California Impressionism was a regional offshoot of the French Impressionist movement. Unlike American Impressionism, that was known for indoor domestic scenes of women and objectsd’art, California Impressionism was all about nature. The movement celebrated the rich, and changing western coastline. Frequently the California artists painted outdoors. The term California Plein-Air Painting is synonymous with California Impressionism. By the late 19th century, San Francisco was a thriving metropolitan city, full of Victorian and Beaux Arts buildings. The city, and state were a beacon to rugged individualists. Societal mores were a little more relaxed than back east. Because of this it was easier for both immigrants, and women to make a living. Here are a few of the women worked as California artists.
The Connection between French and California Impressionism
In the 1890s Lucy Angeline Bacon headed to Paris on the advice of Mary Cassatt. While there,
Bacon studied under Camille Pissarro, met Paul Cézanne, and purchased art created by the
French Impressionists. Once she returned from Europe, Bacon made her way to California.
Bacon was related, by marriage, to William Kingston Vickery. His firm, Vickery, Atkins & Torrey,
a San Francisco design firm and art gallery, was integral to introducing Impressionism to
California in the 1890s. Some of his exhibitions highlighted the works Bacon had purchased in
Paris. Lucy did well as an artist. Sadly she renounced her own artistic career, though she still
made a living teaching art.
How the Critics Received Women California Impressionists
Born to a Nob Hill family in 1877, Jessey Dorr Luca was a free spirited rebel. Artistically she was experimental. In 1916, She showed several paintings in the Non-Juried California Artists Exhibition at the Palace of Fine Arts, in San Francisco. When the exhibition was reviewed by a San Francisco reporter, Dorr Luca was devastated. The critic disparaged the entire exhibition, but saved his harshest criticism for Dorr Luca, and what he dubbed her bilious use of yellow. The mercurial artist burned every painting she still owned, and left the field of art for good. “California Cypress,” from the National Museum of Women in the Arts, is one of the few paintings by Dorr Luca that can be found in museums today.
How The Dedicated Build and Grow California's Art Scene
Mary de Neale Morgan left a rich artistic legacy throughout northern California. In 1896, she opened a studio in Oakland. In 1909 she moved to the picturesque village Carmel-by-the-Sea. There she helped found the Carmel Art Association. She also served as director of the Carmel School of Art. In 1914, Morgan encouraged William Merritt Chase to visit Carmel. Her invitation was not completely altruistic, for while he was in Carmel, Morgan was able to study with him. Mary de Neale Morgan was primarily a watercolorist, and printmaker, but she also painted oils.
Where California Impressionism is Today
The California Impressionist movement began after Impressionism was well established as an art movement. It started in Northern California, and then branched south to Los Angeles. Most artists did not have a problem making a career as an artist, even if we don’t know their names today. The movement flourished for decades. Interest finally waned in the 1930s, as the economy flagged, and modernism finally took hold in the United States.