E. Charlton Fortune (1885-1969) Wharf, Monterey, circa 1915 24 x 22 1/4in (overall: 30 7/8 x 28 7/8in)

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Lot 18
E. Charlton Fortune
Wharf, Monterey, circa 1915 24 x 22 1/4in

Sold for US$ 727,500 inc. premium
E. Charlton Fortune (1885-1969)
Wharf, Monterey, circa 1915
signed 'Charlton Fortune' (lower left)
oil on canvas
24 x 22 1/4in
overall: 30 7/8 x 28 7/8in


  • Provenance
    Mr. and Mrs. W.F. Ott and Edith (née Cory) Ott, Fresno, California and Casper, Wyoming.
    Private collection, Oklahoma, by descent.

    Scott A. Shields, Julianne Burton-Carvajal, E. Charlton Fortune: The Colorful Spirit, Portland, Pomegranate Press, 2017.

    Having recently returned from six-and-a-half years living abroad, nineteen-year-old Euphemia Charlton Fortune enrolled at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art in San Francisco for the 1904–1905 academic year, studying there under Dean Arthur Mathews and other instructors. In spring 1905, she continued her training privately in the studio of the German-born artist Eugen Neuhaus, as well as at the Partington School of Magazine and Newspaper Illustration, both in the same building at 424 Pine Street, San Francisco, not far from her home.

    Fortune's tenure with Neuhaus and at the Partington School ended abruptly on April 18, 1906, when the great earthquake and resulting fires destroyed much of San Francisco, including the building at 424 Pine. Euphemia and her mother were fortunate to have escaped with their lives and they quickly left for Stockton to stay with family. Shortly thereafter, they set up camp in Carmel-by-the-Sea, living for several weeks as refugees in a tent.

    The Fortunes returned to San Francisco by July but had already determined that they would move East, as Fortune was keen to study at the Art Students League of New York. Now, with the encouragement and support of her mother, there was nothing to hold her back, and in October she enrolled. She studied at the Art Students League until 1910, her primary teachers being Albert Sterner, Frank Vincent DuMond, and Francis Luis Mora.

    Following this training, instead of returning to California as planned, Fortune sailed from New York to Glasgow. When she finally came back to San Francisco in late spring 1912, she moved in with her mother and took possession of a studio at 1321 Sutter Street. She had not worked in the city for long before setting off for Carmel-by-the-Sea to sketch and paint. That summer and fall, she rendered portraits on paper and painted Monterey Peninsula locales.

    From this point forward, until moving to Europe in March 1921, Fortune divided her time between the Monterey Peninsula and San Francisco. She generally spent summers in the Monterey region, sketching outside and often teaching, and then wintered in San Francisco, where she completed her paintings, exhibited them, and produced portraits. In June 1913, she returned to the Monterey Peninsula, renting an apartment in Pacific Grove with her mother and art student friends. As the summer progressed, she became increasingly involved in local activities and began to identify herself as part of the art scene.

    Fortune returned to the Monterey Peninsula in 1914, exhibiting with the Society of Monterey Artists in a show juried by visiting artist William Merritt Chase, who awarded Fortune first prize and fifty dollars for her painting The San Gabriel Vine. Chase had come to the Peninsula that summer to teach a class under the auspices of the Carmel Club of Arts and Crafts. Though Chase was a teacher at the Art Students League of New York when Fortune was a student there, he was not one of her professors, though Fortune did attend his lectures in Carmel. Conducting classes on the beach, Chase stressed originality and taught his students to vary their paint handling, to work outdoors in natural light, and to work quickly. Fortune took this training to heart.

    The summer of 1914 was a busy one, as Fortune had an important exhibition scheduled at Schussler Brothers galleries in San Francisco that fall. The show included fifteen landscapes, mostly Monterey Peninsula coastals, including several either depicting, or taken from, Monterey Wharf. The paintings were well received. Reviewer Michael Williams of the San Francisco Examiner wrote on November 25, 1914, "You have of course seen heaps of Monterey bay pictures, and pier pictures galore—but you've rarely seen such fresh, strong, simple interpretations of the romantic charm and deep color of Monterey bay as these."

    Such positive press would encourage Fortune's explorations in this direction and she continued to paint Monterey Bay views and wharf subjects until moving abroad. Some manifested the rich, Tonalist example of Mathews; others were more truly Impressionist, following the example of DuMond in New York and Chase in Carmel, along with other artists whose work she had seen abroad. Initially, Fortune moved back and forth between the two styles, as Williams wrote for the Examiner on November 23, 1914, "It is so much easier to classify an artist who sticks to one style. But you'll never be able to take the safe and easy way in judging E. Charlton Fortune. A surprising variety of moods with a virile and confident changing of style marks her work."

    Fortune ultimately emerged on the side of Impressionism with a richly colorful approach all her own. One such painting, The Pier, a more distanced view than this recently discovered wharf scene, earned her a silver medal at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Similar subjects—and possibly this painting—appeared in subsequent Fortune exhibitions, such as when a painting titled The Wharf was shown at Helgesen Galleries in December 1918, and when Wharf at Monterey appeared at the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art in November 1919. These same works, or related ones (The Wharf and Wharves at Monterey) also made their way abroad to the Gieves Gallery in London in the summer of 1921 and then to other English venues that Fall. By this time, Fortune herself had moved to Europe and was based first in St. Ives, England, and then Saint-Tropez, France. She returned to Monterey in the spring of 1927, after which she began a new chapter of her career making art and designing furnishings for the Catholic Church.
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