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Artists at Continent's End: The Monterey Peninsula Art Colony, 1875-1907

February 17 - May 21, 2006


(above: Mary Brady (1867-1940), Sand Dunes in Monterey, 1895. oil on canvas, 23 x 27 inches. Collection of Terry and Paula Trotter)


Artists at Continent's End: The Monterey Peninsula Art Colony, 1875-1907 includes some 70 paintings, photographs and works on paper drawn from museums and private collections throughout California and beyond. It features work by eight artists of major importance to California's, and America's, art history -- Jules Tavernier, William Keith, Charles Rollo Peters, Arthur Mathews, Evelyn McCormick, Francis McComas, Gottardo Piazzoni and photographer Arnold Genthe. The exhibition also includes the work of more than 25 other artists, both well- and little-known, who each contributed to the reputation of what is now widely recognized as one of America's most important art colonies. (right: Raymond Dabb Yelland (1848-1900), Sunset at Cypress Point, Monterey, not dated. oil on canvas, 18 x 30 inches. Collection of W. Donald Head, Old Grandview Ranch, Saratoga))

From the fourth quarter of the 19th century into the first years of the 20th, the Monterey Peninsula epitomized California art. The towns of Monterey, Pacific Grove and eventually Carmel, interconnected yet distinct, boasted populations of artists-kindred spirits who shared their lives, ideals and respective arts in a free spirit of association and collegiality. The influx began in earnest in 1875 with Frenchman Jules Tavernier, who showed California artists what could be done with the Monterey Peninsula's unique coastal scenery. The magnetism of the area's landscape was profound, and as word of its beauty filtered to the outside world, along with the notion that here could be discovered a backwater undisturbed by the rush of the passing current, it became a frequent destination for artists of all types.

To be sure, nearly every significant California artist visited the peninsula during this period -- most on several occasions -- as did scores of art students. Even in the 19th century, well before Carmel-by-the-Sea became an artists' community, artists visited frequently and in large numbers. "They stayed there all summer and found some of their most marvelous inspirations in the atmosphere of the old cypress tree," the San Francisco Call reported in 1896. "It was a veritable heaven for them in every way. A painter was not recognized in society who had never been to Monterey."

Artists of the Monterey Peninsula define the late 19th- and early 20th-century chapter of California's art history, and it was during this period that the Monterey Peninsula attained distinction as the new spiritual heart of California. Rich in history with the Mission San Carlos Borromeo headquarters of Father Junípero Serra, and strange and awesome in beauty, the area displaced Yosemite in the artistic imagination as California's holiest of natural cathedrals. According to the Overland Monthly in 1911, all good and loyal California artists considered it a "sacred duty" to make a pilgrimage to the so-called artistic "Mecca," where they worshipped at the "shrine of adobes, sand-dunes and cypress trees." (left: Arthur Mathews (1860-1945), Monterey Bay, not dated. oil on canvas, 26 1/4 x 30 inches. Collection of W. Donald Head, Old Grandview Ranch, Saratoga)

Artists of the Monterey Peninsula worked in three major styles: in the manner of the French Barbizons, Tonalism and Impressionism. Beginning with Jules Tavernier's arrival in 1875, art produced in and around Monterey signaled a break from the tightly rendered and highly detailed style of the Hudson River School, the then-dominant style in California. In the years between 1875 and 1907, artists in Monterey moved away from the strict description of nature to become increasingly subjective, meditative and harmoniously simple. By the turn of the century, the majority of artists in the region had arrived at a deeply personal, tonal style, featuring close-value colors and moody atmospheric effects. Some eventually went one step further, producing canvases reductive not only in color but also in form. Among others, the progression culminated in a colorful Impressionism.

Most accounts and histories of the Monterey Peninsula's artistic legacy cite the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire as the primary impetus for coastal settlement. These histories have also focused principally on Carmel and the literati who lived there, marginalizing the pivotal role that Monterey and its visual artists played from the last quarter of the 19th century on. By 1907, artists of Monterey, Pacific Grove and now Carmel-by-the-Sea, which, beginning in 1905 could claim an important place as an artists' community in its own right, had achieved a new level of professionalism and organization through the opening of the Hotel Del Monte gallery in Monterey. The hotel's gallery was the first-ever devoted solely to the work of California artists, especially local ones. The gallery's curator, Josephine Blanch, made the prophetic claim, "When the history of California art is written, Monterey Peninsula will furnish a colorful and important chapter and the Del Monte gallery will be recognized as a large factor in the development of art in the state." (right: Jules Tavernier (1844-1889), Artist's Rêverie, Dreams at Twilight, 1876. oil on canvas, 24 x 50 1/4 inches. Collection of Oscar and Trudy Lemer, long-term loan to the Capitol Art Program)

Organized by the Crocker, the exhibition is one of the largest that the Museum has ever assembled. After its debut in Sacramento, the exhibition will travel to the Laguna Art Museum (June 11 - October 1, 2006), the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (October 21, 2006 - January 21, 2007) and the Monterey Museum of Art (February 3 - April 29, 2007). The exhibition is accompanied by a 350-page color catalogue authored by Crocker Art Museum Chief Curator Scott A. Shields and published by The University of California Press. Beautifully illustrated with a wealth of images, including many never before published, it features 160 illustrations along with extensive biographical material on each artist. The catalogue will be available for purchase in the Crocker Art Museum Store. (left: cover of exhibition catalogue for Artists at Continent's End: The Monterey Peninsula Art Colony, 1875-1907)

This exhibition is partially funded by the Lenore and Roger Stokes Fund and the Kathryn Uhl Ball and Fred Uhl Ball Fund of the Crocker Art Museum Foundation.

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