Clarence Hinkle / Modern Spirit and the Group of Eight

June 10 - October 7, 2012


Wall text panels from the exhibitions


Clarence Hinkle


Clarence Hinkle Introductory Panel

Clarence Hinkle stands apart from most artists of his generation who came of age in California at the turn of the twentieth century His work is bold and expressive -- especially from the 1920s onward -- and owes much more to the post-impressionist tradition than the efforts of his contemporaries, whose styles were generally variations of American impressionism. Hinkle's exhibitions with the Group of Eight -- also in the 1920s -- attested to his modernist viewpoint, as he turned from traditional landscape painting and focused on expressive figural work and still-life.

In 1933 art critic Arthur Millier wrote: "Some men love paint . . . . Hinkle, however, is a man in love with painting." That love of painting is seen in the rich variety of his work and range of subject matter, as displayed in his portraits, figure works, landscapes, and still lifes. It is also seen in his bravura brushwork and gestural -- sometimes calligraphic -- style, combined with a personal vision and a willingness to explore new ideas and methods. Hinkle believed that after an artist has acquired the necessary technical skills, he should not be bound by the past but should launch out into new fields of expression. This personal philosophy led him to experiment throughout his career. The shift toward a tighter style seen in his work of the mid-1930s on shows not that the artist was becoming more conservative, but rather that he was always open to new ideas in his interpretation of the world around him.


Europe - 1909 to 1912

After winning the $2,000 traveling scholarship from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Hinkle went to Europe where he remained for six years, between 1906 and 1912. For a few years, he lived in the pastoral village of Laren, Holland, one of several picturesque communities that attracted American artists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Early in 1909, he went to France and studied in Paris at the Académie Julian. He had a work exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1910. He later traveled to Spain, Italy, and England. Some works extant from Hinkle's sojourn in Holland are painted in a low-key tonalist palette of mostly browns and grays, typical of The Hague School. However, his outdoor figural works are infused with the color and light of impressionism. Hinkle returned to the United States early in 1912, staying in New York for several months before moving to San Francisco.


Laguna Beach

After Hinkle's return from Europe in 1912, he stayed in New York for a period of several months before returning to northern California and settling in San Francisco. In 1917, he moved to Los Angeles. Some of Hinkle's earliest paintings of Laguna Beach date from that year. The coastal community had garnered a reputation as an artist's colony, and Hinkle no doubt heard about it from his fellow artists in Los Angeles. In 1922 he purchased several lots in Arch Beach and built a home where he and his wife, Mabel, lived until the summer of 1935. Hinkle became an active member of the Laguna Beach Art Association during the period when plans were being made to build a permanent gallery on Cliff Drive, which survives as the core of today's Laguna Art Museum. When the new gallery opened in February 1929, the city named streets after four leading artists -- Anna Hills, William Wendt, Frank Cuprien, and Clarence Hinkle. A true plein-air artist, Hinkle enjoyed working outdoors on small panels on which he would quickly sketch the scene using dabs and dashes of color. He used some as studies for larger paintings that he would complete in his studio. He also painted numerous figural beach scenes with Mabel serving as the model. Hinkle received critical acclaim for his California coastal paintings, in which he conveyed the intensity of light and expansive space in an expressive, gestural technique. In some works he employed a richly colorful palette; in others the palette is more subdued but daringly accented with black.


Travels - 1930-33

In 1930 Hinkle and his wife made preparations for an extended trip across the United States followed by a long sojourn in Europe. They rented out their home in Arch Beach and in May traveled to Taos, New Mexico, where he sketched and painted. They continued their journey east, visiting the picturesque port village of Rockport, Massachusetts, and then on to New York to embark for Europe. They shipped their car so that they could "motor through many of the interesting places in a leisurely manner with no definite time limit for their return home." They visited France, Italy, and England, returning to the United States in September 1931. Laguna Beach residents were kept informed by the South Coast News, which would periodically report on their travels. While in staying in Nice, the Hinkles were joined by his student Phil Dike, and the two men painted together at the nearby town of Villefranche-sur-Mer. In June 1933, Hinkle and his wife returned to Taos, this time staying for several months. While there they resided in the home and studio of noted Taos artist E. Irving Couse


Santa Barbara

Hinkle moved from Laguna Beach to Santa Barbara in 1935, living for several months in town while he built a large, ranch-style home and studio on a ridge in Montecito. Once ensconced in his new home, he was surrounded by rugged, undeveloped land covered in trees, grasses, flowers, and shrubs. From the hilltop he beheld an expansive view of Santa Barbara and its harbor, with the Channel Islands beyond. He made several paintings of the vista, the compositions often framed in the foreground by trees and shrubbery. In works that depict that panorama, the city and its harbor are delineated in abbreviated dashes and dabs of color while the foreground that frames the view is more literally developed. Although Hinkle abandoned his earlier, calligraphic style, with its emphasis on gestural line and the use of black, he continued to paint with an energetic and expressive brushstroke. Donald Bear, director of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, wrote: "It is a fascinating experience to watch Clarence Hinkle weave colors together -- deep tones and brilliant ones, interlaced with bold slashes of white. He lays on his pigments lavishly, his approach is sure and gradually there emerge shapes of trees, craggy rocks, depths of sky and water, into landscapes that unloose new horizons for the imagination. At no time does he worry over literal transcription -- but in a manner all his own creates pictorial themes that aim straight at the emotional reactions of the onlooker."



Hinkle was a versatile artist who made portraits -- and self-portraits -- throughout his career. His earliest self-portrait dates from about 1900 and the latest from 1959, the year before he died. At the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco he exhibited his portrait of Mrs. F. W. Hollman, a woman from high society. This is a quintessential American impressionist portrait, with a carefully composed figure in elegant garb set against an impressionistic background of mottled dabs of color. Several years later, Hinkle made a portrait of his wife, Mabel, in which he painted a background of scintillating vertical bars of color. After about 1925, his portraits reflect the influence of the bravura realism of Robert Henri who championed the idea of capturing the spirit of the subject rather than the letter. Such frank and honest portraiture continued to be the hallmark of Hinkle's style, as evident in later portraits that hang on the central wall of the exhibition. It is especially seen in the unidentified portrait from the 1940s of a young woman in a blue sweater, her hair tied up with a kerchief. Hinkle paints her sincerely and honestly. She is not a woman of the upper class like Mrs. Hollman, but an ordinary woman pausing during her busy day to pose for the artist.


Still Lifes

Most artists paint still lifes as part of their academic studies; fewer continue with such work into their maturity as did Hinkle. Sometimes, he would paint a solitary flower in a vase, sometimes a more complex arrangement of objects -- fruit, crockery, glassware, flowers. He said that he would arrange objects with an eye to "their color, glazed surfaces, contrast and textures," and that the result presented "a problem to be seen in paint." Los Angeles Times art critic Arthur Millier wrote that "still life, because it can be arranged, lit for color and light and shade, offers the artist purely esthetic problems if he is able to comprehend them. . . . when an artist is able to see the relation of lines, colors, volumes to each other, he often has a better chance to evoke harmony from still life than from moving objects in nature." Perhaps the most skillfully composed of Hinkle's still lifes are are the large ones- -- three of which are in this exhibition -- in which the elements are carefully arranged against a backdrop of curtains or blinds. These read almost like narratives, capturing a moment in time. Another large still life can be seen in the Modern Spirit and the Group of Eight exhibition.



Hinkle was a member of the California Water Color Society, which had been founded in Los Angeles in 1921, and he exhibited with the group -- often serving as a juror -- for over thirty years. All the subjects that can be found in his oil paintings are also found in his watercolors -- landscape, still life, portraits, and figures. While a teacher at the Chouinard School of Art, he encouraged his students to use watercolor as a sketching medium while painting outdoors, primarily because the materials were less cumbersome to carry. Beginning in the 1930s, that younger generation of artists -- among them Millard Sheets, Phil Dike, Phil Paradise, and Rex Brandt -- began to use watercolor as a more expressive medium, working directly and in a large format, with little preliminary sketching. Their new approach combined with their frequent exhibitions brought them onto the national scene as innovative proponents of the medium, garnering for them the title of the California School. Hinkle too began to explore expressive watercolor techniques. The examples in this room of the exhibition include his untitled study of hills and clouds, the untitled landscape with figure, and Street in Ojai. All are quickly rendered with gestural applications of pigment.

Modern Spirit and the Group of Eight


Modern Spirit and the Group of Eight Introductory Panel

This exhibition looks at the vibrant and pivotal decade of the 1920s, the first golden age for Los Angeles art. Artistic and intellectual circles in Los Angeles overlapped, with artists of varying persuasions exhibiting together and supporting each other in a free atmosphere that was conducive to experimentation. The Group of Eight was essential to forging a bridge between groups in the region and pivotal to the development of the modernist community. They created a vital new art with a modern spirit, at a time when modernist realism was the dominant trend across American art.

The Group of Eight -- Mabel Alvarez, Clarence Hinkle, Henri De Kruif, John Hubbard Rich, Donna Schuster, E. Roscoe Shrader, Edouard Vysekal, and Luvena Buchanan Vysekal -- exhibited several times throughout the 1920s and was at the center of the art establishment in Los Angeles. The artists won acclaim in both conservative and modernist circles because of their command of advanced painting techniques and draftsmanship, while at the same time exploring the potential of modernist color and form.

Although the decade of the 1920s is remembered for its affluence and flapper spirit, it also came on the heels of the terrible destruction of World War I. The idea that communion with nature could restore humankind was a nationwide direction for art and culture in the era. Although nature was a strong presence in the art of the Group of Eight, it was filtered through a sense of self. They painted figural works, still lifes, and genre scenes in the studio in order to have every means at their disposal to communicate the human spirit.

Modern Spirit and the Group of Eight includes several paintings that were in the original exhibitions of the Group of Eight, focusing particularly on their important July 1927 show at the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science, and Art.

Susan M. Anderson, Guest Curator


Innovative experimentation and fluidity of style were the rule for Clarence Hinkle and his colleagues in the Group of Eight. These artists are remembered for their boldness of color, their superior draftsmanship and design, their concern for essential form, and their ability to turn pigment into idea.

In the fulfillment of their modernist endeavor, the Group of Eight had many important allies. First was Robert Henri, a national catalyst in the development of American modernist realism. The Group of Eight more than likely chose their name as a tribute to Henri and The Eight, a group that came together only once, in February 1908, to show at the Macbeth Galleries in New York. Equally important was Stanton Macdonald-Wright, one of the leading international modernists of the era, who introduced more advanced forms of modernism such as cubism and expressionism as well as an analytical and emotional use of color to the region.

The Group of Eight's bohemianism and exchange across artistic circles contributed to the growth of a plethora of styles in Los Angeles, to syntheses or juxtapositions that did not necessarily exist in other places and so have been difficult to recognize and define.


Extended Object Labels for Specific Works of Art

Clarence Hinkle, Gjura Stojana, c. 1925
Portraiture had a character of its own during the 1920s. Portraits such as this one were not usually destined for the sitter, nor were they commissioned. They were the choice of the artist, and for the most part, it was the humanity of the subject, not his or her social position, that was key.
Clarence Hinkle included this painting of his friend Gjura Stojana in the Group of Eight exhibition at the Los Angeles Museum in 1927. Stojana was a colorful and bohemian artist, who was omnipresent among the circle of modernists in Los Angeles. While there are conflicting accounts of his birthplace and parentage, he was most likely Romani (or Gypsy) and arrived in the United States in 1903.
Hinkle's portrait of Stojana is loosely painted in quick, slashing brushstrokes with a sense of urgency. Hinkle had studied at the Pennsylvania Academy under Thomas Anshutz, who was a great advocate of personal expression and individualism, bold color, and Cézannesque attention to surface design. Hinkle's realism tempered by expressionism helps convey Stojana's singular personality.
Mabel Alvarez, In the Garden, c. 1922
While the Roaring Twenties marked a period of upheaval and rapid change internationally, nowhere was this more pronounced than in Los Angeles, where some 660,000 new residents poured into the city during the decade. Artists sought a new painting language to express the rapid changes occurring in modern culture. The dominant aesthetic was one of representation, in which developing modern culture was "cleansed, ordered, and distilled." Fundamental to the region's modern movement was the idea that humankind could be restored by communion with nature.
Recuperation is an implicit theme of Mabel Alvarez's In the Garden, with its restful, garden-like background recalling bold and stylized oriental wallpaper. A young woman with bobbed hair stands in front of a flowered background. She has pale, bare skin and the small, pouty lips popular in films of the day, though without the sultry vampishness, and with the disaffected, distant demeanor of the flapper. Through the close-up, three-quarter view, we are able to examine the subject closely and inspect her childlike beauty. She is unspoiled youth and beauty, and yet her reserved, introspective look invites us to ponder her thoughts. The image expresses faith in the potentiality of youth, yet with a sense of disillusionment or loss.
Luvena Vysekal, Esther, 1928
American women received the vote in 1920, heralding new attitudes and new depictions of women in art. Luvena Vysekal's Esther expresses the vision of the New Woman, who was able to step outside her home and expand her horizons: confident, successful, and liberated. Since the 1910s, Los Angeles modernist groups had not merely included women; women artists had been among their founding members.
The women artists of the Group of Eight -- Alvarez, Vysekal, and Schuster -- epitomized the New Woman of the 1920s: they were vitally involved in art groups and art associations; they exhibited widely, were favorably reviewed, received regional awards, and sold their art to collectors and museums. They moved freely throughout the Southland, within bohemia and the more bourgeois social circles of the California Art Club, and were respected movers and shakers on the art scene.
Edward Vysekal, The Herwigs, 1929
A mother sits outside on a window ledge, rapturously bathed in the sunlight pouring down from above, with her naked child standing in her lap. Behind them stands the father with his arms outstretched in a gesture of blessing, or perhaps recalling Christ on the cross, while appearing to be leaning with his hands against a closed glass window -- as though he, too, is outside, with the Hollywood Hills spread out behind him. With the French window open, its front edge visible as a strong vertical to the right of the contemporary Holy Family, what we have is a sophisticated, impossible space.
With its metaphysical overtones, this mysterious painting suggests that we are witnessing not a moment in actual time but an event of another order. The placement of an open tomb to the right of the family perhaps suggests spiritual redemption. The tilted perspective of the painting directs our attention to the loosely painted, cubist abstraction of the hills beyond. Vysekal likely chose the key of yellow for The Herwigs in order to reflect a subject that was radiant, joyous, sunny, and of spiritual import.
Luvena Vysekal, The Aesthete, c. 1925
In 1922 and 1923, Luvena Vysekal created a series of written portraits of prominent artists, critics, and dealers, which she published anonymously in the Los Angeles Times. They were revealing, incisive, and full of sarcastic wit. Of the artist Stanton Macdonald-Wright, she wrote: "'Synchromie Cosmique' is one of his favorite dishes for breakfast, and he dotes on 'thematic romanticism.' He and Cézanne, you know, started the whole thing a going, only Cézanne lacked the 'broadly philosophic mind' to 'dynamically organize' the 'specific exterior' in its 'absolute finality,' therefore he can't be called the papa of synchromism, just its uncle."
Vysekal exhibited The Aesthete in the 1927 Group of Eight exhibition. It shows the artist's sarcastic wit in visual form -- in its mannered stylization of a man dressed in a Japanese kimono grasping a colorful fan in one hand and a single iris in the other. Arthur Millier called the painting "a bit of Gilbert and Sullivan" -- a reference to the mockery of aestheticism in Gilbert and Sullivan's opera Patience. The painting can be read as a mocking satire of a homosexual male, possibly even William Haines, the celebrated screen actor of the silent era and interior decorator, who was often referred to as "the Aesthete." It also seems to reflect everything that Luvena Vysekal disliked about Macdonald-Wright in particular.
John Hubbard Rich, The Brass Bowl, c. 1922
The Group of Eight more than likely chose their name as a tribute to Robert Henri and The Eight, a group that came together only once, in February 1908, to show at the Macbeth Galleries in New York. Henri, a national catalyst in the development of American realist modernism, advocated innovative experimentation and fluidity of style.
Rich's figure study The Brass Bowl (or Senorita Lusoriaga), which was in the Group of Eight's Franklin Galleries exhibition in 1922, shows the regionally inflected influence of Henri in terms of its subject matter and stylistic approach. Rich had studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston with the American impressionist Edmund Tarbell. He was adept at creating genre scenes of women in interiors with delicate brushwork and color, exuding a sense of quiet and soft light.
Henri De Kruif, A Song to Autumn, 1924 (re-check date, text indicates 1925)
De Kruif, who was an etcher, watercolorist, and painter, was the only member of the Group of Eight to focus primarily on landscape. In the 1920s, he created halcyon views of Palm Springs and Red Rock Canyon in vibrant color that had the mystery and ambiguity of symbolist art. He frequented the desert and lived there in a thatched hut in the winter of 1925, making a series of landscapes.
A Song to Autumn is executed in washes like a watercolor. It shows a nude standing at the edge of a pool of water that reflects a landscape beyond the viewer's sight. Perhaps a metaphor for another realm or order of meaning lying beyond the physical world, the painting also refers to the power of nature to restore harmony.
E. Roscoe Shrader, Summer Morning, c. 1921
Although they were respected mid-career artists before the group formed in 1921, the Group of Eight joined together for greater visibility and prestige. Their exhibitions regularly received advance notices in the local newspapers, followed by extensive reviews after the openings. As a result, the 1920s was also a singularly fruitful period in each of these artists' careers.
E. Roscoe Shrader included Summer Morning or Preparation for the Luncheon in the Group of Eight's 1927 exhibition. Common themes in Shrader's work were his family life and the casual, outdoor lifestyle of Southern California occasioned by the nearly year-round sunlight. Summer Morning is a tranquil, loosely painted, post-impressionistic rendering of the artist's wife surrounded by the bounty of nature. Shrader had studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago under John H. Vanderpoel and with the illustrator Howard Pyle. When he returned to Los Angeles in 1917, he was a nationally recognized illustrator. His modernism was an art of synthesis and transformation, merging precubist modernism with the regional plein-air approach.
Edouard Vysekal, A Figure in Shadows, 1927
With its expressive sensuality and tropicalism, Edouard Vysekal's A Figure in Shadows alludes to the idea of the sustaining power of communion with nature. It also provides an example of the way in which artists depicting the nude figure in the 1920s melded classical ideals with modernist reduction. The classical and restrained approach to form, the visual clarity and lack of detail, and the sense of order were devices of choice for American modernists everywhere. A revival of classicism was internationally popular, with Picasso making the transition from cubism to neoclassicism at about the same time in Europe.
The focus of the Group of Eight was creative experimentation and individual expression; they painted their direct experience and the life around them. Tropicalism and Mexican subjects were common in the region, due to its proximity to the border. Shown in the 1927 exhibition at the Los Angeles Museum, the painting has Vysekal's signature tilted perspective combined with an almost imperceptible distant view of the city.
Donna Schuster, O'er Waiting Harp Strings, 1922
Donna Schuster was described by Luvena Vysekal as "emitting an effulgence of exuberance that exhausts the onlooker." She studied with Edmund Tarbell and William Merritt Chase -- and was a competent figure painter in the impressionist manner. She also studied with Stanton Macdonald-Wright in the 1920s and experimented with more modernist trends. Macdonald-Wright introduced advanced forms of modernism such as cubism and expressionism to Los Angeles, as well as fostered the analytical and emotional use of color in the region.
O'er Waiting Harp Strings, which was in the Group of Eight's 1927 exhibition, expresses voluptuous rapture and longing, with an almost lurid juxtaposition of the complementary colors of yellow and violet. This bold painting, in which the color is orchestrated like music to evoke a certain response from the viewer, shows a young woman creating brilliant light effects overhead while plucking the strings of her harp. The title is from a hymn with lyrics by Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science: "O'er waiting harp strings of the mind. . . ."
E. Roscoe Shrader, Sun Bathers, c. 1925
A curious mixture of bohemian and bourgeois, the artists of the Group of Eight were regionally and nationally recognized, and, with the exception of Mabel Alvarez, had training in major national art institutions before moving to Los Angeles. As instructors at the Art Students League, Chouinard Art Institute, and Otis Art Institute, they brought prominence to regional institutions.
Four of the Group of Eight -- Shrader, Donna Schuster, Edward Vysekal, and John Hubbard Rich -- taught at Otis Art Institute, which benefited from the synergy that the progressive artists brought to the school. Otis provided a vibrant, nurturing community and an extensive curriculum of fine and applied arts. It was a traditional academy of art, offering a strong grounding in the art of the past and in academic technique. Shrader, who was dean, brought remarkable energy and engagement to powerful, community-building activities in Los Angeles through his studio home, his presidency of the California Art Club, and his devotion to Otis. He was deeply committed to creating an atmosphere conducive to modernist experimentation at the school.
Shrader painted Sun Bathers while on an Otis Art Institute picnic at the beach.
Mabel Alvarez, Flowers, c. 1928
Mabel Alvarez (1891-1985) was an accomplished painter, muralist, printmaker, and sculptor. She studied under James Edwin McBurney at Los Angeles High School, assisting him on murals for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in San Diego. In the late 1910s, she also studied under a series of prominent artists who came to the region from other places, including William V. Cahill, John Hubbard Rich, and Clarence Hinkle. In the 1920s, Alvarez was a dedicated student of Stanton Macdonald-Wright and transcribed his lectures. He inspired her to broaden her outlook and to experiment with synchromist color theories and modernist directions.
Alvarez documented her day-to-day activities and those of others in copious diaries and journals, providing an indispensable record of the early Los Angeles art community.
Like other members of the Group of Eight, she was at the center of the art establishment in Los Angeles during the 1920s, accepted by both conservative and bohemian groups. In 1925 and 1926 she served as vice president of the Modern Art Workers, which was spearheaded by Macdonald-Wright and unified diverse modernist groups in Los Angeles. She was also active in the California Art Club as chair of the art committee and was instrumental in promoting a permanent home for the club, resulting in Aline Barnsdall's donation of Hollyhock House.
At the time of the Group of Eight's 1927 exhibition, Mabel Alvarez was focusing on a series of still lifes in her studio that were tabletop arrangements of flowers in vases; she may have completed Flowers at this time.
Henri De Kruif, The Organ at Red Rock Canyon, 1926
Henri Gilbert De Kruif (1882-1944) was a painter, etcher, illustrator, and outspoken writer on art and topics of the day. He studied at Frank Holme's School of Illustration in Chicago; at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago under John H. Vanderpoel; and at the New York Art Students League under Frank Vincent DuMond, Gifford Beal, and F. Luis Mora. In 1919 De Kruif won a competition to design the Laguna Beach Art Association's first emblem; he also created a map designating local artists' studios.
De Kruif was the only member of the Group of Eight to focus primarily on landscape painting, though he was also an accomplished figure painter. De Kruif, who studied with Stanton Macdonald-Wright sometime in the 1920s, believed that "the truth of what the artist feels about nature is of more significance than what he sees objectively." He was interested in spiritual ideas and meditation, and his landscapes, such as The Organ at Red Rock Canyon, are emotionally potent symbolist expressions.
In 1932 De Kruif and other prominent regional artists assisted David Alfaro Siqueiros in completing the mural Street Meeting at the Chouinard School of Art. In 1936 he painted a mural for Beaumont High School under the Federal Art Project.
Clarence Hinkle, The Punch Bowl, c. 1929
Clarence Keiser Hinkle (1880-1960), the subject of the other exhibition on this floor of the museum, is one of several native California artists who came of age at the beginning of the twentieth century and perhaps one of the most versatile. He studied at the Crocker Art Gallery in Sacramento, the California School of Design in San Francisco, the Art Students League in New York, and the Philadelphia Academy of the Fine Arts, which awarded him the Cresson Travelling Scholarship in 1906. Hinkle lived in Europe for six years, dividing his time between Holland and France, where he studied at the Académie Julian. After returning to Los Angeles, he taught at the Los Angeles School of Art and Design and then, from 1921 to 1935, at Chouinard School of Art. Hinkle was also active with the Laguna Beach Art Association as a board member, officer, juror, and exhibitor, and established a studio home in Laguna Beach in 1922.
Perhaps because he lived in Laguna Beach, he was less active as an advocate for modernism than other members of the Group of Eight, preferring to lead by example. Hinkle's exhibitions with the group showed his art at its most expressive, whether landscape, figure, portrait, or still-life painting. Rather than conventional, almost formulaic still lifes like The Punch Bowl, Hinkle elected to show portraiture in the 1927 Group of Eight exhibition.
John Hubbard Rich, Yellow Teapot, or Daydreams, c. 1929
John Hubbard Rich (1876-1954) studied at the Art Students League in New York in 1898, prior to studying at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, under Edmund C. Tarbell and Frank Benson, who were leading artists of the American impressionist group known as Ten American Painters. After winning a traveling scholarship from the school in 1905, Rich spent two years in Europe.
Rich moved to Pasadena in 1907 and began teaching at the Los Angeles School of Art and Design. Between 1910 and 1914, he was back in New York and then in Boston, where he taught at the Groton School and at the School of Fine Arts, Crafts, and Decorations. In the fall of 1914, Rich and William Cahill founded the School of Illustration and Painting in Los Angeles; later he was an assistant professor of art at the University of Southern California. In 1920, he married Helen Wood, an assistant curator at the Los Angeles Museum, and began teaching at Otis Art Institute, a position he held until 1949.
Like other members of the Group of Eight, Rich went through many stylistic changes, as evidenced by Yellow Teapot, a painting in the key of red-violet that shows his awareness of Stanton Macdonald-Wright's color theories and compositional approaches. The depiction of the hills in the background creates a feeling of nature as a quiet power underlying the whole.
Donna Schuster, Stream in Yosemite, c. 1928
Donna Norine Schuster's (1883-1953) early works up until the mid-1920s reflect the influence of impressionism and the Boston school, whose followers painted images of women at leisure. Schuster had attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, studying under the leading American impressionists Edmund C. Tarbell and Frank Benson. Schuster was also an accomplished watercolorist, receiving a silver medal for watercolors in the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. In 1921, along with fellow Group of Eight artists Henri De Kruif and Edouard Vysekal, Schuster became a founding member of the California Water Color Society, serving as president in 1931. In 1923 she built a studio-home in the hills overlooking Griffith Park and joined the faculty of Otis Art Institute. Beginning in 1926, she had a second studio-home in Laguna Beach at 559 Thalia, which she dubbed "the Pill Box."
Flamboyant and bohemian, Schuster was an independent woman for her time. Under the influence of modernist artists such as Stanton Macdonald-Wright, with whom she studied in the 1920s, Schuster developed a bolder, more colorful style. She arrived at ever-more-unusual combinations and used long strokes of color to build up form, creating a rainbow effect -- as in Stream in Yosemite.
E. Roscoe Shrader, The Window Seat, c. 1926
E. Roscoe Shrader (1879-1960) was a dynamic and influential teacher and leader in the arts during the 1920s and 1930s. Shrader was born in Los Angeles and attended Los Angeles High School, where he honed his talents as an illustrator while contemplating a career in business or science. Instead he attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1901 to 1904, and the Howard Pyle School of Illustration Art in Wilmington, Delaware. Shrader was a successful illustrator during what is called the Golden Age of Illustration, from the 1880s to the 1920s, creating illustrations for Harper's, Century Magazine, and Scribner's. Around 1914, he moved to New Hope, Pennsylvania, where he associated with the New Hope colony of impressionists.
Shrader returned to Los Angeles in 1917, initially finding work as a journalist and artist. He joined the faculty at Otis Art Institute in 1918, becoming dean in 1923 and teaching there until his retirement in 1948. His devotion to his family, to his teaching, and to his leadership role in the arts community took precedence over his career as a painter. He was an active member of the Group of Eight, however, and exhibited The Window Seat in the group's 1927 exhibition at the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science, and Art.
Edouard Antonin Vysekal, Untitled (nude), c. 1925
Edouard Antonin Vysekal (1890-1939) was a prominent painter, teacher, and advocate of modernism in Los Angeles. From 1909 to 1913 he studied with John H. Vanderpoel and Henry Mills Walcott at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he taught until 1914 and met his wife, Luvena Buchanan. Vysekal then taught at the Art Students League in Los Angeles beginning in 1919. He experimented with post-impressionism and Ash Can realism in the manner of Robert Henri prior to studying with Macdonald-Wright beginning in 1920. In 1922 Vysekal joined the faculty at Otis Art Institute, contributing greatly to the school's reputation for experimentation and camaraderie.
Vysekal designed an emblem for the Group of Eight in 1922. It was a tree with eight limbs, each ending in a hand holding a paintbrush. Of the group, Vysekal was the most modernist and experimental. He was also an outspoken advocate for modern art as the vice president of the California Art Club, and actively spearheaded the founding of the club's new headquarters in Hollyhock House in 1927. Vysekal was a well-liked bridge figure between the various modern and conservative groups in Los Angeles. His untitled nude of a young woman wearing a kimono exhibits lyrical bohemianism and yearning as well as the artist's consummate layered, wet-into-wet watercolor technique.
Luvena Buchanan Vysekal, Floral Still Life, n.d.
Luvena Buchanan Vysekal (1873-1954) was an artist, writer, and well-known personality in the Los Angeles art community. She studied under John H. Vanderpoel, Henry Mills Walcott, and Ralph E. Clarkson from 1897 to 1899; and from 1910 to 1914 at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she met Edouard Vysekal. She studied with Stanton Macdonald-Wright soon after he arrived in Los Angeles, gaining a sophisticated approach to color and modernist design. In 1922 and 1923, she published a series of candid and anonymous character sketches of prominent artists, critics, and dealers in the Los Angeles Times. They were full of sarcasm and widely discussed by the Los Angeles art community.
Still life was a popular genre for the Group of Eight; it provided an opportunity to explore the potential of paint and modernist experimentation. Like other members of the group, Vysekal focused on still life and portraiture, and was an advanced colorist and a modernist composer of rhythmic form and space, as evidenced in Floral Still Life.
On occasion, she turned the incisive wit she displayed in her writings to her figure paintings and self-portraits. In 1926, the Vysekals built a studio in Silver Lake at 1978 Lucile Avenue, and it became a popular meeting place for the Group of Eight and other Los Angeles artists. Her husband passed away suddenly in 1939, at age forty-nine, and in 1942 she opened the Vysekal Studio Gallery on Sunset Boulevard, showing the work of their contemporaries.

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