DescriptionJOHN BOND FRANCISCO (American, 1863-1931)
The Foothills of California, Tejon Ranch, circa 1929
Oil on canvas
33-1/2 x 45 inches (85.1 x 114.3 cm)
Signed lower right: J. Bond Francisco
Inscribed verso: The Foothills of California, Tejon Ranch
Vose Galleries, Boston, 1929 (label verso);
Mary Hunter Gallery, San Francisco, May 1968;
Irwin Schoen, Westlake Village, California, 1968;
Acquired by the present owner from the above.
LITERATURE: Timothy Anderson, "California Design 1910", Southoak Publishers, Pasadena, California;
Nancy Moure, et. al., "Southern California Artists, 1890-1940," ex. cat., Laguna Beach Museum of Art, July 10-August 28, 1979;
Paul Mills, "O'California," Bedford Hills Press, San Francisco, California.
Stockton Gallery of Art, Stockton, California, December, 1931;
Los Angeles Museum of Art (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), Los Angeles, California, January, 1932;
Currier Gallery of Art (Currier Museum of Art), Manchester, New Hampshire, "Exhibition of Oils Loaned by Robert C. Vose Galleries, Boston," October, 1933;
Winchester Art Gallery (Winchester Public Library), Winchester, Massachusetts, "Collection of Robert C. Vose of Vose Galleries, Boston," October-November, 1933;
Malden Gallery (Malden Public Library), Malden, Massachusetts, "Collection of Robert C. Vose," September, 1934;
San Diego Museum (San Diego Museum of Art), September, 1934;
The Biltmore Salon, Los Angeles, March, 1935;
Springville Museum of Art, Fifteenth National Spring Salon, Springville, Utah, March, 1936, no. 34;
Women's City Club, Los Angeles, March, 1941;
Pasadena Museum of Art, "California Design, 1910," Pasadena, California, August-November, 1974;
Laguna Beach Museum of Art (Laguna Art Museum), "Southern California Artists,1890-1940," Laguna Beach, July-August, 1979;
On extended loan to Oakland Museum of Art, Oakland, California, 1988-present.
Painter, musician, and avid outdoorsman, J. Bond Francisco was one of the earliest and most important artists in Los Angeles before and after the turn of the twentieth-century. Referred to as the "dean of Los Angeles painters" by the famed critic Antony Anderson, Francisco's presence in Los Angeles marked a turning point in the burgeoning art community of that city. (Antony Anderson, "Of Art and Artists," Los Angeles Times, November 25, 1925, section c, p. 43)
A native of Cincinnati, it appears that Francisco moved to Los Angeles with his family during the early 1880s. The census records for 1880 still place him in Ohio where he is listed as a music student, but by 1900 he is listed in the United States Census as a resident of Los Angeles. Talented as a musician and an artist, he studied both disciplines in Germany. As a student at the Royal Academy in Munich, Francisco was trained in the academic manner, which focused on precise drawing of the figure from nude models. His academic training was reinforced the following year in Paris, where he studied at the famed Academies Julian and Colorossi under luminaries such as William-Adolphe Bouguereau.
Returning to Los Angeles in about 1892, he married Louise Gottschalk in 1894. Francisco quickly acclimated, opened a studio and worked as an art instructor. The couple soon became a fixture in the art community. Francisco's early style, focusing on portraits and figure studies, reflected his strict academic training. It was noted in the Los Angeles Times that "J. Bond Francisco, who studied for some years abroad, is a young artist of great promise who has located in our midst . . . . Mr. Francisco will yet make a great reputation for himself." ("Art and Artists" Los Angeles Times, Archives of Los Angeles Public Library) The artist exhibited regularly both in his studio and at venues such as the Blanchard Music and Art Gallery, the Ruskin Art Club, Daniell Gallery, the California Art Club, and the Biltmore Salon. Francisco represented Southern California with three works at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition. One critic noted that Francisco's reputation was not limited to the West Coast, but that his work was equally as prized in the East. ("Los Angeles Becoming Recognized as an Art Center: How We Lead," Los Angeles Times, June 23, 1901, section c, p. 1)
By the late 1890s, Francisco's tight, academic style changed to reflect the interest in the effects of French Impressionism. Given the salubrious climate, artists in California worked en plein air or out of doors , to capture the fleeting effects of light . His focus shifted to landscape painting, and his palette brightened, as he painted the mountains in and around the Los Angeles area. "To take my gun, fishing tackle, and painting outfit," he declared, "and lose myself in the mountains-that is the utmost pleasure in life. To paint nature in her still, large moods lends a thrill to the artist that is unknown to the work done just within the four walls of a studio. . . . The vivid coloring." (Ibid) He joined the Squirrel Inn Club, an association that owned property in the San Bernardino forest. (Nancy Dustin Wall Moure, The Paintings of the California Club, Los Angeles, The California Club, 2000, p. 34)
Francisco's Foothills of California: Tejon Ranch is a paean to the beauty of Southern California. The viewer is placed in the foreground, enveloped by the untamed forest. The painting opens up to a cascade of mountains in the background, surmounted by a series of puffy, white clouds. An overall light illuminates the canvas, and the artist uses dappled flecks of color and purple shadows to create a warm palette. Employing a loose, Impressionist brush stroke, Francisco captures a moment in time.
Tejon ranch would have been a perfect stomping ground for Southern California artists. Only sixty miles from Los Angeles, the ranch was established in 1843 through Mexican land grants. Fort Tejon and a stagecoach stop were built in 1854. By 1866, Tejon ranch was privately owned, and was purchased once again by a group of businessmen in 1912. The 270,000 acre land is still the largest working ranch in California. Measuring 422 square miles, it is the biggest contiguous expanse of private land in California. Given its rugged beauty and unspoiled grandeur, coupled with its proximity to Los Angeles, the vistas of Tejon Ranch provided an ideal setting for plein-air painters.
Original gold-leaf exhibition frame by Carrig-Rohane. Very limited areas of cracking at upper left and center. Otherwise in very good condition. Framed Dimensions 39 X 42 Inches
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