South Pasadena

Happy 100th Birthday CAC!

One Hundred Years! It's an amazing feat for any group, let alone an art club where the demands of the career as well as individual temperaments generally keep members working in isolation. Today marks the Centennial of the California Art Club. The founding of the club was first reported by Antony E. Anderson in the Los Angeles Times on December 12, 1909, one hundred years ago to the day. The early meetings took place along the banks of the Arroyo Seco in South Pasadena and throughout greater Los Angeles, and included artists like Franz Bischoff, Aaron Kilpatrick, and William and Julia Wendt. The CAC's predecessor, The Painters' Club of Los Angeles (1906-1909), had limited its members to male painters in the L.A. area. With the founding of the new club, the rules were widened to allow women, sculptors, and others living as far away as New York City to join. Throughout the CAC's storied history it has embraced time-honored techniques found in the grand traditions of painting and sculpture, molding them into contemporary relevance; at the same time it helped to present such progressive events as the first black American art exhibition in Los Angeles (1929) and the first G.I. Arts & Crafts exhibit (1946, also in L.A.), and maintained a venue to present exhibits of diverse themes and backgrounds.

Over the past century, the club has counted among its members Sir Winston Churchill, architect Richard Neutra, illustrator Dean Cornwell, artists Alfredo Ramos Martinez, Sergei Bongart, Nicolai Fechin and Theodore N. Lukits, as well as many distinguished guests and speakers: the Mexican muralists David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco, conductor Leopold Stokowski, violinist Xavier Cugat, architects Frank Lloyd Wright and his son, Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr. (And of course, most of the well-known Southern California artists throughout the years, too numerous to mention in this post but listed online here).

In recognition of this milestone, I thought I'd link to my article on the Birth of the California Art Club, originally published this past spring. Here's to the next hundred years!

The California Art Club will be publishing a large coffee table art book (due out in early 2011) with Rizzoli Publishers to commemorate the Centennial, and will be full of paintings by historic and contemporary members of the CAC. Purchase your copy here.

The new logo above was designed for the Centennial by CAC Associate Artist Member Stan Prokopenko.

Bischoff's Bright Idea

This is the second article on the history of the California Art Club that I've researched and written, which will be published in the upcoming Winter 2009 issue of the California Art Club Newsletter. If you would like a hard copy of the Newsletter, let me know and I can get one to you. To see more of the history of the CAC that I've been researching, click here.

Bischoff’s Bright Idea

© By Eric J. Merrell

When the conversation turns to color, and continues on to the painting of flowers, the name of Franz Arthur Bischoff (1864-1929) is not far away. Born in Bohemia, he first traveled to Vienna to study art before immigrating to America in 1885.[1] In the United States, he began working as a china decorator in New York City before moving to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and then Fostoria, Ohio, continuing to work in the same vein. In 1892 he relocated to Michigan, where he produced ceramic work as well as taught china painting in Detroit and Dearborn. When he moved to Pasadena in 1906 he brought with him a reputation as one of the greatest china painters of his time.[2] In a few short years Bischoff would be rivaled only by Paul de Longpré (1855-1911) in his distinction as a floral artist.[3]

hist_bischoff_s

Bischoff was a member of the Painters’ Club of Los Angeles (albeit a late joiner, becoming a member on September 7, 1909, a mere three months before that group disbanded[4]) and then an early and integral member of the new California Art Club, hosting club meetings at his studio in South Pasadena[5] and exhibiting extensively with them.[6] His personal sense of color is evident across the breadth of his work (he added landscape painting to his oeuvre upon his arrival in California[7]), as much a signature of authenticity as his own name.

Franz Bischoff in his studio; Courtesy The Irvine Museum

In 1911, a unique idea gave Bischoff further press and rippled through the art community. The Pasadena Daily News reported that Bischoff had come up with “something entirely new in the way of painting flowers.” He had painted a few new still life pieces - nothing new here - but his most recent floral paintings showcased “great California blooms with the glow of the electric light full upon them.”[8] The article goes on to credit Bischoff with originating the idea, and stimulating viewers’ thoughts with his three paintings of roses lit by an electric light. “…Those who have seen them declare that for illusiveness, delicacy and beauty, nothing can parallel them.” Some of these new paintings would be included in his upcoming fall exhibition.[9]

Post Script: As a way of illustrating how significant this idea was at the time, there is another story involving electric light, which comes from the Painters’ Club a few years earlier: William A. Matern (1867-1923), an Associate Member of the Painters’ Club, donated an electric bulb and shade to that group on February 2, 1909. It was motioned, seconded and unanimously carried to send him a thank you letter.[10] The Secretary, Martin Jacob Jackson (1871-1955) [11], suggested that the Club present Mr. Matern with an illuminated testimonial - Jackson to donate the work, and other members to contribute to the frame and materials.[12] Such was the importance of an electric light bulb to early 20th century artists.

[1] Edan Milton Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940, Third Edition, p.107

[2] Ibid., p.108

[3] Art and Artists, Pasadena Daily News, July 1, 1911, 8:1-2

[4] Minutes, The Painters’ Club of Los Angeles, September 7, 1909

[5] Antony Anderson, California Art Club, Los Angeles Times, February 13, 1910

[6] California Art Club Annual Exhibitions (1911-12, 1915-19, 1921-26), and Spring Exhibitions (1917-19)

[7] Artists in California, loc. cit.

[8] Art and Artists, loc. cit.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Minutes, op. cit., February 2, 1909

[11] Ibid., December 1, 1908

[12] Ibid., February 2, 1909