Loading Events

Upon a Painted Ocean: An Ode to the California Coast

Our tribute to the California Coast is entitled Upon a Painted Ocean, in reference to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem about the sea, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, published in 1798.  It reads, in part:

Day after day, day after day, we stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean.
Water, water, everywhere, and all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.

Contrary to the tragic theme of the poem, our exhibition celebrates the splendor of our sun-filled coast.  To that end, Upon a Painted Ocean features works by important historical artists as well as by contemporary painters.

In addition to spectacular scenes of idyllic beaches, the exhibition includes several paintings of Santa Catalina Island, Coronado Beach, the rocky cliffs of Big Sur, views of San Francisco Bay, and two historic vistas of Crystal Cove, one of which shows the cove as a movie set, used as such since the early 1920s.

Guy Rose, the most famous of the California Impressionists, is represented by two seascapes, one of Monterey and the other of Laguna Beach. Point Lobos, usually associated with foggy, overcast mornings, shows the unique rocks and cliffs under a bright overhead sun.  By contrast, Lifting Fog shows Laguna Beach, noted for its bright sunny days, just emerging from the morning fog.

On display are important historical works by Rex Brandt, Frank Cuprien, Granville Redmond, Edgar Payne, Ruth Peabody, Arthur Rider, William Ritschel, Donna Schuster, George Gardner Symons, Elmer Wachtel, and William Wendt.

Additionally, the exhibition presents works by notable contemporary artists, such as John Cosby, Rick Delanty, Dennis Doheny, Andy Evansen, Gregory Hull, Kim Lordier, Jesse Powell, Gayle Garner Roski, Jeff Sewell, and Bryan Mark Taylor.

Expanded Bios

GUY ROSE

Born on March 3, 1867, in San Gabriel, California
Died on November 17, 1925, in Pasadena, California

Guy Orlando Rose was born on March 3, 1867, in San Gabriel, California.  He was the seventh child of Leonard John Rose (1827-1899), a German-born successful businessman and California State Senator, and Amanda Jones Rose.  He was raised on Sunny Slope, the family ranch in the San Gabriel Valley, just north-east of Los Angeles.  In 1889, Leonard J. Rose sold the Sunny Slope Ranch and built a luxurious mansion in Los Angeles, at the corner of Fourth Street and Grand Avenue.  In 1899, despondant over his mounting debts, Guy Rose’s father, Leonard J. Rose, committed suicide in his backyard.

As a child, Rose was accidentally shot in the chin during a hunting trip with his brothers in 1876.  He recovered, but it is believed that he retained several lead pellets in his chin. For the rest of his life, he suffered chronic bout of lead poisoning, aggravated by his use of oil paints which, at the time, contained significant amounts of lead.  To hide the scar on his chin, Rose later grew a beard.

While recuperating from the hunting accident, Rose began to sketch and paint in watercolors and oil paints.  In 1884, he graduated from Los Angeles High School and two years later, went to San Francisco to study at the California School of Design.  There, in 1886 and 1887, he took classes with Emil Carlsen (1853-1932) and Virgil Williams (1830-1886).

In 1888, he went to Paris and enrolled at the Académie Julian.  There, he studied under Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant (1845-1902), Jules Lefebvre (1836-1912) and Jean-Paul Laurens (1838-1921). He was an exceptional student who won every award the school offered and soon found his paintings accepted for the annual Paris Salon exhibitions, a singular honor for an American art student.

In 1894, Rose experienced a serious bout of lead poisoning which forced him to abandon oil painting.  The following year, in Paris, in 1895, Rose married Ethel Boardman, and artist a fashion illustrator.  The couple remained together for the rest of his life.

He and Ethel returned to the United States in the winter of 1895, where Rose began a career as an illustrator, using pen-and-ink and water-based media and avoiding oil paints altogether.  He also taught drawing and portraiture at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.  He gradually regained his health and returned to oil painting around 1897.

In 1899, he returned to Paris, where he continued to do illustration work for Harper’s Bazaar andother American magazines.  He was greatly influenced by Claude Monet (1840-1926), and in 1904, Rose and Ethel settled in Giverny, becoming members of the small American art colony there.  Although Rose did not paint with Monet, they nevertheless were friends and often socialized together.

In Giverny, Rose associated with American artists Richard Miller (1875-1943), Lawton Parker (1868-1939), and Frederick Frieseke (1874-1939), all of whom were permanent residents there.  While in Giverny, Rose met Alson Skinner Clark (1876-1949), who was visiting Frederick Frieseke.  Clark would later move to Pasadena and form a lasting friendship with Rose.  In 1910, Frieseke, Miller, Parker, Edmund Greacen (1876–1949), Karl Anderson (1874-1956) and Rose exhibited in New York as “The Giverny Group.”

Rose returned permanently to the United States in 1912, staying for a time in Rhode Island with his wife’s family, and later, New York.  He moved to Pasadena at the end of 1914 and became active in local art circles, serving for several years on the board of trustees of the newly opened Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art.  In Pasadena, he rekindled his friendship with Alson Clark.  Rose became the director of the Stickney Memorial School of Fine Arts in Pasadena and persuaded Richard Miller to teach at the school in 1916.  When Rose retired from Stickney, he arranged to have Clark take over his post as director.

Rose painted primarily in the southern part of the state until about 1917, at which time he began to spend summers in Carmel and Monterey.  He favored a serial style of painting like that of Monet, in which the same scene would be depicted at different times of day. Arthur Millier, the art critic for the Los Angeles Times expressed great admiration when he remarked that Rose was “almost more a French Impressionist than an American painter.”

In 1921 Rose was disabled by a stroke that left him partially paralyzed and unable to paint.  Four years later, Guy Rose died on November 17, 1925, in Pasadena, California.

Rose was a member of the California Art Club and the Laguna Beach Art Association. Three one-man exhibitions were held for him at the Los Angeles Museum in 1916, 1918, and 1919.  He was represented in Los Angeles by Stendahl Galleries, which held a memorial exhibition of his works in 1926.  He was also represented in New York by the prestigious Macbeth Gallery. Among his numerous awards were a Bronze Medal, Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, 1901; a Silver Medal, Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, 1915; and the William Preston Harrison Prize, California Art Club, 1921.

WILLIAM F. RITSCHEL

Born on July 11, 1864, in Nuremberg, Germany
Died on March 11, 1949, in Carmel, California

Wilhelm Friedrich Ritschel was born on July 11, 1864, in Nuremberg, Germany. His parents were Josef and Elsie Ritschel.  Ritschel was educated at the Latin and Industrial School in Nuremberg.

As a youth, William Ritschel spent several years as a sailor before entering the Royal Academy of Art in Munich, where he studied under Karl Raupp (1837-1918) and Friedrich August von Kaulbach (1850-1920).  His twin passions of art and the sea combined to make marine painting the primary focus of his work.  After completing his studies, he traveled and painted extensively throughout Europe for a number of years, showing his work in exhibitions in Berlin, Munich, and Paris.

In Germany, he married Gabrielle von Hornstein, the first of three wives, in 1891.  He and Gabrielle came to the United States in 1894, and the couple lived in Suffolk, NY. Not long after their arrival, Gabrielle died, as the 1900 Census lists him as a widower.  By 1901, he was a member of the Salmagundi Club in New York. That year, he traveled West, where he painted the Grand Canyon and various scenes of the Navajos in Arizona. For several years, during the summers, Ritschel traveled back to Europe, where he maintained a studio on the Dutch coast at the picturesque town of Katwijk aan Zee.

Some time after 1909, he moved to San Francisco.  In 1910, Ritschel was elected an Associate Member of the National Academy of Design in New York, and raised to full Academician in 1914.  In 1912, his Winter Morning, East River, a view of New York in the snow, was awarded an Honorable Mention at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh.

In 1911, he settled in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California and began painting in the Monterey Peninsula.  In 1915, he was awarded a Gold Medal for his display at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.  Sometime around 1917, he married Belle Hollingsworth.

In 1918, he and Belle purchased land high on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Carmel Highlands, and constructed a castle-like stone home based on a fifteenth-century Basque design.  Dubbed by the artist “Castel am Mare” or “The Castle,” the home afforded impressive views of the rocky cove below.

His lifelong passion for the sea lured Ritschel to visit the South Seas where he painted numerous works in 1921 and 1922.  He also went to Capri and the Orient in 1924 and made a trip around the world in 1926.  He filled his studio-home with many objects and sculptures collected on his trips. His paintings of the sea with its many moods and of man’s relationship to it brought him high praise in Europe as well as in the United States where he was called “Dean of American Marine Painters.”  Ritschel’s marriage to Belle Hollingsworth ended and in 1930, he married Nora Havel (1897-1975), his third wife.

Ritschel participated in numerous national exhibitions during his long career, including shows at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1903 to 1928, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1903 to 1929, the National Academy of Design from 1905 to 1948, and the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh, from 1909 to 1924. 

A traditional Impressionist and fervent opponent of Abstract art, Ritschel was awarded the California “Sanity in Art” prize in 1939, an award that was instituted by Josephine Hancock Logan (1862-1943), who founded the Society for Sanity in Art in Chicago, in 1936.  The Society strongly opposed all forms of modern art, including cubism, surrealism, and abstract expressionism.

In failing health for a long time, William Ritschel died in his studio-home on March 11, 1949, in Carmel, California.  He was a member of the Bohemian Club, the American Watercolor Society, the Salmagundi Club, the San Francisco Art Association, the Academy of Western Painters, and the Carmel Art Association.  His many awards included the Carnegie Prize, National Academy of Design, 1913; a Gold Medal at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, 1915; the Ranger Fund Purchase Prize, National Academy of Design, in 1921 and 1926; the Harris Prize, Art Institute of Chicago, 1923; and an Honorable Mention, Paris Salon, 1926.

GEORGE GARDNER SYMONS

Born on October 19, 1862 or 1863, in Chicago, Illinois
Died on January 12, 1930, in Hillside, New Jersey

George Gardner Symons was born on October 19, 1862 or 1863, in Chicago, Illinois. His birth name was George Simon. His father, Simon Simon, was born in Prussia, Germany, and was a policeman in Chicago.  His mother, Elizabeth Simon, was also from Germany. He was the oldest of five children.

Symons changed his name in 1908, when he returned from a trip to England. Apparently, he did so due to concerns over anti-Semitism.  Works prior to that year are signed “Simon.”

Gardner Symons began his art education at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, although there is no record of his being there.  He also studied in Paris, London, and at the Munich Academy.  He worked as a commercial artist in Chicago where he was active in the local art circles. He became a close friend and painting companion to William Wendt (1865-1946).

Symons first came to California in the early 1880s, painting from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara.  He returned in 1896, accompanied by Wendt.  In 1898 the two artists traveled to England where they painted at St. Ives, Cornwall.  On May 17, 1899, Symons married Sarah (also Zara) Trevorrow, in London, England.

In California Symons had been charmed by the seaside village of Laguna Beach, and around 1903 he built a studio there which he would use periodically throughout his career.  His views of the coast at Laguna Beach are bathed in the intense Mediterranean light of the region.  He was instrumental in getting Wendt and his wife, the sculptor Julia Bracken Wendt (1871-1942) to settle permanently in the small seaside community.

In 1908, Symons began painting in Colrain, in western Massachusetts, where he became enthralled with the Berkshire Mountains.  He became famous for his paintings of winter in the valleys and streams of Western Massachusetts, especially the Deerfield and the Connecticut Rivers.

Symons maintained studios in California, Massachusetts and New York City.  He also continued to go to St. Ives.  There, he met artist Walter Elmer Schofield (1867-1944) whom he persuaded to come to Los Angeles in 1928 and 1929.  Joint exhibitions of their works were held at Stendahl Galleries.

Symons was a member of many arts organizations on both the East and West Coasts including the California Art Club, the National Arts Club, the Chicago Society of Artists, the Salmagundi Club, and the Laguna Beach Art Association. He was also a member of the Institute of Arts and Letters and the Royal Society of British Artists.  Elected an Associate at the National Academy of Design in 1910, he became a full Academician the following year.

Symons received numerous awards in his career, including the Carnegie Prize, National Academy of Design, 1909; the Evans Prize, Salmagundi Club, 1910; a Gold Medal, National Arts Club, 1912; and the Saltus Gold Medal, National Academy of Design, 1913, to name only a few.

George Gardner Symons died on January 12, 1930, in Hillside, New Jersey. In 1937, Symons’s widow, Zara, married the artist Louis Betts (1873-1961).

Suggested Books

California Light

Painting California

Enchanted Isle: A History of Plein Air Painting in Santa Catalina Island

Selections from The Irvine Museum

 To see The Irvine Museum Collection’s entire collection of high-quality books, cards and prints, please visit the bookstore.