To Wander - In San Diego Back Country, 1938 signed and dated 'Charles Reiffel 1938' (lower right) and signed, titled and dated '1938' (on the reverse) oil on board 42 x 48in overall: 50 x 55in
PROVENANCE: Private collection, San Diego, California Private collection, Wyoming
EXHIBITED: San Diego, California, The San Diego Museum of Art, Second Nature: Four Early San Diego Landscape Painters, June 1 - August 18, 1991. San Diego, California, The San Diego Museum of Art, Charles Reiffel, An American Post-Impressionist, November 10, 2012 - February 10, 2013.
LITERATURE: Petersen, Martin E., Second Nature, Four Early San Diego Landscape Painters, San Diego, 1991, p. 165, pl. 99, illustrated full page color. Plotek, Ariel, Charles Reiffel, An American Post-Impressionist, San Diego, 2012, p. 160, pl. 79, illustrated full page color.
A recent exhibition at The San Diego Museum of Art, Charles Reiffel, An American Post-Impressionist, illustrated what an integral role the artist continues to play in the history of painting in America. Christopher Knight, a well-known pointed critic in Los Angeles, wrote a glowing review of the show in which he expresses surprise by the quality of Reiffel's work and amazement that he is not more well known worldwide.
Knight begins his article: In the history of American art, Charles Reiffel is probably the best early Modernist painter you've never heard of.
Celebrated in his own day for Expressionist landscapes of remarkable verve and complexity, he quickly fell off the national radar screen after his death in 1942, just before turning 80. I was unaware of his work until 2008, when seven paintings turned up and stood out in a group show....
Reiffel racked up prizes galore during his lifetime at the 1910 Corcoran Biennial in Washington, D.C., the 1917 Art Institute of Chicago annual, a 1922 nod at Pittsburgh's prestigious Carnegie International (the nation's oldest exhibition of international contemporary art), pan-American surveys in San Francisco and Los Angeles and literally dozens more. His best work rewards consideration in ways that make his original acclaim understandable...
As an artist Reiffel was a late bloomer already in his early 50s when his work began to come together around 1915. No one knows for sure, but he was likely introduced to the European avant-garde in depth at the noisy 1913 Armory Show in New York.
His landscape paintings typically unite the flat stylization familiar from lithography with the tactile paint-handling of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists like Claude Monet, Childe Hassam and Van Gogh, plus the shallow, vertically stacked zones of sinuous space familiar in Japanese prints, which were popular among advanced European and American artists. The Expressionist current is all his own.
Reiffel spent a good portion of his time traveling the hills between Julian and San Diego in search of ideal vantage points on which to set up his easel. In this instance he probably found a spot above Lake Cuyamaca. To Wander In San Diego Back Country is one of Reiffel's larger more elaborate easel landscapes. There are a multitude of elements to focus on in this view. The painter gives us a virtual 180 degree view. The detail and depth is extraordinary. One can look endlessly into the distance as if standing on the very spot. The result is a rich, organic tapestry of multiple layers and colors. Both this painting and Rainy Evening, which hale from the same collection, were exhibited and highlighted in the recent retrospective of Reiffel's paintings. They stand as master works by the artist.
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