Two from the Wild West

July 14, 2016 § 2 Comments


Francis McComas | Taos Houses (circa 1910-20)

HALF OF THE two-part show of iconic western images now on view in San Francisco is at the Legion of Honor. It’s called Wild West: Plains to the Pacific, and is intentionally a mixed bag. Two paintings stand out.

Taos Houses, a “watercolor with wiping” by Francis McComas, one of California’s early tonalist painters, is a beautiful painting that manages to be both tonalist and alive with color.

Hanging around the corner in the same golden palette is an early Maynard Dixon, Corral Dust, from 1915.


Maynard Dixon | Corral Dust (1915)


MORE: An interview with the curators

Tonalism in the Holloway collection

March 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

From the Holloway collection: Piazzoni, Oldfield, Mathews, Redmond.

Tonalism in the back room: Piazzoni, Oldfield, Mathews, Redmond.

Jan Holloway writes, in Good Times, Hard Times: I became very interested in the California Tonalist painters — Arthur Mathews, early Granville Redmond, Charles Rollo Peters. The subdued limited palette and soft light were poetic to me.

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California’s old master

December 4, 2011 § 3 Comments

Murals by William Keith hang in the Swedenborgian Church in San Francisco.
Photograph by Jim Karageorge


A great personality was evident to all who came in contact with William Keith. A rather thick-set Scot of medium height, with a head of true nobility — a broad face, wide forehead, kindly gray eyes, ample, well-shaped nose, a moustache and small beard hiding his lips, and a mass of tousled grizzly gray hair surmounting his Jovian head — such was the impression one got of him at first meeting. He generally wore a suit of fine checked gray, more often with the careless abandon of an artist than with the neatly pressed creases of a business or professional man.

To his intimate friends he was always gracious, although they sometimes found him in an exuberant mood and again utterly dejected and despondent. It all depended on whether his work was progressing satisfactorily or not. When he had dashed off an inspired masterpiece he was jubilant and triumphant, but when he had laboriously slaved over something that just would not come out as he intended, he was in the black depths of despair.

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Mathews in the neighborhood

March 11, 2007 § Leave a comment

Monterey Cypress | Arthur Mathews | Oakland Museum

Please join us Sunday, March 18, from 3 to 5 p.m. for a discussion and viewing of Health and the Arts, a mural by Arthur Mathews in its original setting at the California Pacific Medical Center Health Sciences Library at Sacramento and Webster Streets. This event is concurrent with the exhibition on Arthur and Lucia Mathews at the Oakland Museum.

The program will include a presentation by Harvey L. Jones, curator of the exhibition at the Oakland Museum, on the life and work of Arthur and Lucia Mathews. Thomas Reynolds, of the Thomas Reynolds Gallery on Fillmore Street, will discuss the Mathews connection to the neighborhood. Their studio and furniture shop was nearby at 1717 California Street.

Read more: “Art met craft

The quieter moods

January 10, 2005 § Leave a comment

Granville Redmond | January 2005


Filled with sunshine and color, the landscapes of California’s early plein air painters have soared in popularity and price in recent years. Few are more coveted than Granville Redmond’s paintings of springtime hillsides ablaze with golden poppies and purple lupines. They have become icons of the California landscape.

Less appreciated, in every sense, is Redmond’s tonalist work. While he painted hundreds of fields of poppies in the early days of the 20th century — in demand then as now — he also retreated throughout his career to the quieter moods of sunrise and sunset, twilight and moonlight. These were his favorites.

Read more: “Granville Redmond’s Tonalism

Soulful depictions of the earth

November 10, 2004 § Leave a comment

Vague Memories | Terry Miura

Some artists are finding that painting a landscape’s subtleties, rather than specifics, are producing a stronger connection between their work and viewers. California oil painter Terry Miura has learned to allow the viewers room for their memories to be awakened.

In the late 1990s, Miura transplanted himself to a rural location outside of Sacramento, after living for years in New York. He was comfortable with painting cityscapes until he was overwhelmed with the presence and versatility of nature.

“Nature was all around me. There are certain compositional elements in landscapes that I couldn’t explore in cityscapes,” says Miura. “I prefer to work with shapes rather than forms. There is a mechanical perspective that is an integral part of painting cityscapes. You can only distort it so much. It demands too much attention from the viewer, who can’t see beyond the realism. It bothered me. Landscapes are more forgiving. You can move a tree any which way and it doesn’t fall apart in the painting. In the landscape, you can also get greater depth.”

Painting from memory and imagination, Miura believes that landscapes offer viewers a deja vu experience when certain elements are in place. “What makes us unique is that we are an accumulative whole of past experiences,” says Miura. “There are certain memories, whether in pictures or feelings, that we remember when in nature. I try to paint the environment that causes subtle memories without names.”

Miura says that when he shows his landscape work, it will remind some viewers of places they’ve been, rather than specific California scenarios where he gets his inspiration.

“When I show my paintings, a viewer might say to me it reminds them of a place they grew up in Massachusetts. They are no longer looking at the painting, but relating to it on an emotional level. That is a great compliment. If I do it right, it will relate to people on a universal level.”


For Terry Miura, a new path

September 2, 2004 § Leave a comment

Sentinels | Terry Miura

Terry Miura, who moved from Brooklyn and now lives near Sacramento, departs from his earlier paintings of urban cityscapes in these painterly evocations of a nearly pure landscape, encroached upon only slightly by humans.

Avoiding the pitfalls of contemporary impressionism, which too often comes off as sweet and sugary, Miura follows a path more akin to the tonalism of early California painters such as Xavier Martinez and Giuseppe Cadenasso. Using earth colors and a structure based on light and dark tonal variations, he gives us subtle and emotive scenes of foothill vistas and Napa Valley roads.

Evidence of human habitation is limited in Miura’s landscapes, faint reminders of transitory dwellers on the land. A barn sits under a romantic twilight sky, a footpath unfolds ribbonlike over rolling green foothills, a road sign and telephone poles flank a highway. Nature itself is the main subject here as Miura concentrates on the atmospheric effects of light and air on the landscape.

Miura is sensitive to the changes in light as he moves from place to place, giving us a bleak and arid sky over I-5, capturing the ironically lovely rosiness of smoggy Pasadena and the misty blue air surrounding a river oak. He is especially adept at conveying the mysterious beauty of Napa at nightfall in a magical scene of a foggy Highway 29 lined with looming eucalyptus trees at dusk. It’s a gem.

— VICTORIA DALKEY, The Sacramento Bee

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