Spring, 1926 (Thought to be near Pasadena/La Cañada) signed and dated 'John Frost. 1926.' (lower right) original canvas 30 x 34in overall: 40 1/4 x 44 1/4in
PROVENANCE: With William A. Karges Fine Art, Carmel, California Private collection, San Francisco, California
LITERATURE: Phil Kovinick, John Frost, A Quiet Mastery, Irvine, 2013, p. 123, illustrated.
Born in Philadelphia in 1890, John Frost painted radiant impressionistic landscapes of Southern California. They were primarily of the Eastern Sierras and the desert region of Palm Springs. His style was purely influenced by the French Impressionists and he was one of the earlier California artists to apply this technique to the western landscape.
He was the son of famous illustrator Arthur B. Frost. Known as Jack, he studied with his father as well as with Jean Paul Laurens in Paris at the Academie Julian. Two of his notable fellow painters in France were Richard E. Miller and Guy Rose, the latter of which he met in Giverny.
He suffered from poor health through much of his life and as a young adult spent two years in a tuberculosis sanitarium in Switzerland. After becoming a successful illustrator in New York City, he moved out west seeking a dry climate for his health. In 1919 he lived with his family in Pasadena, where he was much influenced by his father's close friend, painter Guy Rose. The men went on numerous painting excursions together.
Frost married in 1922. After a honeymoon in Santa Barbara, where he met artist John Marshall Gamble, he settled with his new wife in Pasadena. The couple enjoyed an active social calendar full of country clubs, golfing and horseback riding, much to the dismay of fellow artist Alson Skinner Clark, who thought he did not devote enough time to his artistic pursuits.
In 1926, Frost began to depict the area in and around Pasadena. According to an article from the Pasadena Star-News in April of 1926, "Mr. Frost is no stranger to the Flintridge district as he is a member of both the Flintridge Riding Club and the Flintridge Country Club, but up to the present he has viewed the local landscape from behind a golf club or a riding crop instead of a paint brush and palette as he is now doing. It might be mentioned that he turned in the best gross score for 36 holes in the Dryborough Cup tournament just held at the Country Club." Frost is quoted as saying, "While planning a painting trip to the desert the idea occurred to me to work nearer home and do some of the views which I had mentally checked in Flintridge...There is enough beauty here to keep a painter busy for one life-time at least and [I] expect to do some of my best work under the stimulus of this varied scenery," The interviewer asked whether he found "it difficult to work with an audience watching your every stroke". He replied that "No, indeed, that is something one becomes accustomed to working when out-of-doors." (Phil Kovinick, John Frost, A Quiet Mastery, p.123) However, according to his son, John Frost was not entirely truthful in his answer as the watchful eye of his father Arthur Frost did indeed make him uncomfortable.
In Spring, 1926 we see a marked turn in Frost's work towards a more French Impressionist style. He utilizes small, wispy brush strokes with an emphasis on a higher key palette. This auction gives us an opportunity to compare Guy Rose's influence on Frost with the former's painting San Gabriel Road (lot 71). In both paintings, the foreground is dominated by the interplay of light and shadow as it blankets the ground. Both artists utilize a similar palette of soft pastels.
Frost's paintings are rare, due to his ill health and untimely death. Also he believed in the pursuit of quality over profit, a value instilled in him by his artistic parents.