The Señora's Garden, circa 1918 unsigned oil on canvas 30 x 26in overall: 38 3/4 x 34 3/4in
PROVENANCE: Collection of James Brown Fortune, the artist's uncle and brother of her father, William Ranken Fortune, Liverpool, England in 1921 Thence by descent to the widow of James Brown Fortune Thence by descent to the present owners Private collection, England
EXHIBITED: San Francisco, California, San Francisco Art Association Exhibition, 1920 (label verso) Liverpool, England, Walker Art Gallery, Autumn exhibition of modern art: the forty-ninth, 1921 (label verso from exhibitor, Dicksee & Co of Liverpool)
LITERATURE: Laurvik, J. Nilsen, The American Magazine of Art, Art In California, The San Francisco Art Association's Annual Exhibition, Vol IX, Issue 2, p. 277. Westphal, Ruth, Plein Air Painters of California, The North, Irvine, 1986, p. 69.
Ruth Westphal wrote the seminal book Plein Air Painters of California, The North, in 1986. Her entry on E. Charlton Fortune begins as follows: In May 1918 the San Francisco Art Association held its Annual Exhibition. Works by prominent artists such as Joseph Raphael, Armin Hansen, William Clapp, Clark Hobart, and E. Bruce Nelson were included. Yet one of the artists singled out for special mention in The American Magazine of Art was E. Charlton Fortune. Of her painting The Señora's Garden, J. Nilsen Laurvik wrote "...[we find E. Charlton Fortune giving a very personal expression to her sense of light and color in the sun-flecked walls and foliage of 'The Señora's Garden', in which] the impression of actual sunlight is rendered with a surety and vivacity that is destined to place this artist in the front rank of American painters."
The setting for this painting is undoubtedly in the Carmel area, where Fortune settled in 1912. Two summers earlier, the artist had the good fortune to paint alongside William Merritt Chase. Fortune is the artist credited with convincing Chase to come to Carmel in the summer of 1914 to teach outdoor painting classes, events that were sponsored by the local Arts and Crafts Club. Fortune attended lectures given by Chase in New York years earlier and knew that his impressionistic style would lend itself perfectly to the California coastal light. While in New York Fortune also attended art classes taught by Frank Vincent Dumond, a close friend of the artist Guy Rose. In 1915 she received silver medals at both the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco and the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego.
The Señora's Garden illustrates how Fortune masterfully transferred Impressionist methods to the California landscape. Her bold use of color is virtually unmatched during this period of her work. The colors burst from the canvas in a dizzying array of brightness and movement, always held together by her distinct use of indigo blue. An unknown woman on a balcony is looking down at her friend who could be picking up her bonnet, working in the garden or simply waiting for the woman above. The more one looks the more the painting offers further glimpses of the scene around the women.
The work is titled in the artist's hand on the artist's business card, listing her Sutter Street address, affixed to the stretcher bar. In addition, the exhibition label is signed and titled and is affixed to the stretcher bar.