Jon Blanchette was born in Sommerset, England, and came to America, first living in Michigan. Showing artistic talents early on, he pursued his art training at the Pittsburg Art Institute. In the 1930's, Jon and his artist wife Jean, a fine sculptor and portrait painter, moved to LA.
He worked in architectural design, interior decorating, and as a technical illustrator for engineering firms. But, he also found some time to work in show business too, designing sets for shows in New York and for Fox Studios in Hollywood.
In 1948, he and his wife moved up the coast to Aptos, CA, where he painted and taught. During summers, he would hold workshops in Mendocino and Carmel. He was noted to be a master of the limited palette, and has held many one man shows in California.
Sources: North Light Gallery, "A Blanchette Flyer"; Artists in California 1786 - 1940, Edan Milton Hughes, 3d ed.
From our November 2023 Newsletter
The house in Jon Blanchette's painting is now Mendocino's Kelley House Museum ... by Daniel Rohlfing
Mendocino House, Jon Blanchette, 1965-75
as Jon Blanchette painted it approximately 60 years ago.
oil on canvas laid down on board, 20 x 24,
available for sale, Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery
Blanchette's subject as it appears today.
now the home of the Kelley House Museum
Jon Blanchette's (1908-1987) painting of a large house in Mendocino has long been one of my favorite paintings in Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery's collection. It reminds me of the architectural paintings of New England by Edward Hopper, clean-cut pleasantly colored houses with angled architectural features enhanced by effective use of shadow.
Recently, my wife Linda came across a current image of the same house, which allowed us to identify the subject of the painting. Yes, this house still stands today and is home to Mendocino's Kelley House Museum. The house was built in 1861 by one of the founders of the town of Mendocino, William Kelley.
Central Coast painter Jon Blanchette loved Mendocino. He painted the house sometime between the years 1965 and 1975 (before it was restored starting in 1975), during a decade-long stretch when he held annual summertime painting workshops in Mendocino.
Today, The Kelley House Museum is dedicated to telling the story of Mendocino's history, maintaining the 162 year old house with period furnishings, some owned by the Kelley family. They have a bookstore including many publications of Mendocino history as well as a monthly newsletter. They consider it part of their mission to continue building and maintaining an extensive archive of Mendocino's history, publications, photos and art work.
In Jon Blanchette's painting Mendocino House are two distinctive elements, one behind and one in front of the house. Behind the house is a looming water tower, and in front of the house is a thriving Monterey cypress tree. Neither the water tower nor the tree survive today. As of this writing, we do not know when or why the watertower was removed, but we continue to try to find out.
"The Daisy's Tree" being felled, Oct 15, 2003
The same tree in Blanchett's painting, approximately 35 years later.
Photo by Bill Brazille, teacher, Mendocino High School
But the cypress tree has an interesting story. Twenty years ago, on October 15, 2003, the dying old Cypress tree on the Kelley House front lawn was felled. At that time, it was estimated to be 100 to 125 feet tall, and was considered to be the third largest cypress tree on the Mendocino Coast. The tree was known as "Daisy's Tree."
Daisy was William Kelley's daughter, born in 1859, and she is believed to have helped her father plant the tree when she was a child.
the summer of 2003, the Mendocino County Planning Department delived some bad new. The cypress tree in front of the Kelley House Museum was diseased and had become a risky liability. By this time, the old tree had grown quite large, and was loved by the community. Suggestions that the tree had to go caused empassioned efforts to save the tre An arborist was called in to consult, and the report was not good. He objectively pointed out dead limbs at the top and scarred marks around the base indicating underlying issues with the roots. Due to the extent of disease, the Mendocino Historical Review Board reluctantly listened to the arborist and approved removal of the tree for public safety.
William Kelley, one of the founders of Mendocino
He built Kelley House in 1861.
About William Kelley ... News of California's 49er goldrush inspired Canadian William Kelley and his younger brother James. Together, they left their native Prince Edward Island and headed for California. They traveled by sea via the isthmus of Panama. While there, they both contracted cholera. William survived, but his brother James died.
William continued to San Francisco. In a short period of time, he joined the crew of the Ontario, a sailing ship docked in Benicia. William signed on as the ship's carpenter. On a voyage up the coast, the ship sailed into Big River (what Mendocino was called back then) on July 19, 1852.
William liked the area and saw it as his opportunity to build a life. He became a local businessman, beginning all manner of businesses. He became involved in real estate, retaining the ownership of the land of many businesses and collecting rent. With hard work and time, he became wealthy and one of the founding fathers of the town of Mendocino.
Collage of Daisy Kellley photos throughout her life,
as a child approximately 6, and ages 17, 20, 50 and 93 in 1952.
the MacCallum House Inn today,
formerly the home of Daisy Kelley and Alexander MacCallum
Daisy Kelley grew up to become a notable citizen of Mendocino. Although she had a penchant for world travel, she spent most of her life living in Mendocino. As a child, she grew up in the Kelley house. During her teenaged years she lived with relatives in San Francisco, traveling in Europe and attending the Young Ladies Seminary in Benicia. She was bright and well educated, and spoke six languages including French and Spanish.
When she was 20 years old in 1879, she met and married Alexander MacCallum. After their wedding, the young couple lived with her parents in the Kelley House where her son Donald was born. In 1882, Daisey and Alexander moved across the street into what is now the MacCallum House Inn.
Briefly for a few years, the couple moved north to Glen Blair north of Fort Bragg where Alexander was Superintendent of a sawmill owned by Daisy's uncle, Captain Samuel Blair. The family next moved to San Francisco where Daisy at age 47 witnessed the 1906 Earthquake. She was a member of the Red Cross and helped distribute food and clothing and helped reunite families.
In 1908 when Daisy was 49 years old, her husband died. After his death, she returned to Mendocino to care for her mother Eliza and manage the family's business interests. After her mother died, Daisy again traveled in Europe. At age 64, she was in Egypt in 1923 where she attended the opening of King Tutankhamun’s tomb. When Daisy returned to Mendocino, she was well known for her philanthropic efforts, especially among children. She offered sewing classes at her home, and left her large personal library to the Mendocino Library. She remained involved in the Mendocino community and died there in 1953 at the age of 94.
This video is produced by the Kelley House Museum. Taken from the museum's photo archives, it shows Mendocino's historic watertowers
dating back to 1880. Rain water was collected and pumped into the towers for year round use. Today, many of these century old watertowers
have been preserved and serve as gift shops, artist studios and residences.
Jon Blanchette, Rio Del Mar Beach, Aptos, CA 1968
About Jon Blanchette ... From 1965 through 1975, artist Jon Blanchette was a summertime resident artist of Mendocino where he painted and held workshops.
The rest of the year, his home and artist studio were in Aptos, CA where he was well known for his paintings of the Central California Coast. Many of his paintings were of rural Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties.
Jon Blanchette was born in 1908 in Shepton Mallet, Sommerset in the South of England.
He studied in Pennsylvania at the Pittsburgh Art Institute. In 1931, he painted sets for Fox Studios in Hollywood. During WW II he was employed by Lockheed and Douglas Aircraft Companies where he did production illustrations.
When he retired in 1948, he moved to Aptos where he pursued painting and teaching. He died in Santa Cruz in 1987 at the age of 79. To date, I've not yet found a photo or self portrait of Jon Blanchette, but hope to run across and post one soon.
Jon Blanchette, Mendocino Church, c 1965-75
oil on canvas laid down on board, 20 x 24,
available for sale, Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery
Photo of Mendocino Presbyterian Church today
approximately 70 years after Jon Blanchette painted it.
Our gallery also has another Jon Blanchette painting done in Mendocino, this one showing in the distance Mendocino Presbyterian Church atop the bluffs above the Pacific. The church would have been about 100 years old when Blanchette painted it. Today, the Church is a California Historical Landmark, #714, and even has its own Wikipedia page. The church was built in 1867-68. Its construction with old growth redwood was shepherded in part by William Kelley. Daisy Kelley would have witnessed the construction as an 8-9 year old and would have been one of its earliest parishioners.
These two Jon Blanchette paintings are also available from Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery
Jon Blanchette, Three Boats
Oil on canvas on board, 20 x 24
Jon Blanchette, Coast on a Winter's Day
Oil on canvas on Masonite, 20 x 24