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William Smith Jewett

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Final presentation_Konkel

  1. 1. William Smith Jewett and the art of “The Promised Land” Reese Konkel LA 221 OL1: California Art In Cultural Context Amanda Gross May 2014 Academy of Art University
  2. 2. Introduction • What does it mean to be an artist? Is it the strange way in which one views the world as an open canvas? Free to augment and exaggerate the realities we see everyday into a beautiful and unique “work of art?” Perhaps it is this, but it is also much more. If being considered an artist can be boiled down to such a broad idea such as this, what then, does it mean to be a “California artist?” How does someone master their craft and differentiate them-self as an artist associated with a specific region or place? Surely the idea of an artist simply being born in the California isn’t enough? Right? Being named a California Artist means that one has put in the time to discover and study this beautiful section of earth. The artist has spent countless hours using California’s lush, incredible landscapes and beautiful and unique individuals as inspiration for the work that not only supports their quality of life, but is the work in which they find their true happiness and passion as well. William Smith Jewett was an incredible portrait painter from the East who took it upon himself to try his luck in the “Promised Land” known as California and with hard work and immense success “San Francisco’s first professional artist” epitomizes the picture of a true California artist.
  3. 3. Life in the Big Apple • Born on the East coast in 1821 in South Dover, New York • He attended the National Academy of Design in New York and by the year 1833 he had established a relatively successful portrait painting practice there. • Found success in creating landscapes and genre scenes as well, but became known for his portraits of people • In 1838 he enrolled in the Antiques program at the Academy of Design and began to exhibit his portraits at the school’s annual exhibitions and was elected an Associate member of The Academy in 1845 • Facing mixed responses as a portrait painter in New York Jewett decided it was time for a change and was lured to California by the promise of wealth and land
  4. 4. The Way to California’s Gold Rush • As news of the gold discovery in California spread across the world, people from every nation tried by whatever means possible to make it to remote California. Although prospectors came from every corner of the earth, the majority came from the United States. The discovery of gold took place before California had earned statehood; California was at the extremity of the North American continent. No transcontinental rail lines connected east and west, and no railroads or stage lines connected California's fledgling cities.
  5. 5. The Migration to the Golden State • Joined a newly formed mining company and sailed to California in 1849 • After their December 17th arrival the company disbanded and Jewett was on his path to make his own success • Within six weeks time Jewett reported that he had received a number of commissions • Profited as a painter before even trying his hand at mining • His reputation as a “fancy” New York artist preceded him and he likely discovered that his talents were in much higher demand than in his native New York, where the competition for patrons was fiercer
  6. 6. Endless Commissions • “ Society has great hopes of me here and I think I am a lucky fall to them, gentlemen desire their portraits to send home to their families and I am likely to be full of work I paint very rapid take them on the wing and all are prophesying a fracture to my hand.” • He began painting rapidly and furiously, expecting himself to complete between two to three portraits a week, priced anywhere from $150 to $800 he declared himself “as jolly as…as a clam at high water.” • Caught the attention of California’s leading political figures.
  7. 7. Captain A. Bartlett An early effort of Jewett’s famous portraiture entitled, Captain A Bartlett U.S.N. It portrays San Francisco’s first mayor and his short tenure from September 1846 to February 1847, which was distinguished by the change of the city’s name to Yerba Buena
  8. 8. San Francisco’s First Professional Artist • Throughout his prospects, though, Jewett suggested that his business endeavors were as important to him as the progression of his painting • Within this approach to the idea of meshing his incredible eye for successful business forays and his incredible talents as an Oil painter, that he creates his niche as San Francisco’s first professional artist and sets himself apart as one of the most important California artists in history. • January 30, 1950 Jewett announced that he “made fifty dollars today in painting one little head in one sitting” he noted that “there are other artists here doing comparably nothing some do not endeavor to paint at all…” • At the time, it was not easy for an artist to make his way, the hard truth being that it isn’t any easier in this day and age for a painter to create his own way and his own business and clientele with such promise and consistent success • Not a “Starving Artist”
  9. 9. The Promised Land • Jewett displayed his love for California and its surroundings by favoring beautiful landscape backgrounds to complement his wonderfully detailed figures • During the year of 1850 Jewett undertook a project that would later be referred to as the image “which…ought to begin California art production.” • The Promised Land, commissioned January, 1850 depicts The Grayson family and their arrival into the ‘promised land’ of California’s beautiful Sacramento Valley • With Grayson at the middle of the canvas, Jewett arranged the figures in a pyramidal fashion. He dressed them in sumptuous clothing as to address their aspirations instead of depicting the apparel of overland travelers. The incredible detail of Grayson’s family is matched only by the daunting portrayal of the California landscape. Menacing snow packed mountains giving way the vast openness of the Sacramento valley, the family rests and finds solace that their perils are behind them and they have now reached the so called “Promised Land.” • The Promised Land was a topic of discussion and an instant success, in it, fellow pioneers involved in the new California “adventure” recognized a symbol of themselves
  10. 10. A Love for Landscapes • His favoring of landscapes to complement his figures seemed to derive from his interest in painting and exhibiting landscape paintings while studying on the East Coast and this was his response to the wildly impressive geological features of California’s vast valleys and lush oceanfront locations. • The importance of Jewett’s success lies in his creation of detailed and ‘truthful’ depictions of California landscapes
  11. 11. Hock Farm • Upon creating a portrait of General John A. Sutter around 1850 Jewett rapidly painted two views of Hock Farm, his ranch north of Sacramento in 1851 and 1852 • Hock Farm (A View of the Butte Mountains from Feather River) painted in 1851 is his earlier portrayal, and is interesting because it remains devoid of the idyllic scenes that would seemingly be the focal point of a visitor’s business at the General’s residence • The “redwood mansion” reportedly built by Sutter on the property • Vineyards, orchards, and gardens of rare plants and shrubs he maintained there • Crude wooden structure dispensing smoke towards the bottom left of the screen, drawing our eyes toward a small vegetable patch, the cattle grazing on a plane beyond this, while the Sutter Buttes appear far off into the distance. This clear organization of the landscape into a foreground, middle ground and background, and the detailed rendering of the foliage demonstrate the artist’s Hudson River School training and his appreciation for nature and the natural state of things. • praised by the San Francisco Daily Alta California as “exceedingly truthful and beautiful.”
  12. 12. William Smith Jewett Closing • This incredible approach to art may have begun in New York for William Smith Jewett but he found his spark, his inspiration and his ultimate success in San Francisco and other surrounding areas, and went on to become California’s first resident professional artist and one of the most important California artists of his time.
  13. 13. A Glance at California Art • California art embodies the beauty, the rich and diverse culture and the free spirited attitude associated with conditions and life within the golden state.
  14. 14. “The California Dream” • In the late nineteenth century artists were tasked with promoting the California dream and luring populations from all over the country into the promise land of California during the Legacy of the gold rush. Although no artist is credited for the actual depictions on the artwork, the following poster, published by Rand McNally, entitled California, Cornucopia of the World, was created in 1885 for just that reason • Warm color palette • Horn filled with fruit and flowers, a cornucopia, overflowing with crops this is symbolic of the idea of “plenty” • Hard Facts: available space for Millions of Immigrants , 43,795,000 Acres of Government Lands Untaken , Climate for Health and Wealth without Cyclones or Blizzards
  15. 15. California’s Beauty • Jupiter Spires, Yosemite Valley, painted by William Smith Jewett in 1861 • Beautiful locales that Artists visit throughout California’s many mountain ranges, valleys, and beaches are turned into awe-inspiring works of art that not only encourage visitation for immigrants, but they encourage other talented artists to visit and participate in spreading the beauty of the Golden State via detailed renderings of it’s natural features
  16. 16. “Free Vision” • Artists in California experience freedom of vision and freedom of execution and are not constrained or focused on a certain style or medium • Epitomizing this stylistic approach and artistic ideals is sculptor Robert Arneson • Arneson and several other California artists abandoned the creation of functional objects in favor of using everyday objects to make confrontational and often, offensive statements. The new movement was dubbed "Funk Art," and Arneson is considered the "father of the ceramic Funk movement" • Sometimes including actual foreign object such as cigarette butts Arneson created amazing sculptures such as California Artist in 1982 pictured on the left
  17. 17. Concluding Thoughts • California has long been known for its incredible opportunities and has always been a destination for tourism and migration, with it’s beautiful landscapes, mild weather, and fertile soil it served as a haven for individuals facing hardship in the nineteenth century. The allure of the state created a population boom and filled the state with all sorts of new ideas and people including a plethora of incredible artists. Coming from all over the country, it is the amazingly diverse stylistic approaches, mediums used, ideals and values depicted that make California art interesting. Couple that with the idea that no artists should have creative constraint and one can begin to understand the originality and truly valuable existence of the state of California and the art in which it stands as complete and sole inspiration.
  18. 18. Bibliography • 1. Driesbach, Janice Tolhurst., Harvey Jones, and Katherine Church. Holland. Art of the Gold Rush. Berkeley, CA: U of California, 1998. Print. • 2. Greenhouse, Wendy, PhD. "William Smith Jewett." Terra Foundation for American Art. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2014. • 3. "SFMOMA | Robert Arneson | California Artist." San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. SF MOMA, n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2014. • 4. Sintetos, Mike. "Robert Arneson: Serious Ideas behind That Humor." Robert Arneson: Serious Ideas behind That Humor | UC Davis. UC Davis, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2014. • 5. Module 6, Session 4 / Module 6, Session 5 /Module 4, Session 19