Superbly Independent

Early California Paintings by Annie Harmon, Mary DeNeale Morgan and Marion Kavanagh Wachtel

 July 25 - Sept. 19, 2010

Nearly 100 plein air landscape paintings by three pioneer women artists; illustrated color catalog, with checklist and essays by Jean Stern, Executive Director of The Irvine Museum, Erika Esau, opening day speaker, and Julie Armistead, guest curator of the exhibition.

Too often, tenacious and talented early women turn-of-the-century women artists received less attention from the art world than their male counterparts; this exhibition intends to balance the scales of artistic scholarship by focusing on the abilities of three superb painters.

While researching Harmon and her relationship with her mentor and teacher, William Keith, it became clear to there were also interesting parallels and connections with her contemporaries Mary DeNeale Morgan and Marion Kavanagh Wachtel.  Together, they allow us to look at the breadth of early California landscape—from the densely wooded forests of the north, to the Bay Area and the spectacularly scenic central coast, to the bright, strong colors and tones of the desert and the Southland.  

All three artists painted en plein air.  One can imagine them sitting before some stunning vista, paint brush in hand, ready to capture the scene.  A passage in Brother Cornelius’s book Keith: Old Master of California, comes to mind, when one of Keith’s students asked him, “‘Which is your favorite picture?’ ‘Here it is’ and he pointed to a blank canvas. ‘But there’s nothing there!’ ‘Infinite possibilities,’ insisted Keith.” With this exhibition, we are fortunate to see the fruit of many of those infinite possibilities.

Opening Events:

Lecture by Southern California art historian Erika Esau, author of Images of the Pacific Rim:  Australia and California, 1850-1935.
When: Sunday, July 25, 2:00 pm
Where: Claeys Lounge, Soda Activity Center
Reception following, Art Patio and Gallery


In the News:
Pioneering Women: Nearly Forgotten Artists Find New Life - and Admirers - in Moraga
By Lou Fancher July 17, 2010
They were ahead of their time. They captured California on canvas and their lives were as interesting as their subjects. Here's your VIP pass to "Superbly Independent," opening July 25 at the Hearst Gallery. Read full article »