E. Charlton Fortune (1885-1969) Californian Landscape (The Hatton Ranch, Carmel Valley) 20 x 24in overall: 26 1/4 x 30 3/8in

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Lot 38
E. Charlton Fortune
Californian Landscape (The Hatton Ranch, Carmel Valley) 20 x 24in overall: 26 1/4 x 30 3/8in

Sold for US$ 372,500 inc. premium
E. Charlton Fortune (1885-1969)
Californian Landscape (The Hatton Ranch, Carmel Valley)
signed 'Charlton Fortune' (lower left), titled (on the stretcher bar), inscribed 'No. 5' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
20 x 24in
overall: 26 1/4 x 30 3/8in


  • Provenance
    Gertrude (née Eels) Babcock Lawson, Ross, California, and London, England.
    Thence by family descent to the present owners.

    In 1906, after studying with Arthur Mathews and others at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art in San Francisco, Euphemia Charlton Fortune—"Effie"—began to train privately with artist Eugen Neuhaus and at the Partington School of Magazine and Newspaper Illustration, both located at 424 Pine Street in San Francisco. This training ended abruptly on April 18, 1906, when the great earthquake and resulting fires destroyed the Pine Street building, along with much of the rest of the city.

    Though the event was traumatic for Fortune and her family, as they lost their Hyde Street home, the calamity offered the young artist an opportunity. She had long hoped to study at the Art Students League of New York City, but considered the pursuit an "impossible dream." Now, with nothing to hold her back, and with the support of her mother and brother, she enrolled. Her primary instructors were Albert Sterner, Frank Vincent DuMond, and F. Luis Mora. She studied there until 1910.

    Before returning to California, Fortune traveled abroad to pursue a mural commission for St. Margaret's Convent in Edinburgh, Scotland, where in her teens she had been a boarding student. On this same trip, she visited Paris, seeing the work of the Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, and Futurists firsthand. At the end of spring, 1912, she came back to San Francisco, but soon set off for the Monterey Peninsula, where she painted local landscapes and produced portraits on paper into the fall. From this point on, until she returned to Europe in the spring of 1921, she divided her time between the Monterey Peninsula and San Francisco, generally spending summers in Monterey making art and often teaching, and then finishing her paintings in San Francisco over the winter.

    Fortune believed in painting outdoors as much as possible, especially when making studies or working on small canvases that she could finish in a short period of time. She typically painted larger works in her studio, drawing from memory and using her own oil sketches as a reference. She did not aim to transcribe nature exactly; the purpose of her art was to interpret, not photograph, and thus she only started with the scene at hand and then personalized it.

    Fortune spent increasing time in Monterey as the decade progressed. She was one of the area's foremost painters, her best-known works depicting sweeping scenes of Monterey Bay and the buildings and activities that surrounded it. On December 19, 1920, art reviewer Laura Bride Powers of the Oakland Tribune wrote, "Miss Fortune paints Monterey—Monterey in sunshine, Monterey in fog, Monterey hillsides, Monterey waters that are betimes the bluest in the world. Lover of all that is wrapt round Monterey of physical beauty, there she is at the highest pitch of her imagination and creative power. No wonder she lives there most of the year."

    Many of Fortune's Monterey Peninsula paintings focus on landscapes with buildings, both along the coast and inland. Here she depicts the buildings of Hatton Ranch, a dairy farm set at the mouth of Carmel Valley. The site inspired her large painting El Rancho del Carmelo (also called Hatton Ranch), a canvas now in the collection of the Monterey Museum of Art. It was the impetus for at least one other work as well: The Ranch—Morning. The latter is perhaps an alternative title for this work, which on the back is identified on an old label as "Californian Landscape" and on the stretcher bar as "The Hatton Ranch, Carmel Valley."

    The painting depicts multiple buildings of the Hatton Ranch in the midst of the region's quintessential hills. Filled with light and color, it is rendered with an immediacy that suggests Fortune painted it in plein air. Orange and gold roofs top a white-washed house and dairy buildings grounded by blue-purple shadows; a flurry of gold and green brushwork suggests the agricultural terrain. The background hills are composed of browns, blues, and oranges, the color growing quieter as the hills recede into the distance. Fortune used similar hues in her larger El Rancho del Carmelo, which is taken from a different vantage point. The tonalities of El Rancho del Carmelo are darker overall, however, which along with this painting's more tightly rendered brushwork, suggest that Fortune completed it in her studio, the canvas too large to complete outdoors.

    Fortune contributed El Rancho del Carmelo and The Ranch—Morning to her January 1921 exhibition of twenty-seven works at Helgesen Galleries in San Francisco. The show was held in part as a farewell, since Fortune would soon be going abroad for an indefinite period. Nothing in the show was painted earlier than 1916, meaning that the gallery was ablaze with light and color. Both paintings of Hatton Ranch, along with most of the other works shown at Helgesens, next appeared in July 1921 at the Gieves Gallery in London, Fortune herself having arrived in England that May.

    That December, Fortune submitted a work called Californian Ranch to the Twenty-Eighth Annual Exhibition of the Society of Scottish Artists, held at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh. This title, listed in the exhibition's checklist, matches the one on the back of the present work. Because Fortune often changed or altered her titles based on the venue where the work would be shown, The Ranch—Morning and Californian Ranch could well be the same painting. For Fortune, it was never the specifics of the scene or the titles she applied that were important, but brushwork, color, and, as Fortune herself explained, being true to herself to her "uttermost, darndest limit."
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