Wagon team and barn signed 'S C Gile' (upper left) oil on canvas 24 1/4 x 30 3/4in overall: 31 1/4 x 37in
PROVENANCE: Gift of the artist to Jay Hannah Thence by descent to his wife Beth Hannah
Selden Gile gifted this painting, known for decades in the Hannah family as Wagon Team and Barn, to the young artist Jay Hannah in 1945 or 1946. Hannah and Gile met in 1944 following Hannah's discharge from the Army Signal Corps. Through Gile, Hannah eventually became friends with all of the members of the Society of Six except Bernard von Eichman, whom Hannah never met.
Hannah wrote that ''Each of these men, by reason of their work, their friendship and fellowship, continued to have an effect on my work.'' But Gile had the greatest influence on Hannah, and he quoted Gile as telling him painting was ''like a bug and you can't get away from it once it bites you.'' Hannah did a number of paintings ''while staying with Gile in his second-floor apartment'' in a Belvedere building owned by a man named Elmer Benson. While ''It was Benson's habit to share with Gile each evening a bottle or two of cheap muscatel . . . during the weekends I stayed with him Gile didn't drink at all,'' Hannah wrote. Gile did, however, water his garden by attaching a garden hose ''to his kitchen sink and spraying water from his upstairs porch.'' In The Society of Six California Colorists, author Nancy Boas wrote that Hannah told her Gile approached a subject as ''fundamentally a loner and there's a kind of pristine beauty to him being there and everything unsullied.'' ''Later, when I no longer lived in Belvedere, I would stay with him (Gile) weekends, painting and learning until his death in 1947,'' Hannah wrote. Hannah was among the five or six friends who visited Gile in the hospital before his death, Boas wrote. Hannah remained friends with the other Society of Six members, particularly August Gay, whom Hannah would visit in his Carmel home until Gay's death in 1949. Gay's widow Marcelle rented his studio to Hannah as a studio and living quarters. Hannah spent most of the rest of his life on the Monterey Peninsula, eventually settling with his wife Beth in a Pacific Grove bungalow, where he hung Gile's Wagon Team and Barn along with his own work. Over his lifetime Hannah earned a reputation as an artist who adventurously pushed borders, combining art and science in paintings that test and challenge the eye. Hannah's work is in the Kodak collection in Rochester, N.Y. as well as San Francisco's Exploratorium, and is featured in Twenty Oil Painters and How They work by Susan E. Meyer, and The Technique of Collage by Helen Hutton. Jay Hannah, who died in 2010, always felt he owed a debt to Gile. ''If I hadn't come in contact with Selden Gile in 1944,'' he wrote, ''I wouldn't be an artist.''
We are grateful to Steve Hauk for his assistance with this essay. He is the author of the award-winning documentary film ''Time Captured in Paintings, the Monterey Legacy'' and the play ''Fortune's Way, or Notes on Art for Catholics (and Others)'' about California Impressionist E. Charlton Fortune.
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California and Western Paintings