There were a number of highly respected artists who settled in Southern California during the early twentieth century attracted by the climate, economic possibilities, and the inherent beauty of the region. These artists, many born in the midwest and east, others who immigrated from Europe as young adults, were already successful, credentialed, and well-trained, often schooled in the major art centers of Europe. They arrived as well-respected, established artists that were already recognized in their craft by their peers. Most of the artists quickly created a significant contribution to the identity of the region, made California their home, and shaped an enduring image of the Golden State for years to come. This section includes capsules on the most prominent and influential early California artists
Born in Austria in 1864, Franz Bischoff went to Vienna at the age of eighteen to study painting and porcelain decoration. Three years later, in 1885 he arrived in New York and worked in ceramic decoration in a variety of locations including Fostoria, Ohio and Dearborn, Michigan. There he founded the Bischoff School of Ceramic and quickly gained a reputation as an outstanding and sought-after porcelain artist becoming known as the “King of Rose Painters”. He first visited Los Angeles in 1900 and soon after permanently settled in South Pasadena where in 1908 he built a home studio on the banks of the Arroyo Seco complete with a ceramic kiln.
Once in southern California, he gravitated to painting landscapes including the areas around the Arroyo Seco, Laguna Beach, and the harbor at San Pedro. While he enjoyed landscapes, he continued to paint beautiful floral paintings which remain highly prized by collectors today.
In 1912, Bischoff spent a year traveling and painting throughout Europe and would later travel and paint the Monterey and central coasts including Cambria, the Sierra Nevada, and notably with a much brighter and almost fauvist palette, a visit to Zion National Park the year before he died in 1929.
Jessie Arms Botke
Jessie Arms Botke holds a unique place in the artists of early southern California. While her peers painted the beauty of the land, she created a unique presence and earned wide admiration for her elegant and dramatic portrayals of exotic birds in refined Edenic settings.
She was born Jessie Hazel Arms on May 27 in Chicago. At the age of fourteen, she began taking art classes at the Art Institute of Chicago before moving to New York City. There she worked under the guidance of Albert Herter preparing tapestry cartoons and after developing a special talent for portraying birds she traveled to San Francisco to assist him with a major mural for the St. Francis Hotel. On a later trip, Jessie met Dutch-born artist Cornelis Botke to whom she married in 1915 and they settled in Santa Paula, California three years later.
Although Jessie Botke regularly sketched en plein air, her work was accomplished in the studio. She focused on decorative paintings of birds and plants, both domestic and exotic. She worked in oil, watercolor, or gouache and often employed gold and silver leaf in the background. She painted several murals and her paintings were widely exhibited throughout the United States.
George Brandriff was born in 1890 in Millville, New Jersey. In 1913, he moved to Orange, California and soon after enrolled in the USC School of Dentistry. After graduating, he opened a dental office in Hemet practicing dentistry for nearly a decade.
In his spare time, Brandriff enjoyed painting the local environs as a hobby. He was primarily self-taught and without formal training and he continued as a weekend painter until 1928 when he abandoned his dentistry practice and became a fulltime artist.
He built a home studio in Laguna Beach, took courses from Anna Hills, and served as president of local art association. His range of artwork featured landscapes and marines of the local south coast region with a particular focus on the fishermen, canneries, and scenes around Newport Beach and Laguna.
His short career as an artist ended when stricken with cancer, he ended his life in 1936.
E. Charlton Fortune
Euphemia Charlton Fortune was born on January 15. 1885 in Sausalito. Never fond of her given name, she went by Effie and later her signature would highlight the Charlton name from her grandmother. Hampered by a cleft palette, Effie found solace in art and her family allowed her to travel overseas to Edinburgh and London for her art education. On returning to San Francisco, she studied at the Mark Hopkins Institute under Arthur Matthews and in New York at the Art Students League.
After the devastating San Francisco earthquake, she traveled several times to Europe, first in 1906 and later from 1921 to 1927. In the summers, she would actively paint scenes in and around Monterey impressively displaying the impressionist techniques that she had observed and learned while in Europe. She worked with William Merritt Chase during his Monterey class sessions and in 1920, she was elected as an associate to the prestigious National Academy of Design.
Known for canvases of loosely constructed brushwork with heavy impasto, her work she was under-appreciated at the time though it is highly sought today and commands significant premiums. As the artistic winds shifted towards modernism, Fortune, who never married and was devoutly catholic throughout her life, shifted her focus and devoted her life and painting talents to liturgical painting for the Catholic Church.
John Marshall Gamble
John Marshall Gamble was one of several prominent California painters who specialized in scenes of the bucolic countryside with sweeping vistas of hills and valleys dominated by the springtime blooming of native wildflowers. He was born in Morristown, New Jersey on November 25, 1863. His father worked for a steamship company and when John was a teenager the family relocated to Auckland, New Zealand.
Several years later, at the age of twenty, Gamble moved to San Francisco and began his art training at the San Francisco School Design. In the early 1890’s he would travel to Paris and continue his studies for several years at the Académie Julian before returning to San Francisco in 1893 and opening a studio.
After losing his studio in the devastation and fire of the 1906 earthquake Gamble, like many of his peers, left the city with the intention of relocating in Los Angeles and joining his friend Elmer Wachtel. During his travel south he became enamored with Santa Barbara and never ventured beyond. He became widely known for his pristine landscapes with sweeping vistas of poppies and lupine and other native wildflowers on gentle coastal slopes, often with distant mountains framing the bucolic setting. He became very active in the Santa Barbara community and in 1957 he passed away at the age of 95.
Armin Hansen was born in 1886 in San Francisco. His German-born father was Herman Hansen, a popular western artist who specialized in frontier scenes and depictions of cowboys on horseback. Armin grew up surrounded by artists including his father’s good friend William Keith and Maynard Dixon. Initially trained by his father and then three years at the Mark Hopkins Institute, after the 1906 earthquake he left for Europe and continued his art training by visiting the prominent European art centers including Stuttgart, Paris, Munich, Holland, and Belgium.
Drawn to the sea and the culture of fishing villages, Hansen signed on as a deckhand to a Norwegian steam trawler and would spend four years experiencing life at sea. The experience would forever shape his life as an artist. On returning to San Francisco in 1912, he briefly taught art at UC Berkeley and the California School of Fine Art before his love of the sea enticed him to settle in the fishing town of Monterey, California. In Monterey, he became an active part of the artist community teaching and creating through his art, a deep and intimate connection with the fisherman and their life at sea.
In 1925 Hansen was elected as an associate Member of the National Academy of design and was honored as a full National Academician in 1948.
Anna Althea Hills was born on January 28, 1882, in Ravenna, Ohio. Her mother died when she was four and her childhood was marked by frequent moves throughout the Midwest. She became interested in art and studied at Olivet College (1898), the Art Institute of Chicago (1905), and at Cooper Union in New York (1908). In 1910 after two years with Arthur Wesley Dow, she attended the Académie Julian in Paris and traveled and painted throughout Holland and England.
She returned to the United States and moved to Laguna Beach in 1913 where she became a founding member of the Laguna Beach Art Association in 1918. She was a tireless leader of that group, serving as president for six years and under her leadership established a permanent art gallery which later became the Laguna Art Museum.
Originally a figure and genre painter, Hills turned to landscape painting after her move to California. A signature feature of her works was the frequent use of a palette knife that created a richly textured surface on her smaller paintings. She was a popular and highly respected teacher and had many art students, notably George Brandriff and Joane Cromwell. She actively promoted the visual arts through lectures and by organizing exhibitions that circulated among area schools. She died in 1930 at the young age of 48.
Joseph Kleitsch was born in 1882 in the Banat region of Hungary. He started painting at the young age of seven and would continue his art training in Budapest, Munich, and Paris. He quickly became an acclaimed portrait artist with notable sitters like Franz Josef of Austria.
In 1901, he emigrated to the United States spending time in Ohio, several years in Denver, and a brief period in Mexico City before arriving in Chicago. There he taught at the Art Institute of Chicago and developed reputation for portraiture and painting the likenesses of many notable sitters. In 1920 he settled in Laguna having been aware of its allure from connecting with Edgar Payne in Chicago. In Laguna, he established the Kleitsch Academy of Art and soon became one of the more important plein air painters of the time.
Kleitsch was acclaimed as a natural colorist and his impressionistic brushwork was described as bold, energetic, and innovative. His favorite settings were the streets and sights around the Laguna colony though he did travel to northern California and in 1925 he spent several years in Europe. He died in 1931 at the early age of forty-nine.
Jean Mannheim was born in Bad Kreuznach, Prussia in 1861. He emigrated to the U.S. at the age of 21 and for more than a decade alternated between painting and teaching in Decatur, Illinois and traveling to study in Paris. In 1908, he settled in Pasadena building a home and studio on the banks of the Arroyo Seco. He quickly became a major player in the community and was active in exhibiting, teaching, and building a reputation for for his portraiture work. Among his notable sitters were King Gillette, John Burroughs, William Wendt, and Albert Einstein during his time at Cal Tech. He was also known for his casual portraits of women in relaxed garden settings and his warm paintings of his daughters captured at play.
In 1913, he co-founded and taught at the Stickney School in Pasadena which was the region's first major art school and enjoyed teaching and mentoring young artists throughout his career. Later directors at the Stickney included Guy Rose and Alson Clark.
Like many others who arrived in Southern California, Mannheim was seduced by the beauty of the area and painted a full array of landscapes including the rocky coastlines of the Monterey Peninsula and Laguna Beach, the verdant valleys throughout the L.A. basin, and later the austere beauty of the Coachella Desert.
Edgar Payne was born In Washburn, Missouri and left home the age of fourteen to pursue his interest in art. For several years he traveled throughout the region painting houses, stage sets, and after a brief stint at the Art Institute of Chicago committed to teaching himself to paint. as an easel artist. He first visited California in 1909 and by 1915 he had settled in Laguna Beach where he founded the Laguna Beach Art Association. In 1916, he received a commission from the Santa Fe Railroad to paint scenes of the southwest, most notably the red rock formations of Canyon de Chelly.
Generally recognized as one of the premier landscape artists of the time, he was respected by peers and critics alike for his plein air impressionist style. His favorite painting trips were to the Sierra Nevada where Payne Lake bears his name, the rugged coast of Laguna, and the verdant valleys and hills of Orange County and the San Gabriel Valley. In 1922, he and his wife Elsie spent two years traveling throughout Europe and capturing a series of quaint harbor scenes in France and Italy, as well as painting many small villages nestled amongst the towering Alps.
On returning, the Payne’s moved to Los Angeles and though the couple separated in 1932 they remained close with Elsie caring for Edgar prior to his death in 1947. His legacy continued on through the popularity of his book Composition of Outdoor Painting among aspiring artists.
Born as Hanson Duvall in Waverly, Missouri on August 21, 1875. After his mother died when he was two, he would be brought up by a civil war widow, Elizabeth Putthuff, ultimately taking her name. After he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, they moved to Colorado in 1889 where he continued his studies at the University of Denver Art School and then the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. In 1903, he moved to Los Angeles and became a commercial artist painting billboards and on occasion, theater sets and screens. He began painting on his own time, teaching art classes, and was very active with art groups including the California Art Club and the Art Students League. Finally in 1926, he took up painting “plein air” landscapes fulltime.
In 1927, the Santa Fe railroad offered him a commission to paint views of the Grand Canyon for advertising and promotion and his career soon flourished. Living for many years in La Canada, Puthuff would frequent and paint the many foothills and serene valleys in the area, supplemented by trips to the southwest and California deserts. Puthuff was particularly adept at capturing the soft haze and atmospheric effect that is a natural part of Southern California light.
Puthuff’s private life spanned two thirty-year marriages and he eventually moved to Corona Del Mar where he died in 1972 at the age of 96.
Widely admired for his brightly colored depictions of the hills and valleys of Southern California featuring studded stands of oaks and colorful fields of poppies and Lupine under sun-drenched skies, Granville Redmond was born in Philadelphia in 1871. At the age of three he permanently lost his hearing after a bout of scarlet fever. In 1874, his family moved to San Jose and from 1879-1890 he attended the California School of the Deaf in Berkeley. There a mentoring teacher recognized his artistic talent and taught him drawing, painting, and pantomime. On graduation, he furthered his art studies at the San Francisco School of Design and later in Paris at the Académie Julian.
In 1898, he returned to California settling in Los Angeles before moving back to northern California in 1910 and later returning to L.A. in 1917. He was introduced to Charlie Chaplin by a friend and the two became very good friends. Redmond helped Chaplin learn and perform pantomime while Chaplin gave Redmond studio space on the movie lot and cast him in cameo roles in many of his movies, most notably as the sculptor in “City Lights”.
Redmond’s artistic style evolved over the years. His early works were darkly tonal with subtle layers of tones of browns and greens that captured the moody marsh fields and tidelands of northern California. Later his palette would lighten and his bright landscapes of springtime colors would become collector favorites and help create postcard-like memories of California. It is said that his favorite subjects were muted, reflective paintings including misty scenes of nearby settings, beautifully rendered sunset and twilight images, and wonderfully luminescent nocturnes.
William Ritschel was born on July 11, 1864 in Nuremberg, Germnay. In his youth, he worked as a merchant sailor and was already sketching marine subjects. His love of the sea stayed with him throughout his career as he became one of California’s most prominent marine artists. He studied at the Royal Academy of Munich. In 1895, he emigrated to New York City becoming part of the Salmagundi Club and New York Watercolor Society and later was honored as a member of National Academy of Design. In 1911, he moved to Carmel, California though he continued to exhibit widely on the east coast.
Ritschel’s oeuvre was almost exclusively of marine subjects, and he was able to convincingly capture the ocean’s many moods – stormy, tranquil, crashing waves on rocks, or evening calm. In 1918, he completed the construction of his home, a castle-like stone structure dramatically perched on the edge of the rocky cliffs in Carmel Highlands. The castle remined his primary residence, save several south seas journeys, until his death in 1949. Beyond his mastery of seascapes, he is remembered as a memorable character, often painting outside his studio in a brightly colored, flowered sarong.
Perhaps the most talented painter of his era, Guy Rose was born in the San Gabriel on March 3, 1867. His father had been a state senator and the family owned a large ranch that would later become the community of Rosemead. During recovery from an early gunshot accident, he demonstrated a gift for art and his family actively encouraged his pursuit of art. After studying at the California School of Design, Rose enrolled in the Academia Julian in 1888 and later at the Académie Delacluse where he became the first California-born artist to receive honorable mention at the Paris Salon.
In the mid-1890s, Rose went to New York where he taught at the Pratt Institute and did illustrations for a number of leading magazines including Harper’s and others. In 1899, Rose and his wife Ethel returned to France where they would live for twelve years acquiring a stone cottage in Giverny near the home of Claude Monet. During this period, Monet’s mentoring and friendship profoundly influenced Rose’s artistic style and led to critical respect.
In 1912, Rose moved to New York before returning to Southern California in 1914, settling in Pasadena where he served as Director of the Stickney School of Design. While enjoying widening success, his health was impacted by bouts of lead poisoning and in 1921 he suffered a debilitating stroke that left him unable to paint. He would pass away four years later.
Jack Wilkinson Smith
Jack Wilkinson Smith was born in Patterson, New Jersey on February 7, 1873. His grandfather owned a farm that would soon become the site of Madison Square Garden and his father had worked as a painter at the New York State Capitol building in Albany. Smith would pursue his own career in art first studying at the Art Institute of Chicago, and later under Frank Duveneck in Cincinnati. Smith joined the Cincinnati Enquirer as an artist and gained national attention for his sketches of the Spanish American War. When he held his first one-man show, he met and married Emma Troop and in 1908, they moved to Los Angeles where they both taught in the city schools. Eventually they built a home and studio in the Champion Place neighborhood in Alhambra which would become a noted enclave of artists. Residents included Victor, Forsythe, Frank Tenney Johnson, San Hyde Harris, Marjorie Reed, and Norman Rockwell.
Jack Wilkinson Smith was recognized for his powerfully constructed seascapes of the local coast and his atmospheric renderings of the peaks, meadows, and streams of the Sierra Nevada range. In downtown Los Angeles, he established the Biltmore Salon, the region’s leading artist cooperative, and became the first resident artist at the prestigious Jonathan Club where several of his major works still reside.
Elmer Wachtel was born in Baltimore, Maryland on January 21, 1864. At a young age, his family moved to Illinois where he was raised. At the age of 18, he moved to San Gabriel, California to join his brother who had married the sister of Guy Rose and worked on the Rose family ranch. Elmer had shown a strong interest in music, teaching himself to play the violin and in 1888 he became the first violinist in the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra. With a growing interest in painting, Wachtel first traveled to New York studying under William Merritt Chase and later to London at where he studied with his friend Gutzon Borglum who would later sculpt Mt. Rushmore.
On returning to L.A., he quickly developed a reputation as a talented landscape artist. In 1903, William Keith referred his student Marion Kavanaugh to study with Wachtel, and a year later they were married. They built a home and studio in the Arroyo Seco near today’s Rose Bowl and spent twenty-five years touring and painting together in a specially modified vehicle. Elmer’s impressionistic style of brushwork was complemented by a Barbizon tradition of shadowed foregrounds with bright backdrops of trees and mountains. His favorite locales were the hills, valleys, and streams around Southern California. Elmer Wachtel died on a sketching trip to Guadalajara in 1929.
Marion Kavanaugh Wachtel
Marion Kavanaugh was born in Milwaukee in 1876 into an artistic family. Her mother was an artist and great-grandfather was a Royal Academician in London. Her early art studies included working under John Vanderpoel at the Art Institute of Chicago and with William Merritt Chase in New York. She taught at Art Institute of Chicago for several years before she traveled to San Francisco and continued her studies under William Keith. Here, she began exhibiting her watercolors and when she sought to move to southern California, Keith referred her to Elmer Wachtel who would become her husband a year. Soon after they settled in the Arroyo Seco area of Pasadena.
While married, the Wachtel’s never wanted to compete so Marion specialized in watercolors developing a unique personal style. She became acknowledged as one the finest watercolorists in the state and became a founding member of the California Water Color Society in 1921.
After Elmer’s death on a sketching trip in Mexico, she took several years off and when she returned to painting, her work shifted to painting in oil, mostly scenes of the Sierra Nevada, the Coachella Valley and picturesque valley settings of the region.
William Wendt was one of the most prominent and respected artists of the early twentieth century plein air Impressionists. Known as the “Dean of Southern California,” he was born in 1865 in Bentzen, Germany, before migrating to Chicago in 1880. While he briefly studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, he was mostly self-taught and worked as a commercial artist. In the period from 1894-1908 he traveled to Los Angeles several times with his friend and fellow artist Gardner Symons.
Wendt was enthralled by the beauty of the Southern California landscape, and in 1906 he and his recent bride, sculptor Julia Bracken moved to Los Angeles settling in a studio on Sichel Street. On arrival he made an immediate impact of the Los Angeles art scene. He exhibited widely, receiving universal praise and accolades from both critics and fellow artists within the burgeoning art community. In 1911, he co-founded the California Art Club (which still thrives today) serving several terms as president. In 1912, indicative of his reputation, he was recognized and elected as an Associate in the prestigious National Academy of Design. In 1913, in response to the growing population, the Wendts built a home in Laguna Beach, and in 1919 they moved there permanently until his death in 1945.