Portrait of Isaac Jenkinson Frazee signed 'Joseph Kleitsch' (lower right) oil on canvas 30 x 24in overall: 34 x 31in
PROVENANCE: Private collection, Southern California
LITERATURE: Patricia Trenton, Joseph Kleitsch: A Kaleidoscope of Color, The Irvine Museum, Irvine, 2007, p. 103, pl. 77, illustrated.
Isaac Jenkinson Frazee was an artist, writer, and dramatist who moved to Laguna Beach in 1921. At first, he only spent his winters there, spending the rest of the year at his ranch in the Pamoosa Valley of northern San Diego County. He moved there full-time in 1927.
He came in 1921 at the urging of his close friend William Wendt. The artists of Laguna were looking for a way to fund a fireproof art gallery. Isaac donated the use of his Indian pageant , Kitshi-Manido, which had been a big success when staged at his ranch near Escondido. He also volunteered to produce, direct, and star in the playwhich also starred his wife, Bettie. The play brought the Laguna artists together with the townspeople to create a successful community event. Edgar Payne designed the poster, Anna Hills served as publicity chair, Frank Cuprien, Joseph Kleitsch, Carl Yens, and other famous artists either acted or played in the orchestra. The local cobbler, who had once played in orchestras in Europe, arranged the music, and important roles were filled by the postmaster, a realtor, and a land developer. Virginia Calhoun, the famous Shakespearean actress, took the lead role of Wahwona as a young adult and helped to direct the play. The play was a huge critical success, and raised over $1,000 for the gallery fund. The involvement of the artists helped to make the pageant itself a work of art. The play was staged successfully once again in 1928.
Many people have written that Issac Jenkinson Frazee's leadership of the community in staging this successful fundraiser was the impetus for the Pageant of the Masters and Laguna Festival of the Arts.
Isaac was known in Laguna as "the Dean of the Laguna Artists"not because he was the best artist, but because he and Bettie created a climate of sharing among the artists that drew them together for their mutual benefit. In addition to producing the Peace-Pipe Pageant, which raised funds for the new art gallery, the Frazees made their small home on Lombardy Lane the hub of the Laguna artist community. New artists were introduced to those already established, and transient artists kept in touch with the permanent residents. They all referred to Isaac and Bettie as "Mother and Father" Frazee. Among the Frazees closest friends were artists like William Wendt and his wife, Julia Bracken Wendt, Joseph Kleitsch, Edgar Payne, Clarence Hinkle, Carl Yens, Alice Fullerton, Roy Ropp, and Anna Hills. Isaac was also friends with many in the business community so a close relationship was forged between the Laguna artists and the town's businessmen.
Isaac Frazee also wrote a weekly column for the Laguna newspaper; in poetic form he humorously commented on daily life and called attention to the beauty that the artists saw in the area.
Joseph Thurston in his 1947 history of Laguna Beach credits Isaac Frazee with being the first artist to sketch a drawing of Laguna Beach. He was on a horseback trip and stopped at the encampment in 1878. He later translated the sketch into a full painting.
When Isaac Jenkinson Frazee died in 1942, he was mourned by the entire community.