Thanks to John Singer Sargent

March 21, 2023 § Leave a comment

“IF IT WEREN’T for John Singer Sargent, I might not be painting watercolours today,” Michael Reardon tells The Art of Watercolour magazine in its new issue. “In 1985 there was a show of Sargent’s watercolours in San Francisco that knocked my socks off. I decided that I had to learn how to paint in watercolour. That’s how it all started.”

Read more: “Sensitivity and skill

From architecture to art, via Paris

October 7, 2022 § 3 Comments

Michael Reardon | Pont Notre-Dame

I FIRST MET Michael Reardon when he was a regular with the Sunday Afternoon Watercolor Society, the gently mocking name a group of San Francisco architects gave themselves when they gathered in some scenic spot once a month with their watercolors. 

The Sunday Afternoon Watercolor Society visits Alta Plaza Park.

Michael Reardon | Bartholomew Park Winery

I’d seen one of Michael’s watercolors in a group exhibition of the California Art Club I hosted in 2009. I thought I didn’t much like watercolors, but I loved the abstraction of Michael’s vertical painting of a Sonoma winery.

So I invited myself to visit his studio and see more of Michael’s work. He was still working in architecture, having become a much sought-after architectural illustrator. But he painted watercolors on location quite often, too. He had a lot of beautiful work of various subjects, but no apparent theme for an exhibition. Then he pulled open a drawer of paintings he had done in Paris when he was awarded a three-month residency there to study some aspect of French architecture. He chose the historic fountains of Paris, and painted many of them in watercolor. He even wrote and published a book. We held his “Fountains of Paris” exhibition in 2011 at my San Francisco gallery. That’s when he and the other Sunday watercolorists painted in nearby Alta Plaza Park in the video above — and not long before Michael decided to graduate from architecture and give himself over entirely to painting and teaching.

I’ve thought since I got to Santa Barbara that this is another great architectural destination Michael might be moved to paint. That hasn’t happened yet, but the ARTchitecture exhibition provided an opportunity to introduce his work here. Demonstrating the wide appeal of his paintings, the first three claimed are going to Australia.

— Thomas Reynolds

Presenting: ARTchitecture

August 19, 2022 § 3 Comments

Michael Reardon | Customs House

“ARTchitecture” — a group exhibition of Santa Barbara architect-artists — is on view from September 16 to November 12 at the Thomas Reynolds Gallery at 1331 State Street in Santa Barbara. It runs alongside an exhibition of paintings by Michael Reardon, a renowned Northern California watercolorist with an architectural background.

Nearly a dozen of Santa Barbara’s finest practicing architects who also paint, primarily in watercolor, are featured in the exhibition. Among them are Marc Appleton, who helped organize the exhibition, Anthony Grumbine, Stephen Harby and Jeff Shelton. Also included are Domiane Forte, Henry Lenny, John Margolis, Sean McArdle, Tom Meaney, Alexis Stypa and Qing Xue.

“Art and architecture have always been closely related,” says Thomas Reynolds, who last year moved his gallery to Santa Barbara after 25 years in San Francisco. “Santa Barbara is notable not only for its magnificent architecture, but also for its concentration of respected architects moved to create art. We’re happy to bring some of them together.”

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Painting Via San Francesco

August 17, 2022 § Leave a comment

MICHAEL REARDON demonstrates how his watercolor painting, Via San Francesco, came to life.

The shadow knows

June 30, 2020 § 1 Comment


Michael Reardon | Light and Shadow

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.


‘Mike likes to color’

April 6, 2017 § Leave a comment

AN INTERVIEW with watercolorist Michael Reardon, who talks about his early love of art, his background in architecture and where he finds inspiration.

Reardon watercolor selected

January 10, 2012 § 2 Comments

South Anchorage, Golden Gate Bridge | Michael Reardon

MASTER WATERCOLORIST Michael Reardon’s atmospheric painting of the Golden Gate Bridge has been juried into the 145th annual exhibition of the American Watercolor Society, opening April 3 at the historic Salmagundi Club in New York. The exhibition continues through April 22 at the club, which is located at 47 Fifth Avenue.

Read more: “A love for light” from Watercolor Artist magazine

Paint-out at Alta Plaza

April 4, 2011 § 1 Comment

A GROUP OF architects and artists who paint together en plein air once a month gathered at Alta Plaza Park on Sunday afternoon, April 10. The group started painting together 30 years ago, led by architect John Kriken and former San Francisco planning director Allan Jacobs.

Master watercolorist Michael Reardon, who has been a part of the group for most of its history, brought the watercolorists to Alta Plaza, a favorite neighborhood park at the top of Pacific Heights with magnificent views and outstanding architecture. Reardon’s work has been honored by the California and American watercolor societies and the California Art Club. He is exhibiting his series, “The Fountains of Paris,” nearby at the Thomas Reynolds Gallery.

The Fountains of Paris

March 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Michael Reardon | Fontaine des Mars

MICHAEL REARDON received the Gabriel Prize from the Western European Architecture Foundation in 2005, which included a three-month residency in Paris to study some aspect of French classical architecture. He chose as his field of study the pre-20th century fountains of Paris, many of which he painted in watercolor.

The Thomas Reynolds Gallery is pleased to present, from March 11 to April 30, 2011, an exhibition of the watercolors Reardon painted during his residency in Paris.

All of Reardon’s Paris watercolors are included in Fontaines, his book about the history and aesthetics of the fountains of Paris. In the introduction, he writes:

Fountains were the primary source of drinking water in pre-20th century Paris. Today, fewer than 60 of these fountains remain from the more than 1,700 that existed in the mid-19th century. Industrial Age plumbing made them an anachronism. They went dry. Most were abandoned. Some were destroyed. They became neglected relics of a bygone era.

Today they are restored. The stone is clean, the sculptures gleam and the water flows. The Parisian government, recognizing the historical and aesthetic value of these fountains, has brought them back to life. This restoration created an especially opportune time to study and document their design.

This book tells a part of their story. It explores their history and artistry. It also analyzes the way fountains synthesize architecture, sculpture and water, revealing the allure and magic of not only Parisian fountains, but fountains worldwide.

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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