom they named Grenville Richard Seymour Redmond. Sadly – though perhaps fortuitously, from an art historical perspective – young Grenville contracted scarlet fever at the age of two, rendering him completely and irreparably deaf. As a result, Redmond lost the capacity for speech, a condition which would endure for his entire life. In 1874, the family moved to the Bay Area, and the boy was enrolled in the California School for the Deaf in Berkeley, one of the nation’s most renowned institutions for the hearing impaired. Redmond excelled in his classes, both academically and socially, but it was in the arts that he truly shone.  


    Under the instruction of artist Theophilus D'Estrella, he developed a keen eye for light and color, and a particular love of the outdoors and the en plein air method, which was coming into fashion among the burgeoning California art scene. It’s difficult to say to what degree Redmond’s hearing impairment influenced his art. But whatever the cause, he found himself immediately attracted to the subtle gradations and quiet isolation of the Tonalist style. A significant and meaningful part of his oeuvre that would follow him all of his life.

Granville Redmond - Grazing - SOLD

   At the encouragement of his instructors from the California School, Redmond enrolled at the San Francisco School of Design at the age of 16. It was here that he would meet perhaps the most significant instructor of his early artistic career – Director of the School of Design, Arthur Mathews, recognized by many art historians as the single most important figure in Early California painting. Mathews was responsible for the first artistic movement that can accurately be described as Californian: the eventually-termed California Decorative Style. Still, had it not been for this invention, his contribution to the arts would have been indisputable simply for his tutelage of many young Northern Californian artists.

   Even before graduating from the Academy of Design, Redmond began to receive critical acclaim. He won the W. E. Brown Medal of Excellence and a scholarship to continue his studies in Paris, the young artist’s lifelong dream. In 1893, he crossed the Pacific and enrolled at the Académie Julian, one of France’s most prestigious art schools. Here, under the professorship of such luminaries as Benjamin Constant and Jean Paul Laurenz, Redmond honed his craft. By now, he was focusing almost exclusively on exterior landscape compositions in the Tonalist style, and in 1895 his canvas, Matin d’Hiver, was accepted into the exclusive Paris Art Salon. 

    In 1898, Redmond returned to California and settled in Los Angeles. After years of study, he was finally ready to embark on his journey as a professional artist. Perhaps in response to his new state in life, Grenville Richard Seymour Redmond decided that a nom de pinceau was in order – and thus he dropped the foremost e in favor of an a, did away with his middle names altogether, and became simply Granville Redmond.

    Granville Redmond’s early professional career in Southern California is characterized by subtle Tonalist compositions, often landscapes and seascapes of Laguna Beach, Catalina Island, and San Pedro. 

     These early works exhibit quiet, almost solemn undertones – hinting at an artist who was at the same time both extremely sensitive and somehow conflicted. Additionally, Redmond completed a number of nocturnes during this time, tenebrous pastorals reminiscent of the work being produced in Northern California at the time. 

Granville Redmond - Moonlit Pond - SOLD

Granville Redmond - Night Sailing - SOLD

   It is in Los Angeles that Redmond would eventually meet Charlie Chaplain. The two would quickly become fast friends, trading techniques in pantomime and other non-verbal cues – one educated through a lifetime of silent observation, the other through a career on the silver screen. They got along so handsomely that not only did Chaplain invite Redmond to star in three of his feature films, but the actor also independently financed a studio for the artist on his film lot.

    In 1899, Granville married Carrie Ann Jean, herself a graduate from the Illinois School for the Deaf. Over the next several years, they would have three children together. By this time, Redmond was already garnering favorable reviews as a talented and thoughtful colorist in the LA art scene.

    But the artist was soon to explore a whole new method of composition, and in 1908 he packed up his family and moved north to Monterey, where his typically moody Tonalist landscapes began to change, becoming instead more expansive, idyllic, and colorful. 

Granville Redmond - California Landscape - SOLD

Two years later, the Redmond family moved again, this time to San Mateo, where Granville firmly rooted himself in the San Francisco art establishment. He took the critical world by storm with his sweeping visions of California landscapes, hillsides on fire with golden poppies and violet lupine.


Granville Redmond - California Poppies - SOLD

     The demand for his work exploded. For the next 25 years, Redmond traveled up and down the California coast – one of the few Early Californian artists to do so – capturing its quintessential light and color. His work matured, becoming more Impressionistic, even Pointillist, as he grew to become one of the West Coast’s foremost California Impressionists.

       He drew comparisons to France’s greatest masters – Monet, Matisse, Pisarro. And though collectors, artists, and patrons had an insatiable appetite for his vivid wildflower canvases, the artist never gave up his passion for his quiet, Tonalist compositions. For the rest of his life, Redmond would continue to paint his beloved, brooding nocturnes; subtle, grey pastorals; silent, solitary coastals – even as the demand for his Impressionistic landscapes continued to skyrocket.

Granville Redmond - Solitude - SOLD


Today, Granville Redmond is remembered as a master of both California Impressionism and California Tonalism. His work continues to be bought and sold around the world, publicly and privately, and every retrospective of seminal Californian art bears his name. His work is held in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, San Francisco’s de Young Museum, the Laguna Art Museum, Crocker Museum, Stanford University Museum, Oakland Museum, the Irvine Museum, the California School of the Deaf, Mills College – to name but a few.

Granville Redmond died on May 24, 1935 in Los Angeles. He was 63 years old.


Rob Pierce
William A. Karges Fine Art


For more information on Granville Redmond, including available canvases, please visit us online at kargesfineart.com, or email the author at rob@kargesfineart.com.




Thursday, August 2, 2012

Current Exhibitions at the Laguna Art Museum


Special note to our readers: The Laguna Art Museum has generously offered to provide two free pairs of day passes to their wonderful facility to the first and second readers who post their comments below.  We’ll contact those readers directly to request their mailing addresses so that the passes can be sent to them by the Museum.

Early California Art collectors and admirers won’t want to miss seeing the current exhibitions on display through October 7th, 2012 at the Laguna Art Museum:

Clarence Hinkle - photo credit: Laguna Art Museum

The first exhibit is a retrospective of the work of 20th century artist Clarence Hinkle, whose student, Millard Sheets, became one of the best known watercolorists in the Early California Art genre. To view additional examples of this artist’s work, click here  And, check out photographs of the exhibit of the museum's Flickr page here.


Modern Spirit - photo credit: Laguna Art Museum
The next exhibit not to be missed is titled “Modern Spirit and the Group of Eight”, which provides a fresh perspective on the art and culture of the 1920s in Los Angeles. Paintings by Mabel Alvarez, Clarence Hinkle, Henri De Kruif, JohnHubbard Rich, Donna Schuster, E. Roscoe Shrader, Edouard Vysekal, and Luvena Buchanan Vysekal provide a pictorial description of the Modernist Realist trend that was popular during that period in history.







Click here
  to view a very informative group of videos on the Laguna Art Museum’s YouTube channel about this exciting display of paintings.



Also currently on display, continuing through October 28th, 2012, is “Abstract Classicists”, a group of paintings from the museum’s permanent collection. The featured artists include Karl Benjamin, Lorser Feitelson, Frederick Hammersly, John McLaughlin, Florence Arnold and Helen Lundeberg.

"Bathers" by Lorser Feitelson 44 x 60 inches, currently available at Karges Fine Art, Carmel, CA

For additional information, directions, and hours, the museum’s full website can be found at www.lagunaartmuseum.org.  Their address is 307 Cliff Drive Laguna Beach, CA 92651, telephone: (949) 494-8971.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

"Edgar Payne - The Scenic Journey" Exhibit at the Crocker Art Museum

Of special interest to collectors and students of the history of Early California painting is the new exhibit at the Crocker Art Museum, “Edgar Payne – The Scenic Journey”.  The show is a comprehensive exhibit of paintings by one of the most famous and distinguished artists of the Early California art genre. 

The Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento was established in 1885, and unveiled a 125,000 square foot addition in October of 2010.  The museum includes one of the premier permanent collections of Early California paintings in the state, and is the perfect venue for this exhibition of over 80 works by this important California impressionist.

Patrick Kraft, Director of William A. Karges Fine Art in Carmel, California, attended the opening reception for the Exhibit.  He said that “Curator Scott Shields did a first class job. The paintings were beautifully presented, and there was a strong turnout of serious collectors, art dealers, and authors.  The 1910 Model T Ford was a nice touch, as was the movie of Payne hiking and painting in the Sierras.  It was a large and impressive collection of Paynes from his primary subject matters, the Sierras, the Southwest, boat scenes, and seascapes.”

California Coast - SOLD

The exhibit was curated by the Crocker’s Chief Curator and Associate Director, Scott A. Shields, Ph.D, and organized by the Pasadena Museum of California Art.  Shields describes Payne’s works as “imbued with an internal force and active dynamism achieved through majestic, vital landscape subjects”. 

Edgar Payne (1883 – 1947) is probably best known for his impressionist plein air landscapes of the Sierra Nevada mountains.  

Sierra - Available now at Karges Fine Art

He also traveled the world extensively and painted scenes in many other locations, including the French and Swiss Alps, as well as fishing scenes in Italy and France. 


Swiss Scene - SOLD




Knowledgeable collectors particularly admire his paintings of the Southwest, including majestic scenes of the Grand Canyon and Canyon de Chelly.


Canyon de Chelly - SOLD


In 1920, Payne became the first President of the Laguna Beach Art Association.  This important group of artists also included notable early California painters Joseph Kleitsch, Hanson Puthuff, and William Wendt.

Edgar Payne’s works can be found in numerous museums and public collections, including the Laguna Art Museum, the National Museum of American Art in Washington D.C., the Oakland Museum, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

His book “The Composition of Outdoor Painting” has been popular with artists as a guide for many years, and has been reprinted many times.  The beautiful new book, “Edgar Payne – The Scenic Journey” was published as companion to the current exhibit at the Crocker Art Museum, and features a lead essay and chronology by Scott Shields. 






In the new book, he writes “In each locale, he sought vitality, bigness, nobility, and grandeur, which he turned into unified, carefully calculated compositions with brushwork that seemed to pulsate with life.”  


Sierra Peak - SOLD

The exhibit opened to the public on February 11th and continues through May 6th, 2012.  Related events at the museum include a visit to the exhibit with commentary by the Curator and Assistant Curator on March 29th at 5:30, and a screening of a new documentary film about the artist on May 3rd at 6:30 pm.  For additional information about the exhibit, please contact the Crocker Art Museum, located at 216 O Street, at (916) 808-7000.  For additional information about available paintings by Edgar Payne at William A. Karges Fine Art in Carmel and Beverly Hills, please call (800) 833-9185.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Art in the Adobes, Sept 30 through October 2, 2011



Early California Art lovers are looking forward to “Art in the Adobes”, a unique event taking place in downtown Monterey September 30th through October 2nd.  During the weekend, a number of important paintings by a variety of Early Monterey artists will be on view.  The title of the Exhibition is “Hidden Treasures from Old Monterey”, since many of the paintings have rarely been seen by the public until now. The exhibition focuses on local artists from the Monterey area who worked during the late 18th century and early 19th century. The works will be displayed simultaneously in a number of historic venues, including the Stevenson House, The Cooper-Molera Adobe, and ColtonHall, site of the 1849 California Convention.

Note: Images posted in this blog are NOT paintings that will be on display at this event (those will remain “hidden” until the Festival begins on the 30th).  Images seen in this post are paintings by artists represented at the event, and several of the works are currently available to interested collectors through Karges Fine Art.  

Paintings that will be on display during Art at the Adobes include works by noted marine artist Armin Hansen, Charles Rollo Peters, and Mary DeNeale Morgan

Armin Hansen settled in the Monterey area in 1913, and was one of the founders of the Carmel Art Association.   One of his oversize masterpieces will be on view at Casa Serrano during the Festival.  He is best remembered for his dramatic depictions of coastal scenes, boats, and local fishermen.

Fisher's Landing by Armin Hansen


Mary DeNeale Morgan settled in Carmel in 1909, and attended summer art classes that were led by William Merritt Chase. She later became the director of the Carmel School of Art from 1917-1925.  

On Sunday, October 2nd, 2011, Lila Staples, Chair of the Visual and Public Art Department at California State University Monterey Bay, will present a lecture and slide discussion focusing on women artists of Monterey’s early years.  For additional information about other lectures scheduled throughout the weekend, click here.   Scott Shields, Chief Curator of the Crocker Art Museum, will be on hand Saturday October 1st at Monterey City Hall with a lecture titled “When Monterey was Modern: The Peninsula’s Early Art Colony and its Place in California Art”.

Works by Christian Jorgensen (1860 – 1935) will be on display at the Cooper-Molera Adobe, a National Historic Trust site.  He is best remembered for his intricately detailed coastal scenes featuring the distinctive local Cypress trees.  In 1905 he and his wife Angela built a boulder home in Carmel, which later became the Hotel La Playa.

Christian Jorgensen -  Coastal Cypress     SOLD


Charles Rollo Peters, known for his quiet, contemplative nocturnes, will also be represented at the event.  The MontereyMuseum of Art  will mount a special display of important paintings on loan, and the StevensonHouse will also provide a temporary home to paintings by Peters and his second wife, Constance Evans Easley Peters.



Charles Rollo Peters "Adobe  SOLD






The Monterey Public library will have paintings on display by local artists Arthur Hill Gilbert, Francis McComas, and Abel Warshawsky.  


Abel Warshawsky - Coastal Scene

Francis McComas, noted for his delicate watercolors, studied with Arthur Mathews (a central figure in the San Francisco Bay Area art scene) at the Mark Hopkins Institute in San Francisco at the turn of the century.

Francis McComas "Monterey Oaks"


 
For additional information, details, and tickets to the Art in the Adobes event, please visit the official website at www.artintheadobes.org  




Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Three Important Exhibits on Display at the Crocker Art Museum

The Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento currently has three outstanding exhibitions of early California and American paintings on display.  The museum, which unveiled a new 125,000 square foot addition in October of 2010, also has a strong permanent collection of Early California art.  The exhibitions currently open to the public also include works from the Brooklyn Museum and the Bank of America Collection.

The first exhibit, which opened on May 14th, 2011, is titled “Transcending Vision: American Impressionism, 1870-1940”.  This collection of paintings by American Artists who were influenced by the French Impressionist movement features 125 works by a diverse group.  Paintings by notable and influential American artists George Inness and George Bellows are included in the exhibition, which ends on September 25th, 2011.

Another exhibition of interest to admirers of Early American art is “Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism”,  which opened to the public on June 11th, and runs through September 18th.  This display includes approximately 40 landscape paintings from the Brooklyn Museum.  Both French and American artists are represented in a group of works from the mid-nineteenth through the early twentieth-century.   Works by John Singer Sargent and Childe Hassam are prominently featured.

 

The third show currently on display at the Crocker is titled “Gardens and Grandeur: Porcelains andPaintings by Franz A. Bischoff”.  The collection went on view June 25th, and the exhibition continues through October 23rd, 2011.  The exhibit chronicles the history and career of the “King of the Rose Painters”, and features approximately 40 examples of this artist’s work. 


Remembered primarily for his floral still lifes, Bischoff was one of the finest early California Impressionists, and an outstanding colorist.  For additional information about this important Southern California artist, see our Blog entry which was posted last December.

For additional information about the Crocker Museum, including operating hours and directions, please visit their website at www.crockerartmuseum.org  

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Quiet Landscapes of Russell Chatham

Born in 1939, a native of San Francisco, Russell Chatham has been an active artist in Livingston, Montana, where he still resides, since 1972.  A talented, self-taught painter, illustrator, and writer, his works are often highly evocative with soft tonal qualities.  He is also considered one of the world’s foremost lithographers.    




"Spring Moonrise", Lithograph


His grandfather, Gottardo Piazzoni (1872 – 1945),  was a well known early California artist and is also remembered for his simple compositions and quiet, muted colors.

Russell Chatham’s landscapes often reveal his fascination with the changing seasons and the subtle nuances of light and shadow.  His works often depict quiet moments of solitude and spirituality.  Of his work, he says:  "Creating art is an attempt to search for something beyond ourselves".


"Winter Moonrise" 12 x 16 Oil on board - SOLD



This painting shown above, “Winter Moonrise”, is signed by the artist, on the right side, with his personally developed calligraphic character, placed within a double oval.  Chatham developed this character in his late twenties.  It was based on the distinctive shape of the little slough that lies at the head of Tamales Bay in Marin County.   






Chatham moved to Marin in 1949.  He has placed this monogram, rather than a traditional signature, on all his works since his late twenties.  He has said that this two dimensional calligraphic character “represents the epicenter of my relationship to the natural world”.  He also noted that “I was never comfortable seeing my name written on the face of the pictures, partly I suppose because visual and verbal language seem so at odds with each other.  But using the monogram, and doing so very discreetly, seems to help soften the presence of my hand, moving it into the shadows where it belongs.”  



"Landscape" 7 x 9 inches  SOLD


His personal interests include fly fishing, hunting, and conservation, and he has written numerous essays and short stories on these topics.   In 1990, he began working on a series of twelve large paintings for the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana.   
 
Chatham has had hundreds of exhibitions in galleries and museums over the course of his lifetime, though he is not a prolific painter.  He continues to create his beautiful, quiet landscapes, and sometimes only completes six or seven large paintings a year.  For additional information on available paintings by this remarkable artist, feel free to contact Patrick Kraft at William A. Karges Fine Art in Carmel, California at (800) 833-9185.