Painters have been settling in California since the second half of the 19th century but it was not until the early 20th century that the identity of California painting firmly defined itself as a major movement in the history of American art. Critic John Ruskin had earlier challenged artists to describe nature in ideal terms of careful observation and accurate description.The artists of California responded by depicting their surrounding landscape en plein air.The distinctive topography and unique colours of the California scenery immediately inspired artists and impelled them to work directly from nature – as demonstrated by the European Impressionists of a previous generation.
Arguably the most pivotal artist to inspire fundamental change from academic 19th-century artistic style toward Impressionism in California was Guy Rose. Born in the San Gabriel Valley, Rose began his artistic education in San Francisco and travelled to Paris in 1888 for further study. He lived in France for twelve years, mostly in Giverny, where he was influenced by Monet and worked alongside young American artists Frederick Frieseke and Richard E. Miller.With his solid training in Impressionism complete, Rose returned to Southern California in 1914 and quickly attracted the attention of many in the local artistic community. During this period, he was particularly taken with the California coast and produced a number of magnificent canvases including La Jolla Cove, a rare vertical-format landscape that captures the brilliant light and ever-changing hues of the dramatic coastline.
Like Rose, Granville Redmond was a leader of this new school of California Impressionism, and like man of his contemporaries his sensitivity to this new style of painting was grounded in formal academic training. After studying at the Academie Julian, Redmond returned to California in 1898 and settled in Los Angeles, where his more European tonalist style of painting soon developed into a brighter palette inspired by the exceptional California landscape. Granville Redmond’s depictions of blooming poppy and lupine fields are among the artist’s most sought-after subjects. Glorious hillsides dotted with bold orange, yellow and violet blooming flowers, set against cooler green meadows, are at once realistic views of the California spring and confident personal expressions from one of the leaders of the region’s plein-air movement.
An accomplished practitioner of the Impressionist technique,William Wendt embraced the grand scale of the California landscape.He once said,‘I like plenty of elbow room when I attack a canvas. Nature isn’t a two-by-four affair and I don’t think pictures ought to be.’ Cup of Gold is an exceptional example of Wendt’s early impressionistic style. The foreground is emblazoned with bold orange poppy blossoms that carpet the fields, rendered with short, quick brushstrokes that give the work a softness characteristic of his early work.Wendt was committed to painting the California landscape throughout the duration of his career. Never tiring of the many moods and sensibility of nature, he painted them with conviction and with a deep sense of spirituality.
SALE: California, Western and American Paintings, 29 October, Los Angeles
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