Editor's note: The Crocker Art Museum provided source material to Resource Library for the following article or essay. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the Crocker Art Museum directly through either this phone number or web address:
Edwin Deakin: California Painter of the Picturesque
January 26 - April 20, 2008
One-hundred and twenty years have passed since Edwin Deakin was accorded a major show in Sacramento. Beginning January 26, 2008 works by the celebrated California painter will return in a long-overdue, career-spanning exhibition at the Crocker Art Museum. Nearly 50 of his paintings and eight drawings will go on display through April 20, 2008, in Edwin Deakin: California Painter of the Picturesque.
This exhibition presents the works for which Deakin is best known, including landscapes, still lifes and architectural scenes of the American West and Europe. Contrary to the grandiose scenes that were then the norm, Deakin's quiet landscapes and studies of age-worn buildings embraced the trend toward the picturesque. His depictions of California's 21 missions epitomize Deakin's romantic style and are considered his crowning achievement.
"The Crocker Art Museum is one of the primary resources for the study and appreciation of the art of California," said Scott A. Shields, exhibition curator and author of the accompanying Deakin catalogue. "It is thus exceptionally appropriate that the Museum should exhibit the work of a premier, yet under-recognized California artist, Edwin Deakin." After showing at the Crocker, much of the exhibition will travel to the Nevada Museum of Art, Reno.
Deakin himself knew the Crocker Art Gallery well and thought highly of it. He visited in 1888, three years after Margaret Crocker donated the gallery building and its collections to the citizens of Sacramento. Impressed, Deakin was warm in his commendation, thinking "the city possessed a great treasure in such a property." Nineteen paintings included in the show were recently entrusted to the Crocker by the State of California. A bequest from the Deakin estate, the artist considered these paintings to be among his most significant works and never sold them.
Born in Sheffield, England, Deakin moved to San Francisco in 1870 and spent the majority of his life painting and drawing in the Bay Area. In his own time, as today, his paintings were popular for their beauty and romantic depiction of California's fleeting wilderness.
(above: Edwin Deakin, Christmas Morning, Hôtel de Cluny, n.d. Oil on canvas, 42 1/2 x 28 1/2 inches. Crocker Art Museum, long-term loan from the California Department of Finance, conserved with funds provided by Gerald D. Gordon.)
(above: Edwin Deakin, San Gabriel Mission, n.d. Oil on canvas, 22 3/4 x 35 1/2 inches. Crocker Art Museum, gift of Gerald D. Gordon.)
(above: Edwin Deakin, Palace of Fine Arts and the Lagoon, ca. 1915. Oil on canvas, 32 3/8 x 48 3/8 inches. Crocker Art Museum, long-term loan from the California Department of Finance, conserved with funds provided by Gerald D. Gordon.)
Article from the Museum's member magazine
Edwin Deakin's paintings represent an aesthetic evolution in California art, a shift from the sublime to the picturesque. Before Deakin, most Northern California landscapists followed the example of Thomas Hill and Albert Bierstadt and aimed to glorify their place in America by depicting a paradise of grandeur and drama exemplified by the Sierra and Yosemite. Deakin moved away from a boldly panoramic depiction of nature to a more intimate view, in human scale. A contemporary writer observed that Deakin had "the power to make his revelations . . . appreciable to all, the spectator feels them; he is impressed with a reality in the painting which appeals to the soul rather than to the judgment or the eye itself."
Deakin not only produced romantic landscapes, but also abundant still lifes, architectural scenes from the American West and Europe, and paintings of California missions for which he is best known today. Although Deakin's paintings are widely appreciated, this is the first major exhibition since Deakin's lifetime to feature the diversity of his production.
It is exceptionally appropriate that the Crocker should collect and exhibit Deakin's work. Many of his paintings date from the period when E. B. and Margaret Crocker were acquiring work directly from California artists, and his Swiss, French and English subjects enhance the Crockers' collection of 19th-century European art. Deakin knew the Crocker Art Gallery (as it was formerly called) well and thought highly of it. He visited in 1888, three years after Margaret Crocker donated the gallery building and collection to the citizens of Sacramento. Impressed, Deakin spoke warmly of his visit:
Deakin passed through Sacramento frequently on his many Tahoe trips and, in the latter 1870s, produced views of the American River. He also exhibited regularly at the California State Fair. In 1887, he took the fair's top award for the most meritorious display of oil paintings by a resident California artist. The following year, he contributed a broad survey of 33 pieces. The Sacramento Daily Record Union assessed him as
One hundred and twenty years have passed since Deakin's last Sacramento showing at the Fair. In this exhibition, examples of all that Deakin displayed in 1888 are once again on view. Among the more than 50 paintings and drawings featured, this exhibition includes 19 rarely seen paintings transferred from the State of California's Department of Finance to the Museum. The conservation and framing of these works would not have been possible without the generous support of the following Crocker members: Gerald D. Gordon, Louise and Victor Graf, Susana and Aj Watson, Melza and Ted Barr, MacTon Foundation, Bobbi and Dick Nathanson, Thea Stidum and Nancy C. Woodward, along with an additional 244 members who supported the campaign conducted in the fall of 2007.
The exhibition is accompanied by a 120-page catalogue written by Scott A. Shields, Chief Curator at the Crocker Art Museum, with an introduction by Alfred C. Harrison Jr., President of the North Point Gallery in San Francisco. It is available for $30 in the Museum Store.
Text panels from the exhibition
The paintings of Edwin Deakin (1838-1923) represent an aesthetic evolution in California art, a shift from the sublime to the picturesque. Before Deakin, most Northern California landscapists followed the example of Thomas Hill and Albert Bierstadt and aimed to glorify their place in America by depicting a grand and dramatic paradise through scenes of Yosemite and the Sierra. Deakin moved away from a boldly panoramic depiction of nature to a more intimate view, in human scale. A contemporary writer observed that Deakin had "the power to make his revelations appreciable to all, the spectator feels them; he is impressed with a reality in the painting which appeals to the soul rather than to the judgment or the eye itself." Deakin's paintings have long been appreciated for their beautiful and romantic subject matter, which includes California's early architecture, particularly the missions, as well as picturesque and nostalgic scenes of California wilderness. The artist's trip to Europe in 1877 also inspired significant canvases, notably of Notre Dame in Paris and the Castle of Chillon on Lake Geneva. Later in his career, his brush captured the uniqueness of San Francisco's Chinatown and the destruction caused by the 1906 earthquake. Deakin was equally gifted at still-life painting and produced compositions of fruit, flowers, and other decorative objects.
Born in Sheffield, England, Deakin first came to San Francisco in 1870. The next year he established a studio in the city and exhibited regularly. His last years were spent in Berkeley, where in 1890 he purchased a large tract of land and built a mission-style home. Today, a street in Berkeley is named in his honor. Although Deakin has long been regarded as a pivotal figure in early California art, this is the first major exhibition since the artist's lifetime to truly feature the diversity of his production. Ninety years have elapsed since the last significant survey of Deakin's paintings appeared, hosted by the artist in his Berkeley studio. One hundred and twenty years have passed since his large showing took place in Sacramento, at the California State Fair.
The core of this exhibition consists of nineteen important paintings recently transferred to the Crocker Art Museum from the State of California's Finance Department. Having adorned private offices for decades, these paintings have now been transferred to the Crocker for public benefit. Through the generosity of numerous donors, all of these paintings have been cleaned, conserved, and reframed so that they may be fully appreciated as Deakin intended.
The third of seven children, Edwin Deakin was born in Sheffield, England, in 1838. His father was from a family of cutlery manufacturers and worked as a bookkeeper; he would open a hardware business in Chicago. His mother was of Welsh descent, born in Montreal. In 1850 the Deakins moved to Wolverhampton, England, and the twelve-year-old Edwin became an apprentice at an establishment specializing in japanning furniture, learning to paint flowers, landscapes, and other decorative designs. Except for this experience, and private study from books and gallery visits, he remained largely self taught. When the family moved to Chicago in 1856, Edwin Deakin brought with him many watercolor and pencil sketches, aiming to pursue a career in art. Finding his options limited in the Midwest, he took a job hand coloring photographs. In 1865, he married Isabel "Belle" Fox (1846-1924), an Englishwoman, in Chicago. They had three children.
In the late 1860s, Deakin exhibited a painting publicly
for the first time. This early effort, an architectural subject of an old
English tavern, set the tone for much of his later work. Deakin visited
San Francisco in the summer and fall of 1870, but then returned to Chicago.
In October 1871, the great Chicago fire consumed much of the city, including
the family's hardware business and all but six of Deakin's paintings. The
loss sent him back to San Francisco where he became known as one of the
city's most prominent painters.
Resource Library editor's note:
Also see the biography of Edwin Deakin from Jennie V. Cannon: The Untold History of the Carmel and Berkeley Art Colonies, vol. one, East Bay Heritage Project, Oakland, 2012 by Robert W. Edwards
Readers may also enjoy:
Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Crocker Art Museum in Resource Library.
Visit the Table of Contents for Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art.
© Copyright 2008-2016 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.