Woman in the garden, circa 1923 oil on canvas 20 1/4 x 16 1/4in overall: 27 3/4 x 23 3/4in
PROVENANCE: Collection of Robert H. Aichele, Sacramento, California
EXHIBITED: Walnut Creek, Civic Arts Gallery, A Feast for the Eyes, The Paintings of Selden Connor Gile, June 9 - July 10, 1983. San Francisco, M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, California Colorists, Paintings by the Society of Six, September 16 - December 31, 1989. Monterey, Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art, Wonderful Colors! The Paintings of August Francois Gay, January 30 May 30, 1993; traveled to Moraga, Hearst Art Gallery, June 13 September 1, 1993. Sacramento, California State University, Society of Six, Northern California Plein-Air Artist of the Early Twentieth Century, Inaugural Exhibition for the new University Library Gallery, April 4 July 27, 2002. Belmont, Notre Dame de Namur University, Wiegand Gallery, The Society of Six: American Masters of Color, March 11 - April 19, 2003.
LITERATURE: Boas, Nancy, The Society of Six, California Colorists, San Francisco, 1988, p. 24, 33, 41, 88-89, illustrated full page in color. Skolnick, Arnold, Paintings of California, New York, 1993 p. 80, illustrated in color. Monterey, Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art, Wonderful Colors! The Paintings of August Francois Gay, 1993, p. 8, illustrated. California State University, Sacramento, School of the Arts, Society of Six, Northern California Plein-Air Artist of the Early Twentieth Century, Inaugural Exhibition for the new University Library Gallery, Sacramento, 2002, illustrated in color.
In her book on the Society of Six, Nancy Boas writes in detail about this painting. She explains: "Gay's pictures were infused with a distinctly French sensibility. An example of August Gay's forceful blending of European and American vision is his 1923 painting Woman in the Garden, which represents a high point of his first mature style. Here Gay takes a French motif and coloristic ideas and subjects them to unflinching scrutiny. Fauvist ideas of color and structure lead him to bold results. [Wayne] Thiebaud points out that Gay used as many different patches of color as possible, keeping the value the same. The colors are a little darker in the foreground; they become lighter and more atmospheric in the background, graduating by tints and shades."
Boas also remarks that "although little is known from anecdote or written material, it appears certain that one of the most important things Gay brought to the group was a strong appreciation for French art. Gay's friends often commented on his 'Frenchness.' He was almost never without his beret and his glass of wine. Gay grew up far from Paris and sailed for the United States from the south of France [at about age twelve], so it is unlikely that he saw the work of major French artists before he came to California. Nevertheless, his earliest paintings, such as . . . Woman in the Garden, display a French sensibility and a respect for Impressionist antecedents that must have been a valuable impetus for the rest of the group."
Robert Aichele comments: "When I [first] saw this painting exhibited in the Monterey show, it seemed to literally infuse the entire exhibition space with unbounded energy. It definitely ranks high among the very best paintings by any of the Six."