Welcome to the William A. Karges Fine Art Blog

Welcome to the William A. Karges Fine Art Blog, where you'll be able to find information about Early California and Southwest Paintings, including Museum Exhibitions, Current News, Events, and our gallery's new acquisitions of original paintings created between 1870 and 1940 by a wide variety of Early California and Southwest Artists. We'll feature biographies, photographs, links to websites of interest to collectors, video tours, and detailed histories of some of California's most influential and intriguing artists.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Alson Clark - Early California Impressionist

Alson Clark - Early California Impressionist 

Alson S. Clark (March 25, 1876 to March 23, 1949) was among America’s most prominent Impressionist painters. Born to an affluent family, Clark was able to develop his artistic talent at a young age by taking night classes at the Art Institute of Chicago, and through exposure to European art and painting during a two-year trip to see the world with his family in his teenage years. After graduating from high school, he left Chicago to study under William Merritt Chase at the Art Students League in New York and the Chase Summer School of painting in Shinnecock. He then studied under James Abbott McNeill Whistler at the Academie Carmen in Paris, instruction that Clark acknowledged as a life long influence.

Alson Clark
Oil on canvas, 18 x 22 inches

Returning to New York briefly in 1901, Clark met his wif Atta Medora McMullin when she modeled for his work. He spent much of his early career in Paris, taking residence in the city from 1902 until 1914. The Clarks were able to travel extensively throughout life, supported by sales through galleries such as William Macbeth in New York and William O’Brien in Chicago. The Clarks visited much of Europe and spent a year living in Giverny in 1910, where there was an active artist community surrounding Monet. Clark’s work in Europe often focused on architecture, depicting beautiful European Chateaus and historical buildings from the Middle Ages. He also served as an aerial photographer after the outbreak of World War I.

Alson Clark
"The Golden Hour"
Oil on board, 25 1/2 x 31 1/4

Visiting the Canal Zone in 1913 to see the construction of the Panama Canal, Clark spent months painting its final construction phase. His work earned him a solo exhibition of 18 paintings at the Panama-PacificInternational Exposition in San Francisco, putting him in the ranks of such distinguished artists as Frank Duveneck, James Whistler, William Merritt Chase, Childe Hassam, and John Singer Sargent as the only participating Americans.

Alson Clark
"Culebra Cut, Panama Canal, 1914"
Oil on canvas, 26 x 32

In 1919, the Clarks moved back to the states and settled in Pasadena, California. While Clark was primarily a landscape painter, he also worked on a number of mural projects in California, including the now-demolished Carthay Circle Theater in Los Angeles, the California Club, bank buildings, and private homes. His works—painted in plein air—often demonstrated a technically refined impressionism focusing on landscapes with figurative elements and historical architecture.

Alson Clark
"San Gorgonio"
Oil on canvas, 18 1/2 x 22

In an exhibition at Detroit Museum of Art featuring architectural studies such as “The Pope’s Antechamber at Fountainbleau,” and “Fa├žade of the Chateau of Blois,” one critic noted:

His colors are harmonious and one is charmed with the pictorial qualities of the scenes before him. The artist has not been so jealous of his art as to distract you with it, but has rather concealed it.

Clark and his wife spent the rest of their lives in California, although they continued to travel frequently throughout the Southwest and Mexico, where some of the artist’s favorite subjects included Mission San Gabriel and Mission San Juan Capistrano. 

Alson Clark
"San Juan Capistrano"
Oil on canvas, 26 x 32

He befriended artist Guy Rose, joining him as a teacher at the Stickney Memorial School of Art and taking over as Director when Rose died of a stroke. Maintaining connections to the art world in New York and Chicago, the artist continued to enjoy success until his death in 1949, becoming one of the most highly-regarded California Impressionists and receiving solo exhibitions at spaces such the Stendahl Gallery.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

William S. Schwartz, "Romantic Modernist"

William S. Schwartz
William A. Karges Fine Art

William S. Schwartz (February 23, 1896 – February 10, 1977) was born to a poor family in Smorgon, Russia, where he attended art school on scholarship in adolescence before immigrating to the United States at the age of 17. There Schwartz, who had “chosen his life’s work early on,” managed to support himself as an opera, vaudeville, radio and concert singer and painting houses in order to pursue his ultimate dream as a painter.

After moving to New York to live with his sister and then Omaha to study with J. Laurie Wallace at the Kellom School, Schwartz ultimately ended up in Chicago, where he studied under Ivan Trutnev and Karl A. Buehr at the Art Institute of Chicago. He graduated with honors in life drawing, portraiture, and painting before his career took off in 1926 when he had his first solo exhibition of three at the Institute in 1926.

William Schwartz
Oil on canvas, 14 x 11 inches

He was well known as a distinctive character who sported a handlebar mustache with long hair and a thick accent and was known to frequent Riccardo’s Restaurant and Gallery with other well-known artists such as Ivan Albright, Malvin Albright, andAaron Bohrod. In 1921, Schwartz met and eventually married Mona Turner—then a married woman and mother of two—who he adored and benefited from greatly as she became both his muse and “least lenient critic.” Together they toured the US by car to visit friends as Schwartz painted the country en plein air.

Throughout the Great Depression he supported himself by painting murals in a regionalist style at numerous post offices for the Federal Art Project. He incited minor controversy with his nude lithographs, and his subject matter moved freely between genres to suit his vision. “I have painted in faith and in freedom,” wrote the artist, “faith that somehow what I have done will reflect the best that is in me—freedom to choose my own themes in my own way.” Ultimately Schwartz was most known for and worked most prolifically in symbolist and abstract styles, but he characterized the American scene as, “more colorful and challenging than I or any artist might hope to record in a hundred lifetimes.”

Identifying himself as a “romantic modernist,” he was heavily influenced by surrealism and incorporated influences from cubism and constructivism into his abstract works. 

William Schwartz
"Figures in a Rocky Landscape"
Oil on board, 10 x 12 inches

In the 1920’s he began his series Symphonic Forms, regarded by many as the height of his oeuvre. Marrying his two passions, art and music, the paintings from the series feature surreal biomorphic forms and bright colors recalling the fauvists. Punctuated by jagged cubistic shapes and tonalistic hues, his symphonic scenes evoke the timbre, notes, and compositional scale of the vibrating and evolving musical works they were inspired by, such as Beethoven’s Symphony No. 23. Recalling Kandinsky’s lyrical mysticism, Schwartz’s work seems to capture the spirit of music in its variegated form.

Writing for the Chicago Tribune in 1970, Schwartz put his work into his own words:

My subjects are the beauty and wonder, the laughter and poetry, the pity and terror of the present world, which is the only universe I know. My drawing, composition, color, and techniques are based on the best education I could come by and extended to the limits of my own creative invention and capacities. I do not imitate. Therefore I, and I alone, am responsible for the vision of the world I set before the viewer.”

Swimming between different styles and influences and inspired by the American landscape and subject matter, Schwartz’s surreal visual opuses stand out as stunning reminders of his work as a uniquely abstract modernist.

Schwartz, William S. “An Artist’s Love Affair with America.” The Chicago Tribune. April 5, 1970, Pages 64-65.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Early Northwest Modernist Z. Vanessa Helder

Early Northwest Modernist Z. Vanessa Helder
William A. Karges Fine Art

“No other woman on the spraddling length of this Pacific Coast has had the honor currently being bestowed upon the painting talent of Vanessa Helder.” once wrote the Seattle press, “We’ll stand firmly for this distinction: She is the only woman in the Northwest to have her work hung in the Museum of Modern Art.” Indeed, with exhibits at LACMA, MOMA, and far-reaching success among New York’s premier gallerists, Z. Vanessa Helder (1904-1968) found audience far and wide from her Northwestern home. Drifting into obscurity after her death, the artist who was once one of the most prominent early modernists of the Pacific Northwest experienced a major revival after being rediscovered and featured in the survey Austere Beauty: The Art ofZ. Vanessa Helder at the Tacoma Art Museum in 2013.  Click here to read an interesting article from The Seattle Times about this wonderful exhibit.

Z. Vanessa Helder "Palouse Barnyard" 15 x 22 inches

Born to an artistic and somewhat eccentric family whose interests included music, theosophy, and astrology, Z. Vanessa Helder was an unconventional figure often found strolling Seattle’s streets dressed in her finest with her pet skunk in tow. Her mother was passionate about art and gave Helder her first painting lessons at a young age, eventually leading the prolific young artist to study art at the University of Washington. She kept an unorthodox school of pets throughout her life (at one time she made several inquiries with various state agencies only to find out it was illegal to own a flying squirrel) and an active social life amongst artists, architects, and bon vivants. Undertaking considerable work both teaching and supporting professional artists through the art associations that sustained Seattle and California’s vibrant art scenes before galleries and museums, Helder’s art and social life were intertwined.

Z. Vanessa Helder "Brattleboro Street"

In 1934 Helder moved East with a scholarship to the Art Students League of New York where her artistic style picked up precisionist influences under a number of artists including Robert Brackman, George Picken, and Frank Vincent. There she also joined the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors as well as winning membership in the American Watercolor Society in 1943. Attracting the attention of prominent gallerists of the time such as Maynard Walker and especially Macbeth Gallery, Helder’s characteristic style and Northwestern subject matter brought her attention in exhibits at the Whitney and aforementioned MOMA while simultaneously raising interest in her friends and fellow artists such as Robert O. Engard and Blanche Morgan back home.

Z. Vanessa Helder "Cows and Barn"

Moving back to Washington, Helder became a member of the Women Painters of Washington (WPW), was employed by the local branch of the federal Works ProgressAdministration (WPA) art programs creating murals, lithographs, and paintings, and spent two years teaching at the Spokane Art Center. It was around this period that Helder created one of her most well known works, a series of watercolors for the Bureau of LandReclamation depicting the Coulee Dam during its construction, exhibited at the Seattle Art Museum in 1939.

Developing a distinct precisionist style that defied watercolor’s usual billowy brushstrokes, Helder’s tight yet airy compositions were rendered in an elegant, tempera-like finish. Her subject-matter focused mostly on winterscapes, portraits contrasting collections of natural and manufactured objects, and angular architectural structures framed by rural scenes. 

Z. Vanessa Helder "Hallett House, Medical Lake"
Watercolor, 20 x 28

She enjoyed the influence of Washington artist Elizabeth Colborne, whose watercolor and woodblock prints left an impression of simple composition; her contemporaries and teachers on the East Coast, whose early modern precisionism trained her eye to industrial subjects; her husband John “Jack” Patterson, whose work as an architect gave her a special perspective; and a love of Chinese painting. Assimilating her interests into her natural talent, Helder fluidly expressed her subjects in a striking, technical style that retained a sense of atmospheric lightness on canvas.

In 1943 she followed her husband to Los Angeles as he pursued professional opportunities. There she found success, joining the board of the California Watercolor Society while continuing to exhibit old and new works in California, Washington, and New York. In addition, she maintained active involvement in the Los Angeles art associations that were the primary exhibitors of California artists at the time. However, as more abstract styles began to take precedence in painting, the watercolor master’s work fell out of favor and she exhibited less regularly before her death on May 1, 1968. Helder’s works were then donated to the Westside Jewish Community Center where they were slowly sold off over the years, leaving hundreds of works unaccounted for to this day.

Z. Vanessa Helder "Near San Jacincto" 15 x 20

Z. Vanessa Helder has been exhibited at museum’s including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Denver Art Museum, and the Seattle Art Museum and is included in collections at the National Museum of American Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the Newark Museum, the High Museum of Art, the Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the St. Louis Art Museum, the Academy Of Arts And Letters, Washington State University, I.B.M. Corporation, the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture and the Whatcom Museum of History & Art.

Friday, July 10, 2015

William A. Karges Fine Art

Born in San Francisco in 1886, the well-traveled painter and etcher Armin Hansen was less worldly than an explorer of life at sea, both on deck and even more so in capturing the spirit of marine life on canvas.

Armin Hansen
"Fishing Boats"
10 x 14 inches

His father Herman Wendleborg Hansen was a distinguished American Western artist himself who provided him with early instruction. Continuing his studies as a formal painter at what would become the San Francisco Art Institute (then the Hopkins Institute of Art) under Arthur Mathews, Armin went on to the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich under Carlos Grethe after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and subsequent fires destroyed much of his home city. 

Remaining abroad after finishing, Hansen’s attraction to marine life led him to Niewpoort, Belgium, and from there on board as a deckhand on Norwegian fishing trawlers and other commercial vessels.

Armin Hansen
"Stormy Sea"
25 x 28 inches

He eventually returned to California and settled in Monterey in 1913. There, eschewing at once the more conservative impressionistic tradition and the modernist trends of his day, Hansen went on to fashion a robust style featuring stoic figures enduring the throng of chaotic seascapes, realized in deep, saturated primary colors and bold angular brushstrokes. 

Armin Hansen
12 1/2 x 15 1/2 inches

Although throughout his career his subject matter ranged from oils and etchings of aquarium-like still lifes to landscapes and frenetic rodeo scenes, he is most known for his depictions of Portuguese, Japanese, Sicilian fishermen and boats painted in Monterey, which evince the rugged endurance of men amongst tidal forces and sealed his legacy as one of California’s most important artists of his time.

Armin Hansen
"Cosimo and Pals"
10 x 12 inches

Elected to the National Academy of Design in 1926, Hansen moved in circles including the Carmel ArtAssociation, the Monterey School, and the Society of Six. He was one of the best teachers of his day, and taught both C.S. Price and August Francois Gay. He exhibited at the 1915 San Francisco World’s Fair Panama-Pacific International Exposition. While his subject matter took up where art and literature of the preceding century left off, his singular style captured what it was to endure shifting and elemental forces in America and heavily influenced the techniques of the modernist generation that studied under him.

For additional information about this important artist, visit the Crocker Art Museum June 6th through October 11th, 2015 to see the comprehensive exhibit, "Armin Hansen: The Artful Voyage".  This extraordinary collection of nearly 100 paintings was organized by the Pasadena Museum of California Art, and curated by Scott A. Shields, Associate Director and Chief Curator at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento.  The collection includes a wide variety of subjects and styles, as well as paintings that have never been seen before by the public.  Call (916) 808-7000 for additional information.

The show will open at the Monterey Museum of Art October 29th, 2015 and continues through March 7th, 2016.  Call (831) 372-5477 for additional information.

Don't miss this extraordinary opportunity to learn more about this unique, exceptionally talented and influential Early California artist.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Irvine Museum "Sunlight and Shadow - The Tradition of Plein Air Painting"

If you're a fan of Early California Art, don't miss seeing "Sunlight and Shadow - The Tradition of Plein Air Painting" at The Irvine Museum, through September 24th, 2015. 

The exhibit features paintings by notable Early California Impressionists including Guy Rose and Alfred Mitchell, as well as works by contemporary Plein Air painters who carry on this tradition. Karges Fine Art is proud to be the exclusive representative of Dennis Doheny, whose work is included in this outstanding Exhibition.

Dennis Doheny "Early Light"
Oil on linen, 20 x 24 inches

For more information about the history of Plein Air painting in America, The Traditional Fine Art Organization website includes a series of interesting essays and articles in their extensive Resource Library.  These can be viewed at www.tfaoi.com.

The Irvine Museum offers weekly scheduled docent tours, including guided walks featuring works in their impressive permanent collection of Early California Art. Contact the museum directly to inquire about times by emailing info@irvinemuseum.org or call (949) 476-0294 for more information.

To view additional available works by traditional Early California artists, as well as new paintings by Dennis Doheny, please visit www.kargesfineart.com.