The art of judges
March 16, 2023 § Leave a comment
WE HAD A VISIT the other day from Jim and Carole Ward, who were in town for a few days from Riverside. Jim — more formally the Honorable Justice James D. Ward, now retired from California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal — is one of a number of judges who have become friends of the gallery over the years.
In a previous lifetime, when I was editor and publisher of California Lawyer magazine, Jim was a prominent lawyer who had argued and won two important First Amendment cases in the U.S. Supreme Court — and a voluble and valuable member of our editorial board. After a meeting, while sharing a meal, we confided our itch for new adventures.
One evening a couple of years later, a friend and I stopped into the beautiful Redwood Room in the Clift Hotel, and there was Jim, having a drink at the bar. I went over to say hello, and he was as affable as ever. (He later told me he had also been approached in the Redwood Room by a lady of the evening, offering companionship.) It turned out we had both found our new adventures: I had opened an art gallery and Jim had gotten himself appointed to the appellate court.
He was enthusiastic about my new life, and he and Carole would sometimes visit the gallery when they were in San Francisco. They bought one of Ken Auster’s early landscape paintings, of June Lake in the Sierra, where Carole’s family had often vacationed. Across the years and miles, Jim and I have kept in touch and occasionally swapped stories.
Much of the gallery’s clientele has come from the legal world, especially in the early days. That was my world, too. One of my first exhibitions, in 1995, was titled “Lawyers Turned Artists.” A few years later, when I made a documentary about the California Supreme Court, I was pleased to find a work from my gallery displayed in the chambers of Chief Justice Ronald M. George.
In fact, my final visitor before we left San Francisco in 2020 was another lawyer who recently had been appointed to the bench, collecting for his new chambers John Payne’s historic painting of the cable cars that once ran past Alta Plaza Park. I was moved when he told me, soon after he became Judge Michael B. McNaughton: “It makes me want to be a better person.” As he was leaving, I wished him well on the bench and told him how much I had enjoyed his visits and friendship over the years.
“Are you kidding?” he responded. “You enriched my life.”
— Thomas R. Reynolds
Getting on Jerry’s list
January 18, 2023 § Leave a comment
By MARIANNA STARK
I first met Jerry Ross Barrish in 2015 when he curated a solo show of Sam Perry’s sculpture at the nonprofit community gallery, Sanchez Art Center, in Pacifica, California. Sam Perry, who is my husband, and I were soon added to Jerry’s enormous “studio party” guest list. These “behind-the-scenes” affairs are magical in nature: Picture yourself at a packed artist studio party surrounded by Jerry’s sculptures of jazz musicians, angels, animals, clowns, dancers, Statues of Liberty, plus live music. On January 1, Jerry telephones every friend on his list with a New Year’s greeting and follows up throughout the year with invitations to opening receptions, fundraisers and artist talks at Sanchez, where he serves as artistic director.
In his sculptures, Jerry Barrish applies his deft hand to the cast offs of our materialistic consumer society to tell immutable tales of love and loss. Familiar items like umbrella handles, funnels and toys are transformed when combined with takeout containers, janitorial supplies and vacuum parts. Each element of these assemblage sculptures is placed in a way that perfectly expresses the universal language of gesture.
To me, the piece Jerry calls Teaching, The Most Honorable Profession (2016) is in many ways a self-portrait. Since he became the artistic director of Sanchez Art Center in 2003 he has mentored dozens of artists. In the process of selecting works for exhibitions, he also discovers works in artist studios that merit further exploration and development and he continues the conversation with these artists in furtherance of both. After many, many helpful conversations about opening this new gallery — lighting, installation, public programs and even business hours — I am proud to call Jerry my mentor as well.
— excerpted from “Jerry Ross Barrish: Protagonist,” catalog for the inaugural exhibition at the new M. Stark Gallery at 727 Main Street in Half Moon Bay, California.
His spirit lives on
July 20, 2022 § Leave a comment
WHEN THE CHARLES CAMPBELL GALLERY opened in January 1972 at 647 Chestnut Street in San Francisco with an exhibition of work by Nathan Oliveira, Campbell had known many of the prominent San Francisco artists for almost 30 years, and art had undergone several changes.
The Charles Campbell Gallery was unusual, noted for its relaxed attitude and a comfortable sofa in the front room. According to Barbara Janeff, who worked with Campbell from 1983 to 1993, the gallery was “very informal and eclectic. . . . It was a hangout place. It was a low-key fun party, with people drifting in and out.” It was also very well respected. The San Francisco Chronicle, Artweek and other regional papers took notice right from the beginning and reviewed the gallery’s shows regularly.
Dancing With Charlie: Bay Area Art From the Campbell Collection brings together works of art that the legendary San Francisco gallery owner amassed over a period of some 60 years. Campbell collected and exhibited both emerging and long-established artists he believed in, irrespective of the market or fashion; all were friends and members of an extended family and many eventually turned out to be central figures in American art history.
— excerpted from Dancing with Charlie by Susan M. Anderson, a catalog of the exhibition at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art.
EARLIER: “Right place, right time“
Thiebaud the storyteller
December 28, 2021 § Leave a comment
FIRST PERSON | THOMAS REYNOLDS
Everybody who met Wayne Thiebaud came away with a story. I’m no exception.
Quite a few years ago, the California Historical Society mounted an exhibition of plein-air paintings by the great 19th century California artist Thomas Hill. Most of Hill’s paintings are grand landscapes of the Yosemite valley. But these were small oil sketches done on location. As part of the exhibition program, there was to be a talk by the legendary 20th century California artist Wayne Thiebaud. It seemed an odd pairing.
Of course I went. Thiebaud began with one of Hill’s paintings of tents turned upside down, to show its abstract qualities. It was a magnificent talk, full of observations and insights, delivered with wry humor. Afterward I went up to shake the great man’s hand and tell him how thoroughly he had overcome my doubts that he — the master of pies and cakes and gumball machines — should speak about such an old-fashioned landscape painter.
“Let me tell you a story,” he replied. “I used to kick around junk stores and antique shops in Sacramento. One day I came upon a little landscape painting. I thought to myself, ‘By golly, this looks like Thomas Hill.’ So I bought it. And I’ve learned more from that little painting than nearly anything else I’ve come across in my long life.”
Thiebaud’s stories usually finished with a punchline, and this one was no exception.
“And I got it for only $2,” he smiled.
Popping up in Santa Barbara
December 2, 2020 § 1 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.
Master of the poppyfields
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.
An artistic courthouse
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.
MORE: “A tour of the courthouse“
‘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
Making a move
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
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.
On the ramparts of high art
October 21, 2019 § Leave a comment
IN THE EARLY 1880s in San Francisco, Samuel Marsden Brookes had been hard at work, waiting patiently for better times. His paintings, of which he by now had a large number, were stacked all around the studio, with good prices affixed to them. Once Brookes put a price on a canvas, not even Satan himself could make him reduce it.
One portrayed a life-size peacock, posed on a balustrade before a palatial country house. The painting had been languishing in Brookes’ studio for quite some time, waiting for a buyer. The longer the bird remained on his hands, the higher Brookes jacked up the price. He had started at $750, a figure already pronounced much too high by his dealer. Out of sheer spite Brookes immediately raised it to $1,000. Thereafter, the price of the peacock had steadily escalated. From $1,000 it went to $1,200, then $1,500, then $1,700. By the time Timothy Hopkins, adopted son of the late Mark Hopkins, came to see the painting, the price had soared to $2,000. A few days later, when Timothy returned with Mark Hopkins’ widow for a second look, Brookes promptly raised the price to $2,500, announcing that, while he did not have any money he did have the picture, “and here it stays until I get my price.” In the face of such rapid developments, Mrs. Hopkins surrendered on the spot, adding two still lifes, one with apples, one with fish, for a total of $3,000.
The idea of the solitary artist brandishing his mahlstick on the ramparts of High Art, willing to die, yet prevailing in the end, was inspiring. However, it was merely the exception confirming the rule.
— From Artful Players: Artistic Life in Early San Francisco by Birgitta Hjalmarson