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  • Michele McFaull

Theodore Lukits

As a significant artist in California plein air painting—from as early as the 1920s—Theodore Nikolai Lukits (1897-1992) was prolific. Known for both pastels and oil, this particular oil on canvas, Marine—Late Afternoon, represents his quintessential “sunsetscape.” But Lukits also produced a broad range of generes of which Jonathan Club has been the fortunate receipient. The diversity—containing some portraitures—of one of the Club’s few Artist Life Members grace the walls of the Town Club, including the aforementioned.

Although born in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Lukits received his training a bit closer to the US landscape at the Art Institute of Chicago. By 1921 he was living in Southern California. Early works included Lukits painting portraits of actors and actresses, some of whom he worked with, he would often illustrate them in their costumes accompanied by props. He was encouraged by theater actresses of some acclaim (Theda Bara and Dolores del Rio sat for him) and headed to Los Angeles, deciding to expand his oeuvre from portraiture to landscapes to capture the beauty of the western scenery in both pastel and oils.

Lukits took on hiking and camping, with fellow Jonathan Club Artist Life Member Jack Wilkinson Smith, in order to capture the magical diffused light, when sketching both mountain and ocean sunsets. His previous studies with Impressionist masters trained in Giverny, France served him best when “seizing” sunsets and their “pleasant optical sensations.” The medium of pastel allowed Lukits to sketch scenes on the spot while providing the hushed tones and moody environment necessary to capture the evening horizon—when the earth and sea meet the sky and the soft hues of pinks, blues, greens and yellows lend this medium of art a celestial if not spiritual “Impression.” Returning to his studio, Lukits would often convert the pastel into an oil work. Here in Marine—Late Afternoon, his vertical and angular strokes of the sun’s rays softly break through the evening marine layer, almost reaching for the ocean’s churning waves. The medium of pastel forced Lukits to work rapidly, and as you view this work, you come to appreciate the spontaneity and instant “photo-byte” we are privy to, thanks to his practiced virtuosity. Back in his studio he had the luxury of time to perfect the brushstrokes in oil.

Lukits’ works—more than 300—are on display at the Club. Each one offers a moment to take in the natural beauty of our picturesque landscape.

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