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

June 18 - October 1, 2006

 

 

(above: Raymond Dabb Yelland (1848-1900), Sunset at Cypress Point, Monterey (detail), not dated, Oil on canvas, 18 x 30 inches. Collection of W. Donald Head, Old Grandview Ranch, Saratoga, CA)

 

Laguna Art Museum will put the beauty of California's Central Coast on display from June 18 through October 1, 2006, in Artists at Continent's End: The Monterey Peninsula Art Colony, 1875-1907. This exhibition, organized by the Crocker Art Museum, is the first to present an in-depth examination of Monterey Peninsula painting and photography from this critical period in California's art history. Featuring work by some of the most widely recognized early artists in California, including Jules Tavernier, Arthur Mathews and William Keith, among others, this show examines the three major styles associated with the colony: French Barbizon, Tonalism, and Impressionism.

Few regions rival the magnificence of California's Monterey Peninsula. In the late 19th century, the beauty of the landscape, together with a mild climate, rich history, and simplicity of lifestyle, attracted artists of all disciplines and encouraged the development of one of the nation's foremost art colonies.

Whereas previous accounts date the establishment of the Monterey Peninsula colony just after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, this groundbreaking show reveals that the Monterey Peninsula was a gathering place for artists well before 1906. These kindred spirits shared their ideals and respective arts as they crafted a defining style of California art.

 

ABOUT THE CURATOR

Crocker Art Museum Chief Curator Scott A. Shields holds a M.A. and Ph.D. in art history from the University of Kansas. He has 12 years of professional experience in museums in the Midwest and San Francisco Bay Area and has curated numerous exhibitions and written articles for various scholarly journals. He was one of the contributing authors to a book on artist Percy Gray, published by the Carmel Art Association, and developed catalogues for various exhibitions including The Pilot Hill Collection of Contemporary Art and San Francisco and the Second Wave: The Blair Collection of Bay Area Abstract Expressionism. A major text authored by Shields, Artists at Continent's End: The Monterey Peninsula Art Colony, 1875-1907, was released by The University of California Press in early 2006 in conjunction this statewide traveling exhibition. He is also one of three primary authors of a forthcoming exhibition catalogue entitled Dark Metropolis: Irving Norman's Social Surrealism, published by Heyday Books, which will accompany a nationally traveling exhibition that opens at the Crocker Art Museum in fall 2006.

 

RELATED EVENTS

 

Sunday, June 18, 2006, 1:00 p.m.
Dr. Scott Shields, chief curator at the Crocker Art Museum, and organizer of Artists at Continent's End: The Monterey Peninsula Art Colony, 1875-1907 will give a lecture on the exhibition.
 
Sunday, July 30, 2006, 1:00 p.m.
Artist Gary Baseman will discuss his work in Pervasion: The Art of Gary Baseman and Tim Biskup.
 
Sunday, August 6, 2006, 1:00 p.m.
Artist Tim Biskup will discuss his work in Pervasion: The Art of Gary Baseman and Tim Biskup.
 
Sunday, September 17, 2006, 1:00 p.m.
Panel discussion with Gary Baseman, Tim Biskup, and special guests discussing the urban vinyl/artist-designed toy phenomenon.
 
Lectures are free to members and free to non-members with Museum admission.

 

Major support for the exhibition at Laguna Art Museum comes from Nancy D. W. Moure, Laguna Art Museum Historical Art Council, and Dr. Edward & Yvonne Boseker. Additional support comes from Thom Gianetto, Don Merrill, and Dan Nicodemo, Edenhurst Gallery (Los Angeles and Palm Desert), the Beall Family Foundation, Ueberroth Family Foundation, Terry and Paula Trotter, Trotter Galleries (Carmel), George & Irene Stern, George Stern Fine Arts (Los Angeles), Bente & Gerald Buck, The Redfern Gallery (Laguna Beach), and Hal and Andrea Burroughs.

 

Exhibition description from the Crocker Art Museum:

 

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

From the fourth quarter of the nineteenth century into the first years of the twentieth, the Monterey Peninsula epitomized California art. The towns of Monterey, Pacific Grove, and eventually Carmel, each 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 an irascible 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 "still backwater undisturbed by the rush of the passing current," it became a frequent destination for artists of all disciplines. Visiting artists were immediately "caught and held by golden sunsets, enchanted woods, gnarled cypresses, rainbow-hued waters-and sent for their typewriters and their easels." [1] They gathered on the peninsula's bohemian shores for a variety of reasons -- beauty of setting, inspiration in nature, simplicity of lifestyle, tranquility, health, politics, and proximity of friends.

Among artists at the turn of the century, 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 cathedrals. 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." [2]

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 due to the presence of Thomas Hill and Albert Bierstadt. In the ensuing years between 1875 and 1907, peninsula production moved away from nature's strict depiction 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, achieving a simplicity that remains startling, even by contemporary standards. Among others, the progression culminated in a colorful impressionism, stylistically very different from previous generations of California art, yet retaining a transcendental sense of wonder for the California landscape.

Among those who lived or worked frequently in Monterey, Jules Tavernier, William Keith and Arthur Mathews now rank among the major figures in California art. Others, such as Charles Rollo Peters and Francis McComas, were major figures in their day; their once illustrious reputations -- both on a national and even international level -- merit renewed recognition. Others are today little known. In 1914, East Coast impressionist Childe Hassam lamented the lack of recognition accorded the Californians: "You have such good painters here in California! My old friends, Peters, Matthews [sic], Dickman; and men I now know, McComas, Martinez, and I am sure others whom I don't know. And what also strikes me is that you don't know of these men and their work." [3]

To date, 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 nineteenth century on. [4] By 1907, the conclusion of this study (and just after the period of supposed influx from the earthquake), many of Monterey's first-and second-generation painters had in fact reached artistic maturity, moved on to other locales, or died. By the end of that year, artists of Monterey, Pacific Grove, and now Carmel-by-the-Sea, which, beginning in 1905 could claim an important place as an artist's colony in its own right, achieved a new level of professionalism and organization. The most important development came with the spring 1907 opening of the Hotel Del Monte gallery in Monterey, the first gallery in the state to be devoted solely to the work of California artists, especially those working locally. In August of that same year, the Carmel Club of Arts and Crafts (formed 1905) built and opened a clubhouse with an exhibition of its members' paintings. Through these venues, artists announced publicly that Monterey Peninsula art was vital, worthy of recognition, and autonomous from that of San Francisco. [5]

To be sure, there are hundreds of artist visitors to the Monterey Peninsula who fall outside the scope of this exhibition and catalogue. Nearly every California artist of significance visited the peninsula during this period -- most on several occasions -- as did scores of art students. Even in the nineteenth 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. . . ." [6] To include all of these artists would be to retell the history of California art. Thus, only those who lived on the peninsula, spent significant periods of time in the region, or devoted much of their work to peninsula subjects are featured. As it is, artists of the Monterey Peninsula define the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century chapter of California's art history. It is this "chapter," told through eight principal protagonists, each chosen as an exemplar of a particular style or outlook, along with a host of ancillary players, which Artists at Continent's End: The Monterey Peninsula Art Colony, 1875­1907 aims to relate.



1 Daisy F. Bostick and Dorothea Castelhun, Carmel-At Work and Play (Carmel, Calif.: The Seven Arts, 1925), pp. 18-19.

2 Leonore Kothe, "In Old Monterey," Overland Monthly 57 (June 1911), pp. 631-632.

3 "Coast Artists Are Praised by Eastern Men," San Francisco Chronicle, 17 May 1914.

4 Although numerous books mention the Monterey Peninsula's early artists, and there are monographs concerning of few of the individual artists who worked there, as well as histories and social histories of the region itself, there have been no significant accounts or exhibitions devoted solely to the visual art scene in Monterey, Pacific Grove, and Carmel during the period 1875 to 1907.

5 The Monterey Peninsula was in fact the birthplace of non-indigenous California art. The first professional artist to paint a scene of Alta California was Gaspard Duché de Vancy, who in 1786 recorded the welcome afforded the voyagers of the Lapérouse expedition at Mission San Carlos Borromeo.

6 "Mr. Polk Prostrated," San Francisco Call, 29 January 1896.

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