E. Charlton Fortune (1885-1969) Drying Sails I 12 1/2 x 16in

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Lot 122
E. Charlton Fortune
Drying Sails I 12 1/2 x 16in

US$ 150,000 - 250,000
£ 110,000 - 180,000
E. Charlton Fortune (1885-1969)
Drying Sails I
signed 'Fortune' (lower right), signed again, inscribed and titled 'Charlton Fortune / Monterey / Drying Sails' (on the reverse)
oil on canvasboard
12 1/2 x 16in


  • Provenance
    Collection of the artist.
    By descent through the artist's family.
    Collection of James R. Fortune, Monterey, California.
    Private collection, Carmel, California.
    Sale, Bonhams, California and Western Paintings and Sculpture, August 9, 2011, lot 38.
    Private collection, Beverly Hills, California.

    Monterey, Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art; Oakland, The Oakland Museum, Colors & Impressions: The Early Work of E. Charlton Fortune, September 23, 1989 - October 15, 1990.
    Carmel, Carmel Art Association, E. Charlton Fortune 1885 - 1969, August 2 - September 5, 2001, no. 34, full page illustration.
    Pasadena, Pasadena Museum of California Art, E. Charlton Fortune The Colorful Spirit, August 20, 2017 - January 7, 2018.
    Sacramento, Crocker Art Museum, E. Charlton Fortune The Colorful Spirit, January 28 - April 22, 2018.
    Monterey, Monterey Museum of Art, E. Charlton Fortune The Colorful Spirit, May 24 - August 27, 2018.

    Carmel Art Association, E. Charlton Fortune 1885 - 1969, Burnaby, British Columbia, 2001, pp. 71, 117, no. 40, full page color illustration.
    Scott A. Shields, PhD, E. Charlton Fortune The Colorful Spirit, Portland, 2017, p. 128, color illustration.

    E. Charlton Fortune did not get the chance to spend as much time at sea as her contemporary in Monterey, Armin Hansen, but the two did share a fascination with the water and the bountiful world that thrived along the Monterey, English and European coastlines. In 1921, Effie traveled to the quaint little fishing village of St. Ives, Cornwall, at the extreme southwest tip of England. Here she became enthralled with the daily life along the protected harbor, observing the fishing boats as they ebbed out to sea in the early hours and returned in the afternoons with the day's catch.

    In 1922 she wrote from St. Ives to her close friend and fellow painter from California Ethel McAllister Grubb: "I have spent almost a year here, studying the harbor and the people on the quays, not as studies in psychology, although there is material for twenty books here, but as colour and movement. It is too amazing the effects of light and movement. First of all the harbor, when the tide is in, is generally a sheet of melted silver, and all these figures of fishermen, girls, dogs, children and rows of washing (are) all in silhouette against the silver back-ground...Sometimes in the night (the fishermen) return with their catch, and if the tide is out, and the harbor empty, you get down to the sands about nine o'clock and the beauty of it all simply knocks you flat. Hundreds of little carts pulled by little Exmoor ponies run back and forth to the boats."

    She continues "The colour of it all is too amazing for words. When we first came here it spoke of the grayness of St. Ives. It is like a Claude Monet but never gray. The ponies are red mostly, and occasionally black and very shaggy, the carts have rose-madder wheels. The fishermen wear oilskins and after they have been working in the barking sheds on their sails they are pure terra cotta and venetian red. Along the quay hundreds of girls in blue, red and mauve are packing the herrings in rock salt, all screaming to each other at the tops of their voices, which are coarse and loud and make the (Italian fishermen) at Monterey sound like Orpheus!"

    Fortune's paintings from her time in St. Ives reveal an artist truly invigorated and inspired by the world around her. They show real energy and life. They are not just staged bucolic scenes, but reveal an artist at her full poetic capacity. It is no wonder that her paintings have grown in recent years to become some of the most sought-after of all the plein air painters of her time.

    Euphemia Charlton Fortune and her mother left England and traveled to St. Tropez in the Spring of 1924, where they would live have two years. Painters like Henri Matisse and Paul Signac favored St. Tropez. Dunoyer de Segonzac is one of many famous painters that lived there at this same time. Drying Sails I shows Fortune at the height of her artistic abilities. A larger version of the same subject hangs in the Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art. This painting is primarily a horizontally oriented composition, focusing on layers created by form and color. The drying sails are a series of white layers above and below it. Interestingly, perhaps we see the artist herself standing at an easel and canvas in the center left of the painting. Fortune described St. Tropez as "alive with color and movement and flapping sails...a constant range of color in and out of sunlight and shadow". Her bold use of reds and blues and thick brushwork in Drying Sails I create a dynamic and signature painting with constant movement and energy. One can almost feel the wind blowing the sails in the late afternoon light.
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