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  • by Rich Reitzell

Jean Mannheim

This month’s featured painting is the Jonathan Art Foundation’s most recent acquisition, a wonderful landscape by the artist Jean Mannheim. Mannheim was born near the Rhine River in what is today the heart of Germany. In 1881, at the age of 21, he came to the United States and eventually settled in Pasadena in 1908 on the Arroyo Seco, and soon became an active player in the emerging art scene of the region. He was a member of the California Art Club and Laguna Beach Art Association, and was a Gold Medalist at both the 1909 Alaskan-Yukon Exposition in Seattle and the 1916 San Diego International Exposition. Primarily a portrait painter, his works included portraits of the noted artist William Wendt, razor-blade founder King Gillette, naturalist John Burroughs, and the physicist Albert Einstein painted during his 1931 visit to Cal Tech.

Like many of his painting colleagues, he succumbed to the beauty and allure of the California landscape. The painting Arch Beach, Laguna was set a short walk away from Mannheim’s summer studio at Arch Beach. The composition captures a familiar landscape with the eye drawn down the hillside slope with a distant glimpse of a gray coastal morning. In contrast to the very delicate and precise brush style of Theodore Wores in the two orchard blossom paintings on display nearby, Mannheim represents the dense vegetation with broad strokes of heavy painting layered with subtle variations of color. The addition of oranges and lavenders conveys the awakening of springtime blooms, while the cottages nearby create a feel of restful solitude. The painting itself was part of the artist’s personal collection, hanging in the artist’s home studio for nearly seventy years before the family sold it in the late 1980s. It has been in the collection of the Irvine Museum until its recent acquisition by the JAF. The painting was included in the major 1986 exhibition at the Laguna Art Museum Impressionists of Laguna Beach that helped launch resurgence of interest in early California Plein Air art.

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