Seated Woman with Fur Collar, 1961 signed and dated 'Oliveira 61' (upper left) oil on canvas 54 x 50in (137.2 x 127cm)
Provenance: Collection of Charles and Glenna Campbell, San Francisco (acquired directly from the artist in 1965)
Exhibited: New York, The Alan Gallery Beverly Hills, California, Paul Kantor Gallery San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Nathan Oliveira: An Exhibition Survey 1957-1983, September 6-October 21, 1984, no. 13, p. 15, illus. Traveled to Laguna Beach Museum of Art, Laguna Beach; Madison Art Center, Madison; Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, University of Nebraska, Lincoln; Museum of Art, The University of Oklahoma, Norman Belmont, California, College of Notre Dame, Wiegand Gallery, Chestnut Street Stomp: A Charles Campbell Selection, March 13-April 21, 2001, illus. Bakersfield, California, Bakersfield Museum of Art, Legacy in Continuum: Bay Area Figuration, March 22May 27, 2012
Charles Campbell was born in Santa Cruz, California in 1915. His father worked in mining, exporting the family to Siberia and then to Shanghai, where Campbell grew up attending the Shanghai American School. In 1934, Campbell returned to California. He enrolled in the San Diego Army and Navy Military Academy and later completed his formal education at Woodbury Business College in Los Angeles. During World War II, Campbell worked in the Los Angeles Coast Guard office as a Petty Officer Yeoman; it was in this time that he developed a deep love for jazz and art.
At the end of the war, Campbell moved to San Francisco. He opened the Louvre - a picture framing and art supply store on Chestnut Street in North Beach. Strategically located across the street from the California School of Design (now the San Francisco Art Institute), the Louvre attracted art students, many of whom were studying on the GI Bill. David Park, Elmer Bischoff, and Richard Diebenkorn among others frequented Campbell's shop; and later, Bay Area Figurative artists Paul Wonner, Theophilus Brown, Joan Brown, and Nathan Oliveira among others. Campbell created a serious framing business at the Louvre but was also open to casual socializing, trading, and the display of artworks.
Beginning in 1950, Campbell held informal exhibitions of local artists' work in the Louvre's front room. Campbell distinctively chose to show figurative art, a unique choice in an era overwhelmed by Abstract Expressionism. In 1973 Campbell launched an official gallery at 647 Chestnut Street, opening with a show of Nathan Oliveira's striking figurative yet gestural works.
Oliveira, born in Oakland in 1928, was profoundly impacted by the work of Rembrandt and the later German Expressionists. His figures, most often solitary and highly distorted, reflect an existentialist view of man tragic yet enduring. His bold and highly gestural brushstrokes paired with ambiguous space, create tense environments for his subjects. In Seated Woman with Fur Collar Oliveira employs his characteristic techniques, but interjects his female subject with an unusual tenderness.
Belonging to a series of works depicting women in the fashions of the 1930s, Seated Woman with Fur Collar holds unique significance as Oliveira regarded the image as, "a portrait of his mother from memory" (as quoted in Nathan Oliveira: A Survey Exhibition 1957-1983, San Francisco, 1984, Berkeley, University Press, 1990, p. 114). For Oliveira, the 1930s carried a certain flavor and attitude that he found fascinating. In this representation of his mother, within the context of a decade he felt compelled to explore, Seated Woman with Fur Collar serves as a very personal painting in Oliveira's oeuvre. The artists' signature elements are present a solitary figure, undefined space, thick, layered brushstrokes and an agonized quality speaking to universal truths. Yet this painting carries with it an element of charm and loveliness that can only be linked to the subject. The details of the painting speak to this tangible sensitivity the soft fur collar, the white rolled stocking, the blue shoe and its matching cap. The companion piece to this rare and remarkable painting is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American Art. Inclusion of Nineteen Twenty-Nine in such a significant national collection clearly emphasizes the importance of Seated Woman with Fur Collar.
Property from the Collection of Charles and Glenna Campbell, San Francisco