Carmel Artist Colony
When the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire destroyed much of the city, including the homes and studios of artists of all kinds - painters, photographers, architects, cartoonists, illustrators, and more - many of them ended up in Carmel, California.
By then, Carmel was an established artist colony, and word of mouth spread fast.
Displaced or struggling San Francisco artists who had heard of the kindness, community support, lodging and natural beauty began flocking to the sleepy central coast beach community.
Notable Carmel Artists
Although the list of visual artists associated with Carmel is longer than this, these artists lived in or spent time in Carmel. View famous Carmel writers here.
Josephine Culbertson (1852-1939)
Josephine Culbertson was born in China to her American missionary parents. She moved to New York, where she received her formal education. She then moved to Boston and became an established artist – showing at the Brooklyn Art Association gallery. Culbertson moved to Carmel in 1905 with her friend Ida Johnson. The pair started a studio called “Gray Gables” which was located at Lincoln and 7th. The studio and the artists’ home was a frequent meeting place for local artists. The Carmel Art Association grew out of these informal gatherings. In fact, the first association meetings were held in Culbertson’s home.
Culbertson’s was an accomplished impressionist painter. Her paintings often portraying the landscapes and seascapes of the central coast.
Ida Johnson (1850-1931)
Ida Johnson moved to Carmel with Josephine Culbertson in 1905. Johnson was a talented watercolor painter. Her favorite subject matter were the plants and flowers of the coast.
Paul Blaine Henrie (1932-1999)
Henrie was born in Tampa but moved to Laguna Beach and then Carmel. A painter and illustrator, Henrie is best known for palette-knife oil paintings and watercolors of the California coast. Henrie was a controversial figure. He was open about creating paintings for the tourist trade to make a quick buck, and, in 1992 was arrested for forging and trying sell paintings he attributed to Joan Miro. Regardless of this questionable behaviour, Henrie was regarded as an immensely talented painter and was collected by the likes of Princess Margaret, John Wayne, Sinatra and other notables.
Xavier Martinez (1869-1943)
Martinez is best known as a California Tonalist painter and art educator. Martinez was born in Mexico and showed a talent for art in his early years. He moved to San Francisco in 1893 and attended the California School of Design.
He earned accolades as a student including the school’s Avery Golden Medal in painting. One his paintings was purchased by the Mayor of San Francisco. He continued his art education in Europe, attending the École des Beaux Arts on a scholarship that was awarded by the Bohemian Club – a private fraternal club of gentleman who enjoyed the arts. In 1897, Martinez earned honorable mention at the 1900 Paris International Exhibition.
Martinez’s association with Monterey County and Carmel began when he was invited to open a gallery at the Hotel Del Monte in Monterey in 1907. At that time, he and his wife Elsie (daughter of writer Herman Whitacker) lived in Carmel.
By 1909, he was teaching art at the California School of Arts and Crafts in Berkeley. He exhibited his work frequently and was a respected art teacher who was often asked to jury art shows. Martinez died in Carmel in 1943.
Arnold Genthe (1869-1942)
Arnold Genthe was born in Germany who immigrated to San Francisco in 1895. Genthe taught himself photography and fell in love with the color and sights of Chinatown’s buildings and people.
His Chinatown photos, some 200 still existing, are the only photographic record of the area prior to the 1906 earthquake. Genthe opened a studio that was destroyed in the earthquake. His photograph “Looking Down Sacramento Street, San Francisco, April 18, 1906” is his most famous photograph, depicting the ruins left by the quake and the first day of the resultant fire that ravaged the city, burning for days.
Soon after rebuilding his damaged studio, Genthe moved to the Carmel artist colony and began experimenting with the first color photographs (autochrome). Genthe’s color photos were amongst the first shot in America.
William Frederic Ritschel (1864-1949)
Ritschel was an impressionist painter, born in Germany, who studied at the Royal Academy of Munich. He moved to New York in 1895 and moved to Carmel in 1911 following in the footsteps of many artists that left San Francisco after the devastating 1906 earthquake. Known for his seascapes and coastal paintings both in oil and watercolor, Ritschel earned his place amongst California’s finest artists. His work is in many private collections and notable American museums including: The Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C, Art Institute of Chicago and the Monterey Museum of Art amongst others.
Esther Rose (1901-1990)
Esther Elvira Rose was born in Minnesota. Her parents emigrated from Norway in the 1883. In 1924, Esther and husband Frank Rose settled in San Diego.
Esther didn’t begin painting until she was 45 years old. She studied at San Diego’s Art Institute and became known for her impressionist renderings of California coastal scenes, using many mediums including oils, watercolor, silkscreen and collage. When the couple retired, they moved to Carmel, California.
Dali spent time in Carmel in the early 30s and taught at the Carmel Art Institute – a precursor to the Carmel Art Association. According to historical records of the CAA, Dali was a member of the CAA and donated his time to jury the then annual exhibition of California student’s work.
Morley Baer (1916-1995)
Highly regarded as both an architectural and landscape photographer, Baer learned commercial photography in Chicago and became a combat photographer in World War 11. After returning from the war, he became a renowned architectural photographer, receiving commissions from architectural firms in California. Baer was in awe of famed photographer Edward Weston and eventually became a close and lifelong friend. Through Weston, Baer would meet some of the most influential west coast photographers of the day, including Ansel Adams. In 1946, Baer set up a photography studio in Carmel. Baer moved from Carmel to Berkley, where there was more work. He was recruited by Ansel Adams in the early 50s to teach at the San Francisco Art Institute. Baer would return to Carmel Valley Road in 1985 with his wife Frances where both lived the remainder of their lives.
Ansel Adams (1902-1984)
Born in San Francisco, 1902; to upper-class parents. Adams is probably best known for his black and white landscapes, particularly his Yosemite Park series which have been widely reproduced as posters and calendars.
Ansel Adams was a restless child who was often sick. He attended a succession of private schools, none of which could hold his attention. At the age of 12, his father pulled him out of private school and he was home-schooled by tutors, his Aunt and his father. From the age of 12 to his early twenties, Adams studied piano and at one time thought it would be his profession. His love of Yosemite and photography began on a family trip to the park. His father gave him a camera and his obsession with photography began.
He learned dark room technique by working in commercial photo development labs. In 1927, his first portfolio, Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras, was purchased by a patron, and by 1933 he had opened his own gallery and studio in San Francisco. Adams was a lifelong member of the Sierra Club, joining in his teens and working as caretaker of the Yosemite Valley Sierra Club Visitor center for four summers.
In 1962, Adams moved to the Carmel Highlands and lived there until his death. In 1982, at the height of his fame as a nature photographer, he moved his photography workshops (previously located in Yosemite) to Carmel. He died in Monterey on April 22, 1984 from cardiovascular disease.
Cartoonists and Illustrators
Gus Arriola (1917-2008)
Best known for creating the comic strip “Gordo” which ran from 1941-1985, Ariolla was born in Arizona of a Mexico-born father. His mother died when Arriola was a baby. The Arriola household was Spanish speaking. He learned English by reading comics. At the age of 8, his family moved to Los Angeles. Arriola eventually attended Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles. Out of high school, Arriola worked for Screen Gems, and as an animator for the Tom and Jerry cartoon show. He started Gordo as a Mexican version of Lil Abner, and the comic became wildly successful. It was, for many Americans, an introduction to Mexican culture and history. Arriola described the strip as an “accidental ambassador” to Mexico.
In 1961, Arriola moved to Carmel, running a small, Mexican arts and crafts shop. He died in Carmel on February 2nd, 2008.
Eldon Dedini (1921-2006)
Dedini is best known as a cartoonist for Playboy Magazine, Esquire and the New Yorker. He was born in King City, California, His love of comic strips began at a very early age. He was encouraged by teachers at Salinas College, from which he graduated, to continue his “cartooning” education by submitting comics to local papers for free. He then continued his training at L.A.’s Chouinard Institute of Art.
Dedini received the National Cartoonists Gag Cartoon Award 4 times: in ’58, ‘61, ’64, and ’88. He died in Carmel in 2006 at the age of 84.
Carmel-by-the-Sea Art and Artists Today
According to Coastalliving.com, Carmel, California is the top-ranked artist colony in North America. The bohemian beach town boasts more than 100 art galleries, and the Carmel Art Association displays works from more than 120 local artists.
Carmel-by-the-Sea is home to many artists and Carmel boasts tens of art galleries.
Carmel Art Festival
Each year, Carmel pays tribute to Carmel as a culture of artists with its annual Carmel Art Festival. During the festival, you will find sculpture exhibits in the park, a highly regarded landscape painting competition, and art projects by and for children. Carmel's art galleries offer receptions (with local wine!) painting demonstrations, and live music.
Book a Carmel Art Weekend
Our Carmel, California inns are located in central Carmel-by-the-Sea. Monte Verde Inn and Casa de Carmel are steps away from some great art galleries and the vistas that inspire our artists. Our bed and breakfast hotels offer a great weekend retreat to anyone who enjoys fine art and fine food and wine.
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