Art in the Garden

October 19, 2021 § Leave a comment

A redwood grove in the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

IT WAS A PERFECT PAIRING: an afternoon touring the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and viewing an exhibition of paintings created by the garden’s first artist-in-residence. Organized by the art committee of Santa Barbara Newcomers — a group of recent arrivals — the afternoon began with an enlightening tour of the garden led by Education Director Scot Pipkin, who emphasized the garden’s focus on native California plants. Santa Barbara painter Libby Holland, the debut artist-in-residence, joined the tour and gave a talk about the paintings her residency inspired, which are now exhibited in the garden’s Conservation Center gallery.

7 secrets of collecting art

March 25, 2021 § Leave a comment

Mac Harshberger | The Tennis Set (circa 1928)

By LYNDA MILLNER
Montecito Journal

There’s something new at 1331 State Street: the Thomas Reynolds Gallery, near the Arlington Theater. The gallery was founded in 1994 in San Francisco in the Pacific Heights neighborhood and was known for contemporary California art and artists. I met with Thomas Reynolds the other day and he shared some of his knowledge about how to become a collector on all sizes of budgets — or, as he calls it, “passing through the post-poster phase into the promised land of original art.” 

Read more: “A new gallery opens in Santa Barbara

Thomas Moran lived here

January 20, 2021 § Leave a comment

Thomas Moran painting.

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

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.

An artistic courthouse

July 9, 2020 § Leave a comment

The Mural Room of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse.

By LYNDA MILLNER
Montecito Journal

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 Santa Barbara County Courthouse, with its distinctive clock tower.

‘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

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