John Frost (American, 1890-1937) The beach, Santa Monica 24 x 28in overall: 34 x 38in (Painted in 1921)

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Lot 25
John Frost
(American, 1890-1937)
The beach, Santa Monica 24 x 28in overall: 34 x 38in

Sold for US$ 317,000 inc. premium
John Frost (American, 1890-1937)
The beach, Santa Monica
signed and dated 'John Frost '21' (lower right)
oil on canvas
24 x 28in
overall: 34 x 38in
Painted in 1921


  • Provenance
    With Stendahl Galleries, Los Angeles, California (label verso).
    Private collection, Ohio.

    John 'Jack' Frost, as Los Angeles Times art critic wrote, came "by his talent for art by the 'Divine Right' of inheritance." The son of legendary illustrator, Arthur Burdett "Bo" Frost and Emily Phillips, an extremely talented artist in her own right, he received his early teaching from his parents while in Morristown, New Jersey. Later his skilled were enhanced when the family went to Europe in 1906, where he studied at the Acadèmie Julian in Paris with Jean Paul Laurens, and with Richard E. Miller in Paris and in Giverny, the mecca of Impressionism. He also came to know and visit Claude Monet. Unfortunately, in the midst of this rich experience, he contacted tuberculosis in 1911 and was admitted to the Davos Platz Sanatorium in the Swiss Alps, where he remained until the family (his brother, A.B. Frost, Jr., stayed behind in Paris) returned to the United States in 1914.

    During the next few years, Jack divided his time between the family home in Wayne, Pennsylvania, and a studio in New York City, where he entered the field of illustration, much to the disappointment of his father. Then, in 1916, he became fascinated by tales of the American West, and traveled there twice to experience and sketch the vast pictorial vistas and lifestyles of the people of Arizona and California in rural settings. He also embarked on a two-month motor and pack horse trek with Guy and Ethel Rose to the Eastern Sierra, Mammoth and Convict Lakes, stopping at various points to paint and fish along the way. While he was traveling, his parents moved to Madison, New Jersey, and Jack joined them upon his return in early 1917, to continue his career as an illustrator. Sadly, in December of 1917 the family learned of the death of his brother, Arthur, Jr., who was gaining recognition as a fine modernist painter. The Frosts relocated to Morristown in the following year.

    In need of a drier climate, Jack returned California in 1919, staying in Palm Springs; his parents joined him in December. There, in 1920, he met an old friend from Giverny, Alson Skinner Clark. In the same year, Bo rented a house in Pasadena, where Clark also settled. Subsequently, from that time Jack and Clark went on numerous sketching jaunts, until Jack's marriage to Priscilla Morgrage in 1922.

    Jack enjoyed his most creative years as a painter during the 1920s. In 1922, he was awarded an honorable mention at the Southwest Museum's first Competitive Exhibition of California Artists, featuring many of the state's most notable painters. In the following year, he received first place for Landscapes at the event. Among countless other achievements during the decade, he was represented in three traveling exhibitions and two one-person shows, and received a commission to paint murals for the prestigious Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, owned by Edward Doheny, Jr.

    "The Beach, Santa Monica," was completed during this period. Undoubtedly a key inspiration for its creation were several visits to the beach community made by him and Clark. One of these was of particular significance, as written in Clark's diary on August 27, 1921. It read: "Jack took me in his car to S.M. We painted a 20 x 24 of a very crowded beach. Had a bully swim later and a lot of fun sitting in the sand watching people." A little later, undoubtedly, Clark, reflecting on the hastily done work of art, added, "Good sketch." Soon after, Jack, motivated, painted The Beach, Santa Monica, a unique and beautiful canvas unlike any other coastal scene he had done. It not only features a seashore with the bright sunlight reflecting off the water and rolling waves and his mystical sky and clouds, but it also includes a multitude of bathers and children playing in the ocean and on the beach, while others are basking under the warm summer sun with rows of brightly colored umbrellas in the background. The canvas was subsequently hung in a California Art Club Exhibition in Los Angeles in late 1922 and early 1923. In his critique of the show in the Los Angeles Times, Anderson commented: Frost's "A Beach Scene... sparkles with the colors of the sea, sky and many furled umbrellas." Interestingly, the purchaser of the canvas, a prominent co-owner of a Cleveland construction company and an avid horse breeder, was in Los Angeles for his annual winter holiday and the annual Los Angeles Horse Show that was being held at the Biltmore Hotel, at the same time. The Beach was hung at the California Art Club exhibition. The painting has remained in the family collection of the original owner ever since.

    We are grateful to Phil and Marian Yoshiki Kovinick, authors of John Frost: A Quiet Mastery, for their assistance in writing this essay.
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