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BBH Gallery Monthly September 2007
News, Articles, and Opinions
from the world of California’s Heritage Art

Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery
1580 Eastshore Road, Suite K, PO Box 325
Bodega Bay, CA 94923, 707-875-2911


Homepage | Previous issues: August | July | June | May | April

In the September Issue:
1. OUR PAINTINGS OF THE MONTH Meyer Straus 1831 - 1905, Charles F. Keck 1913 - 2003 2. BODEGA BAY HERITAGE GALLERY UPCOMING EXHIBITION SCHEDULE 3. SOME OF OUR "Recently Acquired" since our last issue 4. WOMEN PAINTERS OF THE PAST - WHAT'S IN A NAME?
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Sheep May Safely Graze: September Paintings of the Month

Meyer Straus Barnyard Friends 1896

Left, 19th century old style
Meyer Staus 1831 - 1905
Barnyard Friends, 1898
Oil on paperboard 9 1/4 x 12 1/2


Charles F Keck Hillside Farmstead

Above, WPA Style Watercolor
Hillside Farmstead
Charles F. Keck, 1913 - 2003
Watercolor 15 1/2 x 22 3/4

In 1848 at just age 17, Meyer Straus arrived in America. After five years in Ohio, he made his way to St. Louis where he was a scenery painter for Hooley's Theater. He then moved to San Francisco. Initially, he painted scenery at local theaters, but soon opened his Montgomery Street studio. He made sketching trips to Yosemite, Oregon, and to the Monterey Peninsula. He was a member of the Bohemian Club and the San Francisco Art Association.
Charles F. Keck attended Los Angeles' Chouinard Institute, studying with Millard Sheets, Phil Dike and Lawrence Murphy. In the late 30's and 40's, he painted backgrounds for Columbia Pictures. In 1942, he exhibited with the Laguna Beach Art Association. At the time, he was in the military and stationed in Alaska and missed attending his own exhibit. He favored scenes of every day life, with people toiling at their daily labors. He is known for his strong composition and somber tones, studying his subject and painting with feeling.

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Exhibitions at Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery

"Sheep May Safely Graze"
farms and farm animals by famous Early California painters
(Here are four paintings from this month's show)

Joshua Meador 1911-1965
more works by this preeminent Disney artist
"The Shimmering Visions
of Dedrick Brandes Stuber 1878-1954
and Richard Dey DeRibcowsky 1880-1936"
The California Desert Painters
January 2008
The California Desert Painters
Visit soon and often, and plan to view our special exhibitions.

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Orpha Klinker Live Oak and Mountain
Orpha Klinker
Some of our "Recently Acquired"
since our last issue

Milford Zornes Mout San Antonio
Milford Zornes
Ralph Love Near the Salton Sea
Ralph Love
Grace Allison Griffith Tryptich
Grace Allison Griffith

Grace Allison Griffith Mossy Oak and Pasture
Grace Allison Griffith

Charlotte E Morgan Carmel Coast
Charlotte E. Morgan
Milford Zornes Oak and Pasture
Milford Zornes

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Women Painters of the Past - What's in a Name?

In the art business, the "name-game" is everything.  Any genuine Edgar Payne will sell for a lot of money, no matter how inferior a painting to those of his contemporaries who painted well, but nevertheless do not currently sell for a lot of money.  Ditto several others.  And watch currently as Sam Hyde Harris and Hanson Puthuff zoom from recent modest ranges, to that out-of-sight field of unpredictable possibilities of price.  It gets confusing when the sketches, incompletes, irretrievably damaged and unsuccessful paintings of the sought-after "names" come out of the woodwork and sell for a little or a lot depending on who is bidding.  (We won't name names, because we don't wish to disparage anyone's acquisition or inventory.)
The California historic art "names" of today have not always been the ones to "zoom."  Wouldn't it be nice to pick one or two in the modest range, who then subsequently "zoom"?  Collectors of living artists play that game, but they cannot know whether the artist is going to change careers and lose all that "promise" or turn to some different style or even the same style that falls out of fashion.
The point of view of this article is that you don't have to play quite such a guessing game when it comes to collecting the deceased painters who were famous in California's past.  You can already examine WHY they were famous, and you can often review a range of their works, to see whether any particular good painting is an aberration or evidence of a consistent quality meriting that painter's former fame.  You can find out whether their works were carried by justifiably prestigious galleries, and whether important museums collected them.  The point of this article is to urge the collection of quality works of art, and not just the "names" that everyone is running after right at this moment.
This musing was prompted by our gallery's recent attention to three women painters who were very successful while they were alive, the quality of whose works is generally as good as the current name-game prizes, and yet they are relatively overlooked at the present time.  These three painters are not off the radar screen - they auction and they have their fans - but they are definitely not yet zooming.  We're thinking specifically of Florence Upson Young 1872-1974, Orpha Klinker 1891-1964, and Grace Allison Griffith 1885-1955.  And we're picking those artists because of how they are treated relative to men in the same respective kinds of works, whether scenes of eucalyptus and mountain ranges, of the desert, or graceful rendition of trees and meadows.  Like other valued painters, each has a distinctive, recognizable style.  The web pages regarding these women show what prominence these three had - who they trained with, who they painted with and associated with, what honors were bestowed on them, how famous they were then.  And web pages, gallery walls, and auction records show work of high quality.
Of course the name-game phenomenon is not limited to the historic women painters, but nevertheless the women seem to have been most discriminated against.  For instance, up until recently Marion Kavanagh Wachtel 1870-1954 was almost the ONLY woman California painter to be highly sought after.  AskArt's listings don't go back too far, but Wachtel's paintings were getting exceptional prices back in the late 1980's when the entries start.  Grace Hudson 1865-1937 prices were also fairly high then and now.   But how about Anna A. Hills 1882-1930, you say?  Her prices only started rising in the very late 1990's and then not consistently, so you might categorize her as "wouldn't it have been nice if we had...?"  Nell Walker Warner 1891-1970?  The prices haven't been very high considering her standing, but on the upswing.  Mary DeNeale Morgan 1868-1948?  Very few good prices before 2000, and not all that high even for those few, but quite nice now.  So expansion in the popularity rankings of quality historic women painters is a fairly recent phenomenon, but an evident one.
It's not that there weren't worthy historic women artists, whose works we could now be collecting.  See Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki Kovinick, An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West , 1998.  It's not too late.

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Recently, our gallery had an honored guest, Eric Spickard of Piedmont, Ca, the grandson of artist Robert Rishell. He presented us with a gift, a recorded interview of his grandfather from March 1, 1969 on the occasion of an exhibition of Robert Rishell’s desert paintings in Palm Desert, CA. The interview was carried on KGO radio. It was certainly a pleasure to hear Bob’s voice express his joys, thoughts, and opinions about art.

Below are some edited excerpts which get to the core of the interview, or you may click here for the entire transcribed text or to listen to the interview.

The interviewer was Mr. Bob Avery of KGO radio.

Robert Rishell Photo
Robert Rishell,
photo from the late 1960's

The Sunshine Painter ... “You need dark to show light”

Bob Avery: “Bob, they call you the ‘Sunshine Painter,” I noticed in the newspaper that you paint looking into the sun, is this correct?”

Robert Rishell: “That’s right, I use this primarily to accent highlights of sunlight against patterns of dark which of course gives you the feeling of light. You need dark to show light. If everything was light, you wouldn’t have the feeling of light, so by using this method of painting toward the sun, why, shadow areas accentuate the light in the painting.”

“The Mood out of an Ordinary Thing ... not a postcard"

Bob Avery: “Bob, your paintings are so realistic some people think you can reach out and touch them. I was noticing in the other room a painting, just looking at a culvert, of the water coming through the culvert and the rocks on the other end, you think you could reach out your toe right then and you get your foot wet. What would get you to paint something like this?”

Robert Rishell: "Well, when you paint, many people say, ‘Why don’t you go to Yosemite and paint,’ or ‘why don’t you go to a sea shore and paint a seascape or any number of things that are so familiar to people and they’re so beautiful and when you paint them, they look like a post card.

So, to paint something you can really get a mood into and something out of the ordinary is the thing that I strive for. It is something everyone has witnessed, they all have experienced in their life. Perhaps its a small vignette in their life that is now past, but when they see this, it brings back memories to them. A pool that would come out of a culvert under a roadway is something that you might find wandering in the countryside, but it has a certain amount of quiet, a certain peaceful feeling to it. The stillness of the water and the colors reflecting in it, the sun playing across the rocks, all of these things lend toward a more interesting composition and final feel."

“I never do the same thing over again.”

Bob Avery: "Bob, where do you go to do your painting? I know in the past, last year you had some paintings here you had done when you had gone up Highway 74 here in Palm Desert looking down at the valley."

Robert Rishell: "I painted up high looking down for a change. I’ve painted so many things in the canyon down here and they’ve been very popular, and they don’t stay in the gallery too long, but you don’t like doing the same thing over. In fact I never do the same thing over again. I’ll paint the canyon, but they’re ever changing. You can sit in the canyon for an hour and look at it, and in no five minutes is it the same. It is continually changing. The light changes, the color changes, the patterns of shadow change. But, just the same, with this type of thing, you begin to get stale. So I look for other areas. I go up to the high plateau above here near Anza to get a change of scene. There’s a different type of growth you find. You find different colors and sometimes looking over the valley, you can step back and get a different perspective on it. And this to me is like painting portraits. I do paint portraits and can get all the commissions I want and do nothing but paint portraits, but this would get rather boring, rather dull, because to do the same thing over and over like I mentioned a moment ago would be stifling. That’s why I try to paint as many different types of things: the Sierras or the Rocky Mountains, the coastal plains of California, the local desert here, or in the rural area, old barnyards there or anything that happens to catch my eye and has the mood I am looking for."

“If you tried to project yourself into each canvas without going out on the local scene,
you’d find out pretty soon your rocks would all be the same shape or your clouds would be pretty much the same”

Bob Avery: "Tell me Bob, do you actually set up there and do them live or do you take a color photo?"

Robert Rishell: "No, unless it is something that is so fleeting and I don’t have the time to do the painting, where I’ll want to use a photo to perhaps and interesting cloud pattern or something like that I may be able to use in a painting that needs a certain composition. But the way I really like to work where I can get out on the spot with my full size canvas and just get right in and get it started. I get the canvas blocked in with all the local detail roughly placed in with a type of shadow pattern and so forth, then take it back to the studio and put myself into it. There is so much detail and and so much local color that I don’t care about how fine an artist you are, the good lord put it there and it is never the same in any two places. And if you tried to project yourself into each canvas without going out on the local scene, you’d find out pretty soon your rocks would all be the same shape or your clouds would be pretty much the same. But the fact that there is such a great variety of happenings in nature, in using this you can only get it working with nature. But then to put the thing into the painting which makes the painting yours and not some other artist, this is done in the studio where you project the feeling of atmosphere, the feeling of light. Simplify some areas, intensify the detail in others. This is the type of thing you do in the studio to finish it."

“Set a goal and keep working for it.
And the day you think you’ve accomplished this is the day you’d better quit,
because the horizon is just beyond the next hill.”

Bob Avery: "Was this part of your training going through school to look for these things?"

Robert Rishell: "Well yes, it was. Perception was a very big thing. When I went to school, the training was different than it is now,. I went to school from 1935 to 1938 and got my bachelor’s degree, and they hammered drawing drawing drawing, until I wondered after three and a half years of this, aren’t they ever going to let you paint? But they kept saying, ‘This is the important thing, to be able to draw, to understand the basics of these things.’

And now that I look back, its the best training I ever could possibly received. I went back in 1951 on the GI Bill to get my master’s degree , and the whole concept, the whole function of painting had changed so radically. They’d give you paint brushes and say, ‘Express yourself’ when you don’t have the foundation for expression. You never say to a medical student and say, ‘Here, here’s a scalpel, and go out and express yourself. They’ve got to know anatomy, they’ve got to know the central nervous system, they have to know all of these things as a foundation basis before they even begin thinking about getting into practicing on their own.

And this is the same thing in art. You can go to school and get all the basic ingredients, but you really don’t learn, or don’t start to learn to project yourself until you as an individual get out and approach it as an individual. And you can’t try to assimilate Andrew Wyeth or assimilate Edward Hopper or any number of Degas or any number of painters you may appreciate. Because when you do, you become a little so and so, a little Degas, a little Renoir, or a little Van Gough. You have to develop your own style, your own feeling. Set a goal and keep working for it. And the day you think you’ve accomplished this is the day you’d better quit, because the horizon is just beyond the next hill. You keep striving for it, you keep working for it, and eventually each painting you approach, you hope to catch a part of what you are looking for."

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Barns in Paintings, Why they Speak to Us

Skyscrapers are fantastic, reaching for the clouds. Cathedrals inspire with their massive buttresses, frightening gargoyles and dazzling stained glass. Great dream houses are centers of stylish design and modern comfort. But when it comes to bringing us back home, back to our roots, back to our connection with the land, barns do it best.

Barns are meaningful for us. Their fading red boards, their earthy scented animals, their splintered fencing, all with the backdrop of hills, trees, and pastoral tranquility, seem to speak to us deeply.

Linda and I have exhibited a wide variety of paintings at art shows and at our gallery, and as people view our paintings, we have made an inescapable observation, people linger over and comment most about farm paintings, often launching into a tale of fond recollection.

If art speaks to our soul, paintings of farms seem to help us connect with our past or the time of our ancestors. They connect us back with the land. Some would say life was simpler then, but if simpler means easier, I think not. No one worked harder than farm families of long ago. When you think about it, farm families didn't suffer from any form of an identity crisis. They knew who they were, what they had to do, and were willing to work together with all their energies to meet the challenge.

On the farm, life had a dependable cycle. Farming families could commence the PLOWING and planting with a sense of mission and hope, that their hard work would bear results. They could sense a growing anticipation of the harvest as the crop grew, and share anticipatory sentiments over supper like "knee high by the Fourth of July." And a farm family could feel the blessings of the harvest, and enjoy the rest at the end of the season. Everyone in the family had their job and a sense of making a meaningful contribution. The farm wife cooked, gardened, sewed and saw to numerous other tasks. Kids all had their assigned chores, often including 4-H projects as they prepared for their lives on the farm. And even the pets, dogs would round up the cattle and sheep, and cats would dutifully patrol the barn for uninvited guests.

Of all major buildings around today, barns were the first. Our modern skyscrapers, cathedrals, hospitals, schools, fine homes ... those all came later. First to be built was the barn, and for good reason. The barn was the center of farm life. Barns stored crops, provided a place to tend to the needs of livestock, housed the blacksmith shop, the work shop, the butcher shop and a garage for farm tools and machinery. Without it, farming could not happen, and the subsequent towns and cities could not grow.

But barns served another purpose too. They provided the center of community life. When it came time to build one, the barn raising was born. Neighbors from far and near would come and labor to raise a barn. In the old days, there were no strange out of town construction companies. Barns were built by farmers and their neighbors. Meaningful and deep friendships were forged while men fitted timbers and wielded hammers while women toiled over a massive home-cooked and baked feast to feed the ravenous work force. Once built, the new barn stood proud, was the largest building around, and it became the symbol and root of the local commerce and economy. It also served as the center of agrarian social life. Barn dances became the scene of many first dates and farm weddings, and the foot stomping tones from the fiddlers past are now woven deeply into American folk, bluegrass, and country music. Skyscrapers can make no such claim.

When a painter paints a farm scene or a barn, her or she is telling a story -- our story, a story slowly melting into our past as sure as old barns seemingly melt year by year into the ground. They tell of the struggle, the disappointments, the hopes, the joys, and the shared burdens of making a living from the land. The tell the story of our roots. They speak to us deeply.

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Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery is seeking materials and information for preparation of a small book or catalogue about the artistic career of "Sonoma County's Own" Grace Myrtle Allison Griffith (painted under the last names of Griffith, Allison, Harris and combinations of these names) 1885-1955.  We have a number of images of paintings to include, but would definitely like more, to be printed with credit to the source if desired.
Information or short articles on her career would be appreciated, including her studies with Lorenzo Palmer Latimer and other teachers; whether she studied with Grace Hudson in Ukiah or what her connection was; the years Grace and her sister Alice Griffith had an art shop in Petaluma, California;  Grace's work drawing plants for Luther Burbank, and the popular prints; her membership in the Royal Watercolor Society of London and her exhibitions in England and Scotland; her years in Hawaii including the shop with Alice; her memberships in art societies; and any other remembrances, information, and photographs of her or her paintings.
Please contact us if you might be interested in contributing.  For her photograph and examples of her paintings, see the website page and individual painting pages by clicking on the "thumbnail" photographs.

Grace Allison Griffith Photo Grace Allison Griffith Mossy Oak and Pasture Midsized Thumbnail Grace Allison Griffith Sheep and Eucalyptus Midsized Thumbnail

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John W. Hilton’s Old Haunts Receive a Reprieve

In last month's issue, we reported on the Bureau of Land Management's plan to demolish the ranchhouse at Rancho Dos Palmas on the northeast shore of the Salton Sea. The Ranchouse was the home to artist John Hilton for a time, where he hosted fellow artists such as Maynard Dixon, Vic Forsythe, Orpha Klinker and Jimmy Swinnerton. He also hosted General George S. Patton. Hilton was a guide for the general as he scouted locations to train his tank crews during World War II.

Since then, the Bureau of Land Management has backed off and given the "Friends of Dos Palmas," an opportunity to make their case to preserve the ranchhouse as an historical site. We will keep you posted on further developments.

Rancho Dos Palmas Ranch House

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Horizon Air (related to Alaska Air) has opened service to Santa Rosa from LAX and Seattle.  In October, they will add a third LAX flight and direct service to Portland.

So, for our friends in the Southland and those to the North, a trip to Sonoma County for a great get away, great wine, cheese, seafood, scenery, and of course art is all just a click away. Hope to see you here soon. Let us know you're coming, and we'll clue you in on a great circle art tour.

Fly Wine Country Logo Horizon Air

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Millard Sheets Center for the Arts at Fairplex (Pomona, CA)  through September 30 http://www.fairplex.com/fp/foundations/MillardSheets/

Desert Painters (Palm Springs) through September 23 

Desert Painters (Palm Springs) through September 23 
Maynard Dixon (Pasadena) to August 12 

(Oakland) permanent gallery of historic art 
Edwin Deakin (Sacramento) to April 20, 2008 
Botke, DeRome, Rider, & Wendt (Irvine) to October 13 
William F. Ritschel, The Poetry of Waves (Monterey) to December 9 
French Impressionists (San Diego) to September 30 
(Santa Rosa) Rotating history gallery 
(Seattle) Inspiring Impressionism:The Impressionists and the Art of the Past 
   Coming in 2008! June 19–September 21, 2008  
(Ukiah) permanent collection 


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