The California Art Club comes north

December 1, 2009 § Leave a comment

 Michael Reardon | Bartholomew Park Winery

Founded in 1909 in the studio of Franz Bischoff in Los Angeles, the California Art Club is one of the oldest and most active fine arts organizations in the United States. With conditions in California ideal for outdoor painting, the club gave birth to a new artistic movement now known as California Plein Air, or California Impressionism.

The California Art Club became the organization for artists in Los Angeles, but it didn’t reach very far north in its early years. Many Northern California artists — Xavier Martinez, Gottardo Piazzoni, Percy Gray, Arthur and Lucia Mathews — never became members. One of the few Northern Californians who did was William Henry Clapp of the Society of Six.

Still, the club almost from the beginning established a presence in the Bay Area. In 1910, the club held its first Gold Medal Juried Exhibition — an annual event that continues today. The second exhibition in 1911 traveled to San Francisco and Sacramento. The exhibitions in 1912 and 1913 also came to San Francisco. But it remained a club primarily for painters in Southern California.

In recent years a resurgent interest in California plein-air landscape painting has revived and reinvigorated the club. Its programs, paintouts and other activities since then have been extensive — but mostly, as before, in Southern California. Upon its centennial, the club has directed resources toward greater activity in Northern California, and especially in the Bay Area. The exhibition “Then & Now: The California Art Club in Northern California” at the Thomas Reynolds Gallery in San Francisco is a celebration of the club’s 100th year and an enthusiastic endorsement of a stronger and more active presence for the club in the visual feast set before us in Northern California.

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