Elsie Payne

Remembering Daphne Huntington (1910-2012) and Her Contributions to CAC Art History

by Eric Merrell, CAC Historian

Florence "Daphne" Huntington, c.1920’s. Courtesy Christopher Kennedy.

Florence "Daphne" Huntington, c.1920’s. Courtesy Christopher Kennedy.

It is a rare opportunity to engage in conversation with a living link to the California Art Club’s past. I had just such an opportunity when I met Daphne Huntington on a number of occasions, each of which I remember fondly. She recalled stories of her time with the CAC, both as an exhibiting member as well as the club’s Vice President. My wife Ramona and I took Daphne to the CAC’s 98th Annual Gold Medal Juried Exhibition in 2009, held that year at the Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA). Although just shy of her 99th birthday, and with more than one-hundred artworks to be seen, she was so happy to take in the entire exhibit and talk about the art that she never stopped for a break. We had lunch with her afterwards, where we heard stories about her life in Los Angeles, the film and animation industry, and the artistic personalities with whom she and her sister, Venetia Epler, worked.

Daphne Huntington and author Eric Merrell at the California Art Club’s  98th Annual Gold Medal Juried Exhibition , PMCA, May 17, 2009.

Daphne Huntington and author Eric Merrell at the California Art Club’s 98th Annual Gold Medal Juried Exhibition, PMCA, May 17, 2009.

Daphne Huntington, born October 24, 1910 in Ketchikan, Alaska to Franklin Epler (1891-c.1920s) and Anne Farrer Epler (1892-1994), was the eldest of three children, including sister Venetia Epler (1912-2005) and brother, Richard Epler (1913-2002). (1) Throughout their lives Daphne and Venetia were inseparable, and their friends often referred to them collectively as “The Girls.” It would be nearly impossible to describe one without including the other.

Daphne at her birth was christened Florence Daphne Epler, while Venetia was named Louise Van Ingen Epler. Neither sister liked their given names, so they often changed them; in their youth several different last names can be found on their work, including Peyton, Farrer, Quintain, and McLane (all but Quintain were family names). (2) The family resided in Hollywood, but they also for a time lived in Seattle and Colorado, and around 1921 travelled overseas from New York to England on The Turrialba, spending nearly a year with an aunt in Dunsfold, Surrey. (3)

The girls’ great-great-grandfather was the English artist Thomas Charles “T.C.” Farrer (1838-1891), a student of Pre-Raphaelite philosopher and artist John Ruskin (1819-1900) at the Working Men’s College in London. T.C. emigrated from London to New York City in 1858, and began exhibiting there and in Philadelphia. T.C.’s brother Henry Farrer (1843-1903), also an artist, joined his brother stateside in 1861. There the younger Henry became a founding member, along with William Trost Richards (1833-1905) and a handful of others on January 27, 1863, of the Association of Advancement of Truth in Art, which was based on the principles of Ruskin. (4) With their background, the Farrer brothers became leading American Ruskinians and an integral part of the Pre-Raphaelite movement in the United States (c.1860s-1880s). (5)

Other artists of note in the family include the English portrait painter Dominick Elwes (pronounced “el-wez”) (1931-1975) and his sons, painter Damian Elwes (b.1960) and actor Cary Elwes (b.1962). The girls are also related by marriage to English artist Walter Sickert (1860-1942). (6)

On another trip to England (after 1934 (7) ) the girls, along with their brother Richard and one of their British cousins, Geoffrey Alexander Farrer Kennedy (1908-1996) took part in a play titled “Spring Leaves,” which had been written by their father, Franklin Epler, a prolific poet, writer, and editor. The gala opening of the play was performed at the Court Theatre in London, with the Duke of Kent, Prince George (1902-1942) in attendance. The three siblings took to the stage in London again for the performance of another play written by their father, titled “Kept Woman,” presented at the Theatre Royal. (8)

In London, presumably on the same trip, Daphne and Venetia studied mural painting, stained glass, and mosaic at the Slade School of Fine Art and the London School of Arts and Crafts. They also took time to learn techniques of the Old Masters at the École du Louvre in Paris. (9)

The girls’ first stained glass window design was developed in England of “The Good Shepherd” for the Child’s Chapel in the Old Crusader’s Church in Compton, Surrey. Later, and in the U.S. they would create stained glass windows for churches in Beverly Hills and East Los Angeles. (10)

Back in California and living under the same roof with their mother and brother (Richard began to go blind at about age thirty, and their father had died mysteriously when the children were just teenagers), the girls continued their art studies with several well-known California artists, including Percy Gray (1869-1952), Sam Hyde Harris (1889-1977), Frank Tenney Johnson (1874-1939), and Claude Parsons (1895-1972). Percy Gray reportedly adored Venetia, and called her “Vanilla;” his watercolours became a big influence on the girls’ landscape work.

Along with their works of fine paintings, the multi-talented sisters designed public murals, wrote poetry, illustrated books, such as The Fables of Moronia, 1953, by Brigadier General Herbert C. Holdridge (1892-1974), and began working for Hollywood studios, including Hanna-Barbera and Warner Brothers, creating background animation artwork for early popular children’s TV programs, Bucky and Pepito (1959) and Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse (1960, Trans-Artists Productions). Later in 1973 the sisters worked together for Paramount Pictures on the highly successful full-length feature animation, Charlotte’s Web. (11) Although Venetia is usually credited for her animation work, Daphne often assisted her anonymously.

Daphne and Venetia also created ceramics and jewellery, including earrings, brooches, and various wearable adornments, and sold the work through companies bearing their brother’s name. The Richard Epler Novelty Company and Richard Epler Studios—Venetia’s Creations as well as Designs by Venetia of California are recognized today as collectible labels. Their line of Aztec-inspired turquoise ceramic-ware won them awards and publicity. (12)

Following their mother’s lead in social circles, Daphne and Venetia became closely involved with many southern California women’s and arts organizations, including the Hollywood Association of Artists, the National League of American Pen Women, National Society of Arts and Letters (Daphne served as president), the American Institute of Fine Arts (AIFA) (Daphne served as president and on the board of directors), the Women’s Club of Hollywood, San Gabriel Fine Arts Association, Artists of the Southwest, The Ebell, and the California Art Club (CAC) (Daphne served as exhibition chairman in 1960 and 1961, and vice president in 1967), among others. (13)

Daphne often assumed the role of mother hen, taking on the responsibilities of the household; this only increased when their mother fell ill. During this time it appears that Daphne’s selfless generosity, well known within her community, allowed a gypsy and his “relatives” to take advantage of the Epler family. The gypsy convinced Daphne that they needed money to aid their terminally ill child. After loaning the gypsies nearly all they had, Daphne was confronted with the sharp realization that not everyone possessed her sense of integrity.

As a member of the CAC, Daphne was the first of the two sisters to exhibit with the organization, submitting her painting, The Emerald Hour, to the 50th Annual Gold Medal Juried Exhibition held in 1959 at the Greek Theater in Griffith Park. She exhibited as an “Invited Guest Artist,” a category that year that included other established names such as Joe Duncan Gleason (1881-1959) and Conrad Buff (1886-1975). (14) The following year, in 1960 Daphne was elected California Art Club’s Exhibition Chairman, and re-elected for a second term in 1961.

In addition to her demanding work as a volunteer exhibition organizer, she managed to exhibit her own work at The Rancho Club and the Friday Morning Club in Los Angeles, where she won first place for a landscape painting. Along with fellow CAC members, Elsie Palmer Payne (1884-1971) and CAC President Horace Edmund “H. E.” Huey (1895-1963), Daphne presented painting demonstrations at the Duncan Vail Gallery. (15)

In 1964, Daphne’s work was included in an exhibition of five California artists showing at The Waldorf-Astoria in New York City along with her mentor, Claude Parsons, and CAC artists Orpha Mae Klinker (1891-1964), Paul Lauritz (1889-1975), and Edgar Payne (1883-1947). (16)

Daphne exhibited again with the CAC in 1967 at the 58th Annual Gold Medal. In the exhibition materials, she is listed as not only an exhibiting artist, but also as the Club’s Vice President. The following year at the 59th Annual Gold Medal Juried Exhibition (1968), Daphne won a 1st place award in the Marine category for her painting, Emerald Sea.

In four of the subsequent CAC Gold Medal exhibitions, including the 60th Annual (1969), 62nd Annual (1971), 64th Annual (1973), and the 66th Annual (1975), Venetia exhibited alongside Daphne in all but the 64th Annual (1973).

(L-R): Mrs. Wells (AIFA), Daphne Huntington, Colonel Wells (AIFA), President Richard Nixon, Venetia Epler with her portrait of President Eisenhower. Courtesy Christopher Kennedy.

(L-R): Mrs. Wells (AIFA), Daphne Huntington, Colonel Wells (AIFA), President Richard Nixon, Venetia Epler with her portrait of President Eisenhower. Courtesy Christopher Kennedy.

Venetia created many portraits—her most famous was commissioned by President Richard Nixon (1913-1994) of President Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969). The painting hung in the White House during the Nixon presidency (1969-74). The Eisenhower portrait garnered Venetia another dignitary portrait commission, this one of Peter J. Valez de Silva, the Ambassador from Malta to Guatemala, where Venetia and Daphne were invited for the unveiling. (17)

A few years later, after their brother Richard had passed away in 2002, “the girls” somehow again become the victims of a scheme by a vagrant to rob them of their house. This person had moved into the upstairs portion of their house that wasn’t in use. Cousin Christopher Kennedy declared that although the girls at times seemed almost “incapable of understanding that a human being could be even remotely dishonest,” there were clues that they might have slightly enjoyed a sense of intrigue! Daphne related to Christopher once—with a twinkle in her eye—that when the vagrant and his friends were watching movies on an ill-gotten TV in her living room, she would drink beer out of a can. During this colorful period, the girls also learned how to fire a handgun in the backyard and “how not to BBQ a steak (quite so close to the garage).” (18)

Venetia (left) and Daphne working on the painting for “The Life of Christ” mosaic at Forest Lawn Memorial-Parks and Mortuaries in Covina Hills. Courtesy Christopher Kennedy.

Venetia (left) and Daphne working on the painting for “The Life of Christ” mosaic at Forest Lawn Memorial-Parks and Mortuaries in Covina Hills. Courtesy Christopher Kennedy.

The girls have two massive mosaic murals in their oeuvre; although each bears the title “The Life of Christ,” the two mosaics are different. The earlier and larger of the two, dedicated on June 22, 1975, resides at Forest Lawn Memorial-Parks and Mortuaries in Covina Hills, California. The second, dedicated on April 9 (Good Friday) in 1993, is located at Woodlawn Memorial Park & Funeral Home in Orlando, Florida. (19)

The Covina Hills mosaic, one of the largest of its kind, (20) immediately strikes the viewer as they drive through the front gates at the memorial. Originally designed and painted in oil by Daphne and Venetia, the mural features twenty-six scenes from the life of Jesus, including a rendering of “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) as the centerpiece. The 3-story mural was created out of 13 million pieces of hand-crafted, multi-coloured Venetian glass, tesserae, painstakingly copied from the original painting by the workshop of Italian master mosaicists, Ferrari e Bacci di Bacci Enzo e Bertellotti Aldo S.n.c (Ferrari & Bacci), in Pietrasanta, Italy. The project took six years to complete while being overseen by the two sisters; when completed, the monumental mosaic measured 172 feet long, 34 feet high and contained 460 figures. (21)

The Orlando mural features twenty-three scenes from the life of Christ and includes another rendering of Da Vinci’s famous work. Ferrari & Bacci returned for their second project with the sisters, where master mosaicist Aldo Bertolotti and his son Manrico began assembling the mural using 11 million tesserae in their studio in Italy in 1989. Taking four years to complete, the mosaic measured 78 feet long by 20 feet high. (22)

The mammoth mosaic at Covina Hills carries no mention of or credit to its creators. A small inscription to be placed on the sisters’ crypt, located inside the mausoleum that bears the mosaic, will be the only visible sign. (23)

When Venetia passed away in 2005, Daphne went to her bedside and just sat holding her sister’s hand. It was one of those rare periods that the two weren’t together. Though her production slowed, Daphne continued to create artwork and write poetry in these later years, always full on energy and smiles. When she joined her sister on October 2, 2012, she was just shy of her 102nd birthday.

The following is one of the earliest poems written by Daphne Huntington. It was read at her memorial service.

HAPPINESS By Florence McLane Peyton (a.k.a. Daphne) at age 12-ish

Free, free, free With limbs of ecstasy I shall leap from crag to crag Like a bounding stag On the lightning light of morning

Higher higher I shall aspire Where that star Burns afar With a golden light adorning

From there Through the air I shall spring And swing On festoons Of crescent moons And climb a star vine That glows with an iridescent shine Until I reach A golden beach That the waves from the Sea of Happiness kiss

I will sail On the sea in a pale Rose cloud boat And float In infinite bliss (24)

Notes: To learn more about the artwork and lives of Daphne Huntington and Venetia Epler, visit daphnehuntington.com


1 Christopher Kennedy, “Daphne Huntington and Venetia Epler, Career Notes,” p.1

2 Christopher Kennedy email to author, Oct. 23, 2012

3 Kennedy, “Career Notes,” op. cit.

4 http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/DLDecArts/DLDecArts-idx?type=div&did=DLDECARTS.NEWPATHV1N01.I0008&isize=text, (retrieved Oct. 23, 2012)

5 Andrew Melville-Smith, on AskART.com (retrieved Oct. 15, 2012) http://www.askart.com/askart/artist.aspx?artist=27198&GUID=CA95E6C1-8093-4A92-A3EC-2A7E6C101E75

6 Kennedy, “Career Notes,” op. cit.

7 Prior to Prince George becoming Duke of Kent in 1934, the title had not been used for some time. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_of_Kent (retrieved Oct. 25, 2012)

8 “Duke of Kent Attends Opening Performance of Charity Play,” newspaper clipping, n.d.; “Charming Americans Thrill London Audiences,” newspaper clipping, n.d.

9 Famed Artist-Sisters Hold Exhibition of Their Work, Walter A. Bailey, South Pasadena Review, Dec. 14, 1977, p5

10 Christopher Kennedy, text for Daphne’s eulogy, email to author, Oct. 22, 2012; http://www.askart.com/askart/h/daphne_huntington/daphne_huntington.aspx (retrieved Oct. 24, 2012)

11 http://www.bcdb.com/cartoons/Other_Studios/T/Trans-Artists_Productions/index.html (retrieved Oct. 23, 2012); also Filmation Associates, TV shows, late 1960s; Hanna-Barbera, Warner Brothers, Churchill/Wexler Productions

12 Kennedy, “Career Notes,” op. cit.

13 Famed Artist-Sisters, op. cit.

14 California Art Club Archives

15 “Exhibition Chairman,” “Demonstrators,” June 1960 CAC Bulletin; “Award Winners,” March 1961 CAC Bulletin; “Committees, July 1961 CAC Bulletin, CAC Archives

16 Kennedy, p.10

17 Famed Artist-Sisters, op. cit.

18 Kennedy, op. cit.

19 It Took the Patience of Job To Create Life of Christ Mosaic, Adelle M. Banks, Orlando Sentinel, Apr. 4, 1993; ‘Life of Christ’ Mosaic Dedicated, The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, June 23, 1975

20 Though not in the world: “The largest mosaic in the world is in the central library of the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico in Mexico City. Two of the four walls are each 12, 949 square feet.” Ibid.

21 ‘Life of Christ’ Mosaic Dedicated, Herald-Examiner, op. cit.

22 Banks, Orlando Sentinal, op. cit.

23 Daphne Huntington memorial pamphlet, CAC Archives

24 Huntington memorial pamphlet, op. cit.

California Art Club in Search of a Home: The Hollyhock Years, 1927-1942

Along with painting I like to write about some of the lesser known stories in California's art history. This will be published in the upcoming Winter 2010 issue of the California Art Club Newsletter. Some of the many famous names you'll encounter include illustrator Dean Cornwell, oil heiress Aline Barnsdall, conductor Leopold Stokowski, physicist Albert Einstein, General Harrison Gray Otis, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, bandleader Xavier Cugat, artist Edgar Payne and sculptor Robert Merrell Gage. Read on for more!


California Art Club in Search of a Home: The Hollyhock Years, 1927-1942

© By Eric J. Merrell

Finding a home for the California Art Club hasn’t always been easy.  In the early years permanent accommodations seemed to elude the Club, who over time held meetings and programs at various members’ homes and studios, as well as at short-lived galleries, and even at some of the local art schools.

At some point, early Club meetings were held in Los Angeles at the Earl House, once the home of Edwin Tobias Earl (1858-1919), inventor of the refrigerated railcar. The house was built in 1895-98 and was located at 2425 Wilshire Boulevard in Westlake Park,[1] now MacArthur Park, (demolished in 1957).[2] The once affluent neighbourhood was home to many of the city’s top tycoons, including publisher and owner of the Los Angeles Times, General Harrison Gray Otis (1837-1917), and oilman, Captain G. Allan Hancock (1875-1965).

Eventually, the Club decided to push for a more concrete situation, and set a goal to raise $150,000 for a building fund. The plan was to raise money selling artwork by Club members through various exhibitions. In 1922 under the efforts of CAC Managing Director and artist Walter Farrington Moses (1874-1947), achieving their goal looked promising. A one-night exhibition was held in 1923 at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Auditorium, a sizeable venue that was donated for the fundraising occasion. Amongst the smaller sums donated was “$500 on the spot.”[3]

By the following year discussion of a new permanent home was well underway. At “an animated meeting” held at the Club’s temporary headquarters at 623 Park View, the Club debated two plausible options: One was Olive Hill in Hollywood offered by oil heiress Aline Barnsdall (1882-1946); and the other was a location at “the southwest corner of Grand View and Third Street.”[4] In 1925 the idea was still heartily pursued, but the Club had to restructure their building campaign as it was “suspended temporarily on the resignation of the business manager,” with the funds only partially raised. Still, strong interest in the project remained.[5] While the Club delayed, the City of Los Angeles was approached by Barnsdall to manage part of her estate at Olive Hill as a cultural arts centre.

The 36-acre prime hilltop site was set amidst olive and citrus groves and overlooked Hollywood Boulevard on the east with views of the Pacific Ocean on the west. Also on the property was Miss Barnsdall’s recently-built Hollyhock House, named after her favourite flower and designed by internationally-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959).

The original plans for the property included multiple buildings dedicated to the arts such as a theatre, housing for artists, a children’s school and playground, a petting zoo, shops, and more. As Wright was preoccupied with designing the Imperial Hotel in Japan, he was unable to simultaneously supervise the building of Hollyhock House; this served to aggravate Barnsdall enough that she stopped the project before all of the structures were completed.[6] Due to this eventual rift between patroness and architect, only three buildings were completed on the property: the Hollyhock House and two other buildings known as “Residences A and B.”  Speculation provides that perhaps Wright’s retribution on Barnsdall for halting the project was to angle her bedroom walls in Hollyhock in such a way that she could not hang pictures.

In 1926 the City of Los Angeles finally agreed to take eight acres of the Hollywood estate, but initially didn’t do anything with it probably because of Barnsdall’s restrictions on how the land could be used, as well as her controversial ideals. Part of the ensuing negotiations between the City and Miss Barnsdall included a provision that the California Art Club would be granted a fifteen-year lease on Hollyhock House.[7]

Barnsdall was known throughout Los Angeles for her “unorthodox and radical” views. She was an outspoken feminist, led a bohemian lifestyle as a single, unmarried mother with theatrical aspirations, and had a desire to build a “utopian artists’ colony” on Olive Hill.[8] (Wright’s personal life and affairs made headlines too.) While her eccentricities may have given the City pause, it appears the California Art Club didn’t blink at the association. A short commentary from CAC President Edwin Roscoe Shrader (1878-1960) in the Club’s monthly publication, the California Art Club Bulletin read “Aline Barnsdall has brought to fruition her plans to establish a cultural centre amidst the beauty of Olive Hill. The California Art Club happily, gratefully, accepts its share in this great movement and opens on August 31 the palatial home granted to the Club for fifteen years as its new galleries and headquarters.”[9]

Miss Barnsdall was feted for her gift during a CAC Dinner at Otis Art Institute on January 20, 1927, while President Shrader delivered an address of acceptance.[10] The preparation for the August opening exhibition began earnestly about May 1, 1927, which included some remodelling to better accommodate the CAC’s desire to display artwork.[11] They needed gallery space in the new clubhouse, and the first floor guest bedroom was rearranged to accommodate this. Next, the “guest baths were removed along with the partitions separating the two bedrooms[12],” creating a major exhibition space. On August 13, it was announced that Mrs. Milford McClouth, a former assistant curator of the Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science and Art, was chosen to supervise the operations of the clubhouse, and H. K. Gavaza was recruited for the galleries.[13]

At Miss Barnsdall’s urging to fill the empty spaces in the Music Room (two of four “priceless Japanese screens” had been removed shortly after the CAC moved in[14]), a mural competition was announced in the Bulletin; CAC members Richard Joseph Neutra (1892-1970), the famous architect; Arthur Henry Thomas Millier (1893-1975), the second art critic for the Los Angeles Times; President Shrader and Kem Weber (1889-1963) composed the Jury of Selection.[15] Only two members responded to the announcement, so both their designs were accepted. But, because “some time passed without any real progress,” another artist, Louise Everett (1899-1959), who was also editor of the Bulletin, took on the project in July 1931 and created a 5 by 8 foot mural. The following September during one of her visits, Miss Barnsdall admired the mural in the music room and commented about the “…decorative interpretation of the desert by Miss Everett, especially with regard to its appropriateness to the surroundings.” A study for a fresco painting by Barse Miller (1904-1973) that was intended for the sitting-area received favourable comments, but it is unknown whether it was ever brought to fruition.

Other ideas for remodelling and expanding were proposed by architect and Club member Joseph Weston, and Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr. (1890-1978), the son of the famous architect, commonly known as “Lloyd Wright.” However, Miss Barnsdall and the gallery committee turned down the architectural plans.[16] Lloyd Wright had supervised the building of Hollyhock House in his father’s absence along with Rudolph Schindler (1887-1953).[17]

A new logo was introduced with the February 1927 issue of the Bulletin.[18] Designed by Columbia Pictures’ Art Director Harrison Wily, the logo was also used on Club stationery and annual exhibition pamphlets. The design was based on Frank Lloyd Wright’s “formalized” geometric concept of a hollyhock.[19]

The Gala Opening for the California Art Club’s new headquarters lasted four days. Beginning with the reception and formal opening on the evening of Wednesday, August 31, 1927 and the Opening Exhibition[20] of works by CAC members at the new clubhouse, the celebration was officially underway. President Shrader presented Miss Barnsdall that evening with an engraved golden card, officially making her a life and honorary member of the Club.[21]

The festivities continued the next day with an Open House for the public and a Children’s Pageant. That evening Catalonian-born violinist and soon to be celebrity bandleader, Xavier Cugat (1900-1990) [22] gave a concert, his first in America.[23] The evening was presented by Aline Barnsdall and sponsored by the German conductor Alfred Hertz (1872-1942). Friday afternoon saw an Open House “to all Club Organizations,” and Sunday afternoon presented an Open House reserved for members of the California Art Club and their friends (no activities were held on Saturday).[24]

President Shrader lost no time arranging a whirlwind of activity, using the new headquarters “to sponsor lectures, host photography and poster exhibitions,” hold an “open-house for all local art clubs,” as well as “a luncheon for lithographers and printers, [a] luncheon for art teachers, a tea for high school teachers, a Spanish-feature musicale, an East Indian dancing exhibition and philosophy talk, addresses by noted art collectors, anthropologists, American Indian experts, explorers, a Philharmonic Society reception, and innumerable small group meetings having to do with widely varied forms of cultural work.”[25]

After seeing the success of the CAC in its new headquarters that attracted some 5,000 visitors by early 1929, CAC member Francis William Vreeland (1879-1954) predicted that Los Angeles would become a “world-beating metropolis.” With this in mind, Vreeland successfully petitioned Aline Barnsdall to donate more of her property for public use. In March 1929 Barnsdall revealed she was donating another eight acres, but with the stipulation that the land support an art museum, and that the institution be “built with funds raised independently from the municipal government or other ‘political ties.’”

Although Barnsdall’s contribution would have created Los Angeles’ first art museum, the entire project lost momentum when she publicly renewed her political position supporting imprisoned labour organizer, Tom Mooney, by placing huge signs on her property calling for his release. Mooney spent time in jail, despite “questionable evidence,” for participating in the 1916 San Francisco Preparedness Day bombing that took place during a strike by longshoremen.[26] The City scrambled to explain that these signs were on Barnsdall’s own property, and therefore not reflective of City opinions, but soon realized that it was politically problematic to do business with Aline Barnsdall.

In 1928 the City renegotiated a new agreement with Miss Barnsdall that named the Los Angeles City Park Commission as owners of Olive Hill, as well as the lessee of twelve additional acres. Part of the property included a smaller but roomier house known as “Residence B,” where Miss Barnsdall and her daughter would live until Aline’s death in 1946.[27]

As part of Miss Barnsdall’s earlier conditions to her donation she requested that public memorials be restricted to only those of artist memorials. War memorials were completely off limits. In the end, the city decided that Barnsdall’s conditions were unacceptable, which enraged the heiress. After informing the Park Commission that they had better reach an agreeable decision, she threatened to take back her property and transfer it to “radical groups.” Barnsdall promptly directed her lawyer to file suit against the City of Los Angeles for the return of her property. The legal battle lasted for nine years when, in 1940, the City agreed to return her Edgemont Street house (Residence B), which prompted Barnsdall to waive her restrictions. [28]

Aline Barnsdall continued to express interest in the California Art Club activities over the years, often attending meetings and events. At one point she presented a rose-coloured flower bowl as a gift for the living room; on another visit she gave a copy of Frank Lloyd Wright’s autobiography to the house library.[29] Monthly meetings were held to give members a chance to get together and talk shop. Business matters usually preceded a guest speaker, the latter including artists, doctors, singers, dignitaries and more. At the outset, these meetings included a formal sit-down dinner for $1 per person. Proving too expensive, a more informal “cafeteria-style” meal was introduced at 50¢ per person. Weekly forums were also held, covering a variety of arts-related topics.[30] Years later, Evelyn Payne Hatcher (1914-2009), daughter of renowned California artists Edgar Alwin Payne (1883-1947) and Elsie Philippa Palmer Payne (1884-1971) fondly recalled dances at the Hollyhock House that would last well into the night.[31]

Some other interesting notes from this period:

  • President Shrader filmed a party at the Hollyhock House on July 30, 1929 using his personal movie camera (whereabouts of the film are unknown);
  • The loggia hallway roof leaked as early as 1932, a problem that persists today (Wright houses are notorious for roof leaks, such as his Crimson Beech House (aka “Prefab #1”) in New York City with its “more than 50 leaks” [Fred A. Bernstein, Living with Frank Lloyd Wright, New York Times, Dec. 18, 2005];
  • Much of the house was used for exhibition space, including the inner courtyard, the outdoor court adjacent to the main gallery, and the “Greek Theatre” located around the circular pool, as well as the bedroom of Louise Aline “Sugartop” Barnsdall (b. 1917) (Barnsdall’s daughter with Polish actor Richard Ordynski (1878-1953));
  • The CAC extended an invitation, although unfruitful, to Albert Einstein (1879-1955) for a speaking engagement;
  • While the famous orchestral conductor Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977) was a guest of nutritionist and writer Dr. Philip Lovell, he visited the Hollyhock House on New Year’s Day, 1929. (Lovell’s Los Angeles house, now known as the Lovell Health House, was designed and built in 1927-29 by Richard Neutra.);
  • Frank Lloyd Wright and his son Lloyd Wright visited a forum meeting in February 1928. Frank Lloyd Wright Sr. expressed his thought that “the gallery should always be open to the serious and sincere artist with a new message no matter how revolutionary it may appear.”[32]

During the height of the Great Depression, monthly meetings continued to be well-attended (one such “Social Meeting” of December 19, 1931, was attended by 175 members and guests [33]), and continued to attract prominent new members, such as Colin Campbell Cooper (1856-1937), and Dean Cornwell (1892-1960).[34] However, the burden of the “Threadbare Thirties” forced the CAC to reduce membership fees for “Artists…and Lay Members” and noted that “a few more new members would enable us to join in the popular sport of ‘Balancing the Budget.’”[35] Also, following the example of other groups, the Club “cancelled all unpaid dues prior to January 1932, providing the current dues [were] paid in full.” In addition, it created an Assistance Fund for any member needing financial aid.[36]

Club President Robert Merrell Gage (1892-1921) requested donations to help fund the maintenance of the Clubhouse. One member set a charitable example by writing a check for $20, and twenty-two others followed suit by donating paintings and sculpture for fundraising purposes. Concerned about the artists’ economic well-being, the CAC conducted a voluntary and anonymous survey to gather information that could be used as “some sort of a remedy for the difficulty.”[37] The deep impact of the Depression on the CAC was evidenced by “a dwindling membership,” which corroborates reports that “the house was in pretty bad shape towards the end of [their] tenure” when their fifteen-year lease with the Hollyhock House ended in 1942.[38]

The Hollyhock House was later leased in the 1940’s and 50’s to Dorothy Clune Murray’s Olive Hill Foundation, the house again being altered to accommodate particular needs.[39] Barnsdall died in 1946, and by the next decade the grounds and house were in dismal condition. At that time Kenneth Ross, director of the City’s newly created Municipal Arts Department, contacted Wright at his Wisconsin home and arranged for his help on a master plan to renovate the property. Wright agreed to design additional buildings for the site free of charge. In June 1954, Los Angeles’ first Municipal Art Center opened, and Aline Barnsdall’s dream of children’s art classes and a cultural art centre was finally realized. This would be one of Wright’s last projects before his death in 1959.[40]

Hearkening back to the words that appeared in the June 1932 issue of the Bulletin, “One reason that we are blessed in the possession of this wonderful building we now call ‘Home’ is that Miss Barnsdall once told us that we were the only organization that did not have self-interest at heart in desiring a place on Olive Hill, and that this Club was honest and deserving, and that she respected us for that reason.”[41] In acknowledging her gesture to the California Art Club, Aline Barnsdall said, “I would like this gift to grow like our own California oak…No country can be great until the least of its citizens has been touched by beauty, truth and freedom; unless all three radiate from this little hill it is as nothing.[42]


Contributing Editor Eric Merrell is the California Art Club’s Historian, in addition to being an Artist member. As of May 1, 2007 the California Art Club has leased offices at 75 South Grand Avenue in Pasadena.

Interior photo of the main hallway at the Hollyhock House. Through the doors to the left is the outdoor courtyard, and to the right, the living room. [Feb. 1927 CAC Bulletin]

[1] Mary Jarrett, Foreword, Who’s Who in the California Art Club, Inc., Roster and By-Laws, 1984, 75th Anniversary Edition, p.8

[2] Edwin Tobias Earl, http://teachmath.net/FamilyTree/persons/person24.html (accessed January 13, 2010)

[3] Of Interest to Artists, Los Angeles Times, December 17, 1922

[4] Antony Anderson, Of Art and Artists: California Club Planning to Build, Los Angeles Times, September 21, 1924, p.30

[5] Antony Anderson, Of Art and Artists: Members of Club Vote for Gallery, Los Angeles Times, April 5, 1925, p.30

[6] Hollyhock House, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollyhock_House (accessed January 13, 2010)

[7] Art Club Takes Over New Home, Los Angeles Times, September 1, 1927, A1; Sarah Schrank, Art and the City: Civic Imagination and Cultural Authority in Los Angeles, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008, p.38-39; California Art Club Bulletins

[8] Art and the City, op. cit., p. 37

[9] E. Roscoe Shrader, Realization, CAC Bulletin, Aug. 1927, Vol. II, No. 8; p.3

[10] The original location of the lunch was at the Club headquarters on Park View Street. [Miss Barnsdall Honor Guest at Art Club Lunch, Los Angeles Times, January 17, 1927, A2]

[11] Art Theater to be Built, Los Angeles Times, January 21, 1927, A1, p.2

[12] Clark E. Pardee, III, Hollyhock House: The California Art Club Years–A Brief Overview, 1988; p.2-4. Full details about the rooms at the Hollyhock House are included in this essay, including paint colors, carpeting, decoration, etc.

[13] Club Picks Director of Art Project, Los Angeles Times, August 13, 1927

[14] Ibid.

[15]Competition for Mural Decoration to be Installed in the South Alcove of California Art Club Living Room and in West Wall of Music Room, CAC Bulletin (cover announcement), February 1929, Vol. IV, No. 2

[16] Hollyhock House: The California Art Club Years, op. cit., p.4-5

[17] Hollyhock House, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollyhock_House (accessed January 13, 2010)

[18] This is the earliest known appearance of the logo at the time this article was published.

[19] Hollyhock House: The California Art Club Years, op. cit., p.1

[20] CAC Opening Exhibition Pamphlet, Aug. 31-Sept. 30, 1927, Hollyhock House, Barnsdall Park; Collection of the CAC; Complete exhibition details online at http://www.californiaartclub.org/history/exhibits/hhopenexh.html

[21] Art Club Takes Over New Home, A1

[22] Cugat’s older brother Francesq “Francis” Cugat was an artist best known for his cover art on the original 1925 The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940). [Art Club Fete Announced, Los Angeles Times, August 26, 1927; Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Cugat]

[23] Art Club Fete Announced, op. cit.

[24] Calendar of Gala Opening, CAC Bulletin, Aug. 1927, op. cit., p.4

[25] Art and the City, op. cit., p.39

[26] Ibid.

[27] Cheryl Johnson, Aline Barnsdall - The Ultimate Iconoclast, Discover Hollywood Online;  http://www.discoverhollywood.com/pagemanager/templates/content.asp?articleid=87&zoneid=5

[28] Art and the City, op. cit., p.39-40; Miss Barnsdall Sues for Land, Los Angeles Times, February 22, 1938, Section II, p.1

[29] Hollyhock House: The California Art Club Years, op. cit., p.4

[30] Ibid., p.5

[31] Interview of Evelyn Payne Hatcher in Minnesota by the author, January 2001.

[32] Hollyhock House: The California Art Club Years, p.### [p.6]

[33] December Meetings, CAC Bulletin, Jan. 1932, Vol. VII, No. 1, p.2

[34] January Meetings, CAC Bulletin, Feb. 1932, Vol. VII, No. 2, p.2

[35] Important Notice, CAC Bulletin, May 1932, Vol. VII, No. 5, p.2

[36] Dues; An Assistance Fund, CAC Bulletin, Oct. 1932, Vol. VII, No. 9, p.2

[37] Meeting of May 13th ; Why The Depression?, CAC Bulletin, June 1932, Vol. VII, No. 6, p.2,4

[38] Hollyhock House: The California Art Club Years, p.5

[39] Hollyhock House History, informational pamphlet available at  the Hollyhock House, p.2; http://www.hollyhockhouse.net/hhhistory.html

[40] Art and the City, op. cit., p.41

[41] Items of Interest, CAC Bulletin, June 1932, op. cit., p.2

[42] Aline Barnsdall, An Expression From Miss Barnsdall, CAC Bulletin, Aug. 1927, op. cit., p.4

Evelyn Payne Hatcher (1914-2009)

evelynpaynehatcher_s I've just learned that Evelyn Payne Hatcher, born January 12, 1914 in Chicago, passed away on February 16, 2009 at Rosewood Estates in St. Paul, Minnesota. She was 95. Evelyn was the only daughter of Edgar Alwin Payne (1883-1947) and Elsie Palmer Payne (1884-1971), both well known California artists. I had the great fortune to meet this wonderful lady at her home in Minneapolis, MN; three times, actually. The first time, at her invitation, I flew to Minnesota in January 2001 and interviewed her for the California Art Club (this interview became the cover article of the June 2001 issue of the California Art Club Newsletter). This was extremely convenient as I could stay with my grandparents, who lived only 10 minutes away. Evelyn had many records and scrapbooks from the lives of both of her parents, some of their artwork, and generously answered my many questions. She had lots of great stories of early life in Laguna, Pasadena, and Santa Barbara and the colorful characters that inhabited the artist colonies. Evelyn always had a quick wit, something in the vein of Mark Twain; once, after I introduced my family who were in town to her, she later remarked "I was happy to meet your parents. You chose nice ones." I took her out to dinner one cold winter night for her birthday, which my trip coincided with. I remember she lamented the cold Minnesota winter; compared to California, the growing season for her flowers was much inhibited. We became friends, corresponding through email and letters, and on a cross-country painting trip in January 2002 I met her at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, a favorite spot of hers, where we spent some time looking through the collection.

Though an accomplished artist herself (she had some of her own paintings up at her house, and even gave me a critique or two of my own work), she told me that after growing up with such famous parents she tended to look for something a little different. 


So she became interested in Anthropology and Art History, in particular American Indian art (Navajo), a good fit for someone of her background and knowledge (Evelyn earned a doctoral degree in anthropology from U of MN in 1953). Among her accomplishments as an author are two books, Art as Culture: An Introduction to the Anthropology of Art, and The Drawings of Edgar Payne 1883-1947,; she also edited, updated and re-released her father's famous book Composition of Outdoor Painting for multiple printings (currently 7th edition). One of her good friends was Rena Neumann Coen, mother of the Coen Brothers of film fame. Both women taught at St. Cloud University (Evelyn was a Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at St. Cloud and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Minnesota), and Mrs. Coen wrote a book titled The Paynes - Edgar and Elsie, American Artists.

A final book is due this spring, titled Made for Trade.

Evelyn donated several paintings by her parents to the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts ("Canyon Portal," by Edgar Payne, which used to hang over Evelyn's fireplace), ensuring the work for future generations.

Coincidentally, a few weeks ago I was reminded of the fact that I had tape-recorded my 2001 interview with Evelyn and decided to see if I could find the tape. I did, and have started to transcribe it. I haven't gotten very far into it yet, but I can picture myself sitting again at her kitchen table drinking tea, snow piled high outside, her stories making that long-gone era seem like just yesterday.