April 07, 2011

California Artists of the Early 20th Century

William S Rice

If you're interested in some of the finest, and most engaging (and diverse in mediums) turn of the century American art, I suggest you look to California.  (I know, I know, I am always praising the Golden State.  But its true.  THERE IS SOME AMAZING STUFF OUT THERE.  Something about the golden hills and the blue skies that inspires our best artists!)  They are vastly underappreciated, because it is only chic to like those famous french impressionists, but I love them.  People like William Wendt (below) and printmaker William Rice (above).
William Wendt

The most famous of these artists were known as "The Society of Six." These artists (Selden Connor Gile, Maurice Logan, William H. Clapp, August F. Gay, Bernard Von Eichman, and Louis Siegriest) formed a plein air artistic society, and, according to historian William Gerdts, "The Oakland Six may constitute the most important modernist development that occurred in this country during the 1920s."

While the painters appeal to me, I love William Rice's woodblock prints best of all. I first discovered these California prints at the De Young Museum in SF.  Every time I am home I stop by (they have the best special exhibits) and every time I argue with myself about whether I should buy this book.  And my coffee table always looses.  But I don't think I can resist much longer.

I need to research these artists much more, see what bought them to CA, and where they learned to paint and what motivated them (besides the obvious beauty) to paint California.  How many ways there are to paint a cypress tree.  And, most of all, why they are ignored everywhere but in their home state!

If you're interested in this period of home-grown Impressionist and post-Impressionist brilliance, I suggest you visit the De Young, and also the Crocker Museum in Sacramento and the Oakland Museum of California.  The later two I have not visited in ages, but they've recently undergone major renovations, and I am excited to visit next time I am home.
Canneries by August Gay, one of the "Society of Six"

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