The Golden Years (1926-1939)
Fine Arts Gallery Facade 1926
Arts Gallery officially opened on the evening of February 26, 1926.
President of the Fine Arts Society, Willet Dorland gave a diner
party for members to celebrate their new museum. The doors opened
to the public on February 28, 1926 and shortly thereafter on March
27, 1926 the Art Guild moved in. Charles Cristadoro was the Guild
An article was written in the San Diego Magazine for September 1927 by Aime Titus, secretary of the acquisition and exhibition committee of the Fine Arts Society. He wrote:
"Artists of San Diego County"
Photo by De Vore
"Practically all the local art colony are enrolled as members of the Art Guild division of the San Diego Fine Arts Society, - its roster showing 135 members at the present time. However it is surprising-not that we have so many artists working here, - but that there are not many times that number located in this county-one of the most paintable sections of the United States. There is such a diversified range of subjects from mountains down to seashore, all within a few hours travel, and with ideal painting conditions prevailing through the entire year. Now that our new Fine Arts Gallery has focused the attention of the art world upon San Diego, more and more artists of the country are coming to search out the beauties of this section. Amongst those who have painted in and about San Diego in recent times are numbered Robert Henri, Childe Hassam, Nicoli Fechin, Colin Campbell Cooper, Randall Davey, Andrew Dasberg, Charles Vezin, and the late Guy Rose.
Photo by De Vore
Amongst our own artists, the paintings of Charles Fries, the beloved dean of our local colony, reveal the essential spirit of our landscapes, as the true Californians have long known them. Next in seniority as a local painter in Maurice Braun, whose canvasses of San Diego's hills and valleys have been well known for many years in the art galleries of Fifth Avenue as they are in Western collections. A younger San Diego painter is Alfred Mitchell, who is doing work that promises to bring him and to our city and increasing measure of fame. Otto Schneider, of Buffalo, cast his lot with San Diego colony several years ago, and in that period he has produced many lovely patterns woven from San Diego scenes. Leslie Lee, who sends out many exhibits from his studio in San Diego's backcountry, has devoted himself to transcribing records of the life of our native Indians. Charles Reiffel, formerly one of New England's best-known artists, has recently opened a local studio. His landscapes have won awards in most of the important exhibitions in the United States, and his records of San Diego scenery grace the walls of the foremost galleries of the country. Elliot Torrey, also of the New England group, is the latest distinguished visitor to open a permanent studio in San Diego. He is a painter with a very individual style that has won him recognition in the Chicago as well as in the New England exhibitions. In addition to these painters who are constantly producing and exhibiting, there are several sculptors whose work enhances current local and foreign exhibitions: James Porter, Charles Cristadoro, Donal Hord, and Ruth Ball.
Photo by De Vore
Limited space will not permit a recital of all who are sincerely working in various fields of art, adding to San Diego's growing importance as an art center. San Diego has more to offer the artist in subjects for his inspiration and in favorable working conditions than perhaps any section of the country: and in addition it offers a company of congenial associates who, having studied in various art centers throughout the world, have preferred to locate in San Diego to work out their ideas."
The first "Varnishing
Day," December 9, 1928 at 3 p.m., was held before the formal
opening of the Guild's Second Annual Exhibition. It was stated:
"Ordinarily, art has
developed best when it has received patronage and appreciation.
But creative action is the first necessity of great art. And unless
so-called art interprets the better ideas and ideals of its maker,
of its time and people, it cannot be art
"Contemporary Artists of San Diego" 1929
In 1929 eight dedicated and serious artists from the Art Guild, met in Leslie Lee's studio and formed the Associated Artists of San Diego. They were President James Tank Porter, Secretary-Treasurer Alfred R. Mitchell, Charles A. Fries, Leslie W. Lee, Charles Reiffel (who was President of the Guild and Chairman of the Fine Arts Society Acquisition Committee, at that time), Otto H. Schneider, and Elliot Torrey. The name Associated Artists was already being used by a commercial group, so at their first meeting, they changed their name to the Contemporary Artists of San Diego. Four other artists were invited to join. They were, Aloys Bohnen, Leon D. Bonnet, Donal Hord, and Everett Gee Jackson. They all joined, except Aloys Bohnen, who graciously declined. The group was now comprised of nine painters and two sculptors.
James Tank Porter
They held their first exhibition
from July 20 - August 18, 1929, and their first exhibition in the
Fine Arts Gallery in 1930. Its opening was the major social event
of its day. They exhibited yearly at the museum, until 1934.
The Fine Arts Gallery had
a one-man show for Maurice Braun from February 15 - March 15, 1928
in which 37 paintings and drawings were exhibited. In October 1929
a one-man show was held for Charles Arthur Fries, with 37 paintings,
and in November 1929 Charles Reiffel had a one-man show with 22
"Every member of the
Guild will be allowed to exhibit at least one example. If a person
happens to be a sculptor, printmaker, or miniaturist, as well as
a painter and draughtsman in several media, he may be represented
in this show by as many as three examples from each one of these
fields. Handicraftsmen may be listed in the catalog with more than
three examples, for they will come upon the jury in a special way.
Reginald Poland by Anna Coleman Ladd
Reginald Poland throughout his entire career was an active member of the Guild Board of Directors and wholeheartedly supported the efforts of the local art community. He persuaded numerous benefactors to purchase local art for donation to the museum and actively helped the Guild whenever he could. He was made a permanent honorary member of the Guild on August 23, 1926.
In an oral
interview given to the San Diego Historical Society, Guild artist
Mina Pulsifer stated:
"The Guild is composed of the artists of the Fine Arts Society. The annual of their artwork is just about ending now. For the first time this year a number of prizes were given and by different kinds of juries. The choices were quite varied."
Fine Specimens of Art shown at Exhibitions.
"We have been able to
squeeze into our appropriations another annual exhibition by the
artist members of the Fine Arts Society of San Diego. It comprises
some 225 paintings, sculptures, graphic arts and handicraft. One
of the most interesting aspects of the show are the four kinds of
prizes that were given.
Note: Links go to photos on The San Diego History Center werbsite.