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  • by Jennifer Gunlock, Collections Manager

Marion K. Wachtel: Master of Watercolor

We at the Jonathan Art Foundation are delighted to announce our first acquisition by famed early California painter Marion Kavanagh Wachtel (1876-1954). This purchase is part of a continuing mission, begun in earnest five years ago, to increase the representation of female artists in our collection, women who have achieved recognition by the great scholars of that genre, so that we may build the most comprehensive Southern California Impressionist survey possible.

Wachtel (wife and art comrade of oil painter Elmer Wachtel, who is also represented in the JAF and Jonathan Club collections) is most celebrated as a master watercolorist who demonstrated spatial depth, atmosphere, and gorgeous articulation of shapes—feats not easily achieved with this tricky medium. Los Angeles Times art critic Antony Anderson wrote of her in 1926, “She has a poetic feeling that sets her work forever apart from the beautiful nullity of the academic—even though she has never lost her respect for early training…I dare to compare Marion Wachtel’s latest watercolors with the finest by Winslow Homer. High praise, the very highest, yet not unmerited.”*

April Morning, Santa Monica Canyon (c. 1920) offers us a glimmer of the canyon as it was one hundred years ago, before dense traffic and real estate imposed themselves on the landscape. Wachtel’s composition invites the viewer to take a meditative nature hike starting below the eucalyptus trees in the foreground, and slowly meandering toward the majestic sea in the distance. As your eyes travel through the scene, you can almost smell the fragrant eucalyptus and dusty sage. Still familiar landscape features in this and other paintings in our collections sentimentally draw us to these places and encourage us to protect what remains of our beloved Southern California wilderness.

*Ruth Westphal, Plein Air Painters of California: The Southland, Westphal Publishing, 1982-99, p.118.

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