Beach windows (Interior of the Artist's Home, Kortlander Cottage, Crystal Cove), 1958 signed 'Kuntz' (upper left) oil on canvas 40 x 50in overall: 44 1/2 x 55 1/2
PROVENANCE: Private collection, Hollywood, California
EXHIBITED: Laguna Beach, California, Laguna Art Museum, Roger Kuntz, The Shadow Between Representation and Abstraction, March 15 - May 24, 2009.
LITERATURE: Susan M. Anderson, Roger Kuntz, The Shadow Between Representation and Abstraction, Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, 2009, p. 51, pl. 41, illustrated.
On a bright sunny day as gentle ocean breezes cooled the interior of their cottage, artist Roger Kuntz captured this moment void of humanity to picture the family's casual life style during their stay at Crystal Cove in the summer of 1958. Kuntz and his family, his wife Mocky, and their daughter Mary, spent several weeks in the summers of the 1950s, escaping the oppressive summer heat of the Inland Empire of Southern California.
Crystal Cove, located along the Orange County Pacific Coast and north of Laguna Beach, was originally populated by the ranch hands of James Irvine's ranch; it was they who built the ramshackle cottages salvaged from debris washed up along the beach. Later, in the 1920s, Crystal Cove served as a film location for Hollywood's silent film era. Eventually, the cottages were purchased by various individuals, such as the one that the Kuntz family rented for a few weeks during the summers. At that time, the Kuntz family was frequently joined by other members of the Claremont Colleges art faculty at Crystal Cove, where there were a lot of friendly gatherings among the families.
Kuntz painted several pictures of the porch at Crystal Cove, varying from detailed narrative figuration to paintings more oriented toward the austere without figures, echoing the isolation effect of an Edward Hopper. In Beach Windows, Kuntz depicts the strong vertical, structural members of the cottage, which serve here as the framework for his interior composition. Kuntz may have referred to Beach Windows when "he wrote that he made some paintings 'looking out from the interior to the strong blue band of the sea trapped in the varied rectangles of the window divisions and porch pillars and railing.'" The patterning seen in the wicker furniture along with the casual display of tossed pillows, ranging in color and patterns, recalls the influence of Matisse on the artist and breaks the austerity of this interior scene.
Recognized regionally and nationally in his short lifetime, Roger Kuntz passed away at 49 after struggling with the debilitating disease of cancer. He was born in San Antonio, Texas in 1926 and moved to San Diego in 1935 with his brother and mother. He began studying drawing as a child and later studied art formally at Pomona College in 1943 and '44. His studies were interrupted when he was inducted into the USAF, spending over 700 hours as a crew member on B-24 bombing missions. After the war, Kuntz resumed his college education and graduated in 1948. In 1950, he received a Masters of Fine Arts from Claremont Graduate School and later taught at the Claremont Colleges. In 1956, he received the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship. Known for his impressive freeway paintings, Kuntz's interior cottage paintings have been recently discovered and are now known as the Beach Landmark series.
We are grateful to Patricia Trenton, Ph.D. for her assistance in writing this essay.
1 Susan M. Anderson, Roger Kuntz: The Shadow Between Representation and Abstraction, Laguna Art Museum, 2009, p. 56, n. 60.