Monterey Museum of Art

Monterey, CA



At the West of Things: California Artists at Home and Abroad

January, 1999


Appreciation for the work of California artists from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries has grown enormously in recent years.

Frequently termed "California impressionism" these paintings cannot be pinned to one particular style or movement. Instead they are for the most part a joyous hybrid of French and.American Impressionism, Post Impressionism, Fauvism, and early modernist styles.

Artists included in this genre were influenced by European styles in a variety of ways. Some traveled to Europe to study and there were inspired directly by artists such as Impressionism's Claude Monet. Leading American proponents of impressionist techniques such as Childe Hassam and William Merritt Chase taught in New York and were invited by their Californian students to visit the West Coast, where they exhibited their paintings and held well-attended classes. Also significant were large-scale exhibitions of art such as the Panama-Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco in 1915, which enabled a large number of people to experience an all-encompassing selection of recent styles.

For the most part, the artists in this exhibition were directly exposed to prevailing art styles through study in Europe and less directly through the works of artists who had studied there. What makes California artists of this period unique is not stylistic innovation, but the growth that occurred when the aesthetics and techniques they encountered were combined with the Californian landscape, both physical and imagined. As Robinson Jeffers expresses it in his 1912 poem Epilogue, California was seen as a land apart, a place "pregnant with dreams." Many artists were drawn here by the beauty and the climate-artistic as well as geographic. California was seen as fresh ground where artists could create unfettered by the restrictions that naturally evolve around a long-established art community.

By living at "the west of things," Californian artists felt they truly had the best of all worlds.

Images for this article are from the catalog published by the Museum for an exhibition of the art of E. Charlton Fortune (1865-1969) in 1990.

From top to bottom: E. Charlton Fortune, Summer Morning, St. Ives, (also known as St. Ives Harbour #2), 1923, oil on canvas, 37 x 48 inches, gift of Msgr. Robert E. Brennan; E. Charlton Fortune, The Green Boat, St. Tropez, 1925, oil on canvas, 29 1/2 x 39 1/2 inches, bequest of Msgr. Robert E. Brennan; front cover of catalog for exhibition of E. Charlton Fortune.

The Monterey Museum of Art and its historic La Mirada facility are located in Monterey, California. The Museum's address is 559 Pacific Street, Monterey, CA 93940. La Mirada is at 720 Via Mirada.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 9/20/10

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 1999 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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