Wednesday, May 27, 2009


"Spring Lupine" by Carl Sammons - pastel, circa 1920's

I finally wandered over to see this show. I admit that the title put me off: "California Impressionist Landscapes...." To my perhaps jaded eye this conjures up a modern genre of not very interesting paintings that tend to lack good differentiation of space, mediocre handling of light, and seemingly random color decisions. But the images on the museum website had good compositions, the colors glowed, and we have company visiting, so let's go....
Wow. I'm so glad we did.
Stylistically I'd say Sammons is as much a post-Impressionist as an Impressionist (his hills of California are rendered with muscular planes of color that call to mind Cezanne). What totally knocked me out were his pastels. He apparently worked in this medium for many years before turning to oil paint, and his mastery is evident whether capturing wildflower covered hills, crashing waves on rocks, or stark desert scenes.
"East of Capetown, Humboldt County" by Carl Sammons - oil, circa 1925
When Sammons turned to oils, his facility with composition and handling of light and shadow were already in place. He continued to paint according to his vision as the art world changed around him.
Miniaturists take note: the exhibition includes several remarkably rendered landscapes approximately 3" x 2".
An interesting part of his life noted in the show is that he was one of the first landscape artists to make good use of a car to travel around during the 1920s and 1930s doing plein air work, making extensive trips around the west that were documented in Oakland newspapers and other contemporaneous accounts.
The show is from a collection owned by his niece, and includes ephemera such as his travel easel and some half finished work. It will be up through June 28th. Highly recommended if you have a chance to get 2 hours up 101 from San Francisco.

No comments: