January 20, 2021 § Leave a comment
By BETSY J. GREEN
A number of homes and estates in the Santa Barbara area have names. Some are fairly well known, such as Bellosguardo or Casa de la Guerra. Other names are less familiar. But the house at 1821 Anacapa Street in Santa Barbara has a name that no one — including the present owner — seemed to be aware of: Rosemary Cottage.
In 1919, the home’s most distinguished resident moved in — the landscape artist Thomas Moran and his daughter, Ruth. Moran’s main home was in East Hampton, New York, and is a National Historic Landmark. Starting about 1916-17, the 80-year-old Moran and his daughter began spending their winters in Santa Barbara. The first couple of years, they stayed at the Potter Hotel and other places. But about 1919, they bought the home at 1821 Anacapa Street and began spending every winter in Rosemary Cottage.
Moran was famous enough that the local newspaper published an article in 1917 titled, “Noted Painter of Big Views Arrives; Thomas Moran is Famous for His Canvases of Western Outdoor Wonders.” The article ended with a quote from Moran: “Santa Barbara is the most beautiful city, with its environs, I have seen in all California.”
Read more: “Rediscovering Rosemary Cottage“
December 2, 2020 § Leave a comment
AFTER 25 YEARS in San Francisco, the Thomas Reynolds Gallery is presenting its first exhibition in Santa Barbara’s arts district at 1331 State Street, near the historic Arlington Theater.
“We’re delighted to be in Santa Barbara,” said owner-director Thomas R. Reynolds, who is also an editor-publisher and a recovering lawyer. “We’re especially happy to become a part of the excitement the new pedestrian promenade is bringing to a reinvigorated State Street. Despite the ups and downs of the virus, this is an idea whose time has come.”
The gallery’s inaugural exhibition brings Sandy Ostrau back to Santa Barbara from her studio at The Sea Ranch, on the Northern California coast. Sandy is a proud graduate of UCSB, where she played on the women’s soccer team. The exhibition also includes paintings by Ken Auster, the Laguna Beach surf artist who became one of California’s preeminent landscape and cityscape painters, and other gallery artists.
The Thomas Reynolds Gallery was founded in 1994 in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood and became a fixture on Fillmore Street, presenting historic and contemporary California art and artists.
September 24, 2020 § Leave a comment
ON MARCH 2, 1903, the California Legislature declared the golden poppy the state flower, prompting its proliferation on objects of all kinds, including paintings. That Granville Redmond started painting poppies in earnest just as the legislature made the flower’s status official was surely not coincidental.
The golden poppy, Eschscholzia californica, provided a distinctive, seasonal burst of color, enlivening yellow-green hills and meadows following winter rains. The poppy was more than a flower, however. It was a symbol of California itself, its golden hue emblematic of the state’s history of mining, its importance as an orange grower, its perennial sunshine, and its amber hillsides in summer. It appealed to locals and tourists alike.
In Redmond’s day, great profusions of poppies thrived throughout the state, but were especially notable in the San Gabriel Valley, where Redmond often worked. In 1904, Redmond started to focus on poppies, and he became incredibly skilled at doing so. Soon no other artist in California could match his aptitude for painting the flower in its natural environment. Like his colleagues, Redmond would come to depict poppies and other wildflowers in combination, pairing them most frequently with lupine, which provided a perfect, blue-purple complement to the poppy’s orange-yellow hue.
In many of his paintings, Redmond maintained what he considered to be a self-respecting balance between color and quiet, with poppies animating landscapes that were subtly hued. The poppies and lupine nestled within the otherwise tonal expanse provide orchestrated bursts of seasonal color — often just enough to leave the viewer longing for more. Redmond himself remained personally inclined toward quieter paintings, preferring, as he told an art critic for the Los Angeles Times, to paint pictures of “solitude and silence.” And yet, he confessed: “Alas, people will not buy them. They all seem to want poppies.”
MORE: “Granville Redmond’s quieter side“
— Excerpted from Granville Redmond: The Eloquent Palette, by Scott Shields and Mildred Albronda.
July 9, 2020 § Leave a comment
By LYNDA MILLNER
Nature intervened in 1925 with a giant earthquake, which struck down the Santa Barbara County Courthouse and the Hall of Records. A $700,000 bond was passed, but expenses went up to almost $1.4 million. Now what? A stroke of luck. The Rio Grande Oil Co. struck oil at Ellwood, west of Santa Barbara. Revenue from the oil tax paid for the rest of the courthouse. And amazingly it was finished just two months before the stock market crash in 1929.
The Mural Room has never been a courtroom, but was the meeting place for the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors until the 1960s. Now the Mural Room is used for weddings, ceremonies, parties and the like.
Artist Dan Groesbeck wasn’t given many instructions except to paint the history of Santa Barbara on all four walls. He had two helpers and was paid $9,000. It took them four months.
He began with the Canalinos Indians watching Juan Cabrillo landing near Santa Barbara in 1542. Then in 1602 along came Vizcaino, a Spanish explorer and mapmaker. He arrived on December 4, which was Saint Barbara’s feast day, hence our name and claim of the territory for Spain.
The next part of the mural is when Mexico was independent of Spain, beginning in 1822 and lasting only until 1846, when Captain John Fremont descended through San Marcos Pass and claimed Santa Barbara for the United States.
The third wall portrays what makes Santa Barbara’s economic engine run. First came minerals: oil, silver and diatomaceous earth. Next came cattle: thousands, giving hides and tallow until the big drought in the 1800s. Lastly agriculture: strawberries, broccoli and grapes, grapes, grapes.
On the same wall there is a painting of California’s symbol, the grizzly bear. Peeking out from around a tree is a young boy with a pixie hat depicting Peter Pan. What did he have to do with Santa Barbara? At the time a film company was out on one of the islands filming the story of Peter Pan, silent and in black and white.
The back wall shows the Chumash Indians working on the Santa Barbara Mission — the fourth since 1786, when our mission was 10th in a line of 21 in California. The signature in the bottom left-hand corner is a forgery. After Groesbeck was paid and on his way to Europe, they discovered the mural was unsigned. Upon being asked to return and sign his work, he said: “No. Just have someone do it.” And so they did.
— Excerpted from the Montecito Journal
‘The grandest ever built’
By RAY McDEVITT
Santa Barbara is one of the 27 original counties and the City of Santa Barbara has always been the county seat. By the 1870s, the Anglo political and economic ascendancy had become evident in architecture as well. The 1875 courthouse designed by Peter Barber, in a restrained classical style, was welcomed in part because it represented such a decisive break with the Hispanic past.
At the turn of the century, however, changing fashions led to a new appreciation of the provincial Spanish adobes now becoming scarcer. After World War I, interest in reclaiming the city’s Spanish architectural heritage intensified. The old courthouse, though a distinctive piece of architecture when built in 1875, had been outgrown by the 1920s. But no real progress was made in planning for its replacement until matters were brought to a head in 1925 when it was severely damaged by a powerful earthquake.
The board of supervisors commissioned William Mooser Co. Architects, the oldest architectural firm in the state, having been founded in 1854, to develop plans for a courthouse in harmony with the Spanish origins of the county. William Mooser Jr., son of the founder, was an accomplished architect. His son, William Mooser III, a graduate of the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris who had lived for 17 years in France and Spain, returned from Europe to assist his father.
They succeeded beyond all expectations. Architectural historian David Gebhard assessed the Santa Barbara courthouse as “certainly the public monument from the 1920s Spanish Colonial Revival in California.” Charles Moore, in The City Observed, deemed it “the grandest Spanish Colonial Revival structure ever built.” Harold Kirker praised it as “a beautifully integrated structure . . . sensitively related to a vast sunken garden of stone terraces and half century old pines, palms and redwoods. The courthouse is equally impressive from every vantage point and is rich in wit, fantasy and surprises. It is a treasure house of architectural and decorative devices — archways, towers and loggias; tiled walls, vaults and floors; wrought-iron grills, balconies and landings — in which nothing is repeated or exactly alike.”
— Excerpted from Courthouses of California (Heyday Books, 2001), edited by Ray McDevitt. REVIEW by Thomas Reynolds
July 1, 2020 § 1 Comment
“COMMENCE AGAIN,” the great early California artist Arthur Mathews instructed his students as he tossed their drawings into the dustbin. We are taking his advice, and are delighted to relocate ourselves and our gallery to beautiful and historic Santa Barbara, where we will continue to exhibit work online and by appointment, perhaps with the occasional pop-up when the fates allow.
We are especially happy to be in the area of California’s Central Coast where HENRY VILLIERME created most of his work. Henry lived in nearby Ojai for more than 50 years after being anointed as one of the original group of 12 artists who became known as the Bay Area Figurative painters after a 1957 exhibition at the Oakland Museum.
We’re also happy to be bringing SANDY OSTRAU back to Santa Barbara. Sandy is a proud graduate of UCSB, where she was a big star on the soccer team. Her juicy paintings of the California coast — north, central and south — are among the most exciting works of our time.
And while KEN AUSTER perfected his of-the-moment style painting the streets, bars and restaurants of San Francisco and New York, he worked and surfed at points farther south near his home in Laguna Beach. We’re happy to continue to offer work from the occasional estate and from his own.
— Thomas Reynolds
June 30, 2020 § 1 Comment
MICHAEL REARDON’S painting Light and Shadow has been juried into the 100th international exhibition of the National Watercolor Society, to be presented online this fall from October 1 to December 20.
Reardon, one of the nation’s most respected watercolor painters, tells how it happened.
I had long been interested in doing a fire escape painting, mainly because of the beguiling shadow patterns. After several false starts over the years, last June I saw this fire escape outside Specs’, an old San Francisco dive and thought this could be the one. I did a sketch but put it aside because there was something wrong with the composition.
In April, I was rearranging my stack of “problem” sketches when a piece of paper covered the right side of the sketch and, voilá, the composition problem was solved.
Sometimes painting works in mysterious, or not so mysterious, ways.
June 7, 2020 § Leave a comment
HANDS WERE OFTEN an important subject for Ruth Bernhard, the world-renowned photographer who lived in our neighborhood for more than 50 years. She took this photograph in 1956 after attending a Sunday service at the Fellowship Church on Russian Hill.
HOW IT HAPPENED: I knew no one in the photo community when I arrived in San Francisco in the early 1950s, but I was invited to one and then another of Ansel Adams’s many cocktail parties and through those parties I got acquainted with the community.
There were so many interesting photographers in San Francisco at that time! Several of them developed a group called the San Francisco Photographers’ Roundtable. There was Jerry Stoll, who really was the star of the group, and his wife, Gini Stoll Harding, who became a lifelong friend. Other photographers in the group were Phiz Mozzeson, Jackie Paul, Miriam Young, Paul Hassle and Pirkle Jones and his wife, Ruth Marion Baruch. They met in the Stoll studio to share their work and got the idea to have an exhibition on a theme, suggested by Dorothea Lange. It was decided that photographers had to use new pictures all taken for an event that was called “San Francisco Weekend.” They sent out a call to photographers all over the city. I heard about it and went over to the studio on Potrero Hill and introduced myself to Jerry and Gini.
Now, I never go out with my camera and wonder what I am going to photograph. I never do that, ever. But when Dorothea Lange said we had to, I did. That walk resulted in three photographs, including Hand in Hand (above) and Mr. Reilley (below).
These photographs hung in the San Francisco Arts Festival in 1956. There were about 10 of us in the show. Dorothea was the advisor and Imogen Cunningham, Nat Farbman, who was the senior editor of Life magazine, and I were the jury. Everyone pitched in and worked for the exhibition, which won top honors at the festival. Gini and Jerry were so proud because we photographers were considered only “button-pushers” in those days.
— Ruth Bernhard
May 22, 2020 § 1 Comment
By HARVEY L. JONES
Arthur F. Mathews’ well-deserved reputation as a hard master was revealed in his frequently harsh criticism and caustic comments about the students’ work. Although they regarded him with fear and awe, the students in his drawing classes were noted for the high quality of their draftsmanship.
As it was in the Parisian art academies, Mathews met with his classes twice weekly for the purposes of instruction and review of the students’ accumulated work. He had little patience with the untalented and was known to ignore some of the students working at their easels, making neither comment nor criticism for days or weeks at a time, as a way of discouraging all but the most diligent and dedicated in the class. Those students who aspired to Mathews’ high standards were rewarded with his generous attention and encouragement.
Despite his dictatorial teaching methods, Mathews did not expect the students to imitate his own approaches or themes. Moreover, during his 16 years as director of the California School of Design in San Francisco, he always advised his best students to seek further study in Paris. Mathews was also very supportive of the efforts of women in the arts.
A large number of California’s best artists, both men and women, from the first half of the 20th century were his students. They include, among many others, his wife Lucia Kleinhas Mathews, Armin Hansen, Florence Lundborg, Francis McComas, Xavier Martinez, Anne Bremer, Gottardo Piazzoni, Ralph Stackpole, Giuseppe Cadenasso, Isabel Hunter, Granville Redmond, Joseph Raphael and Euphemia Charlton Fortune.
— Excerpted from The Art of Arthur & Lucia Mathews by Harvey L. Jones (Pomegranate 2006), published by the Oakland Museum.
March 20, 2020 § 2 Comments
FIRST PERSON | THOMAS REYNOLDS
WE HAVE BEEN sustained on the mornings of the first week of the great lockdown of 2020 by a loaf of Irish soda bread, left with a neighborly note at our front door on St. Patrick’s Day.
This was unexpected, since March 17 was the first day those of us in San Francisco were ordered to stay inside — and also because our neighbor who baked it, Suzanne Burwasser, died last year.
Suzanne was a great baker, and soda bread was one of her specialties. A couple of St. Patrick’s Days ago, I went to check the gallery mailbox at Jet Mail. Kevin, the manager, saw me open the box and take out the usual assortment of bills and notices. “Just a minute,” he called out as I started to leave. “There’s something else.” He reached under the counter and pulled out a loaf of soda bread, which Suzanne had dropped off and asked him to pass along.
As I walked home, I ran into Kenyatta, the much-loved letter carrier for our part of the neighborhood, who always has a friendly greeting and a warm smile. “Hey baby,” she said, “whatcha smiling about?”
“We live in such a great neighborhood,” I replied, as we exchanged our customary hug. “I just checked our box at Jet Mail and got this loaf of soda bread from Suzanne Burwasser.”
She reached into her mail bag and pulled out another loaf.
“I got one too!” she said.
Suzanne and her husband, George, have always been among the most neighborly people in our little village. They have been great patrons of our gallery and of many other local businesses in our neighborhood. Suzanne died last year after a fast and ferocious battle with pancreatic cancer. George said she continued to bake, even during her illness, leaving a freezer full of goodies.
She keeps on sharing from the great beyond.
EARLIER: “The art of neighborliness“
February 17, 2020 § 2 Comments
JOHN PAYNE had no desire to settle in California until he visited San Francisco. He immediately fell under the city’s charms and uniqueness.
There was no doubt that in the 1950s it was the place to be. Lawrence Ferlinghetti had just opened City Lights bookstore in North Beach, and the free-spirited culture of the Beat generation appealed to the young painter. The hills, the Victorian houses and the liberal politics were irresistible. Best of all, his allergies disappeared like magic in the gray fog.