New Acquisition: Verdugo Woodlands by Hanson Puthuff
Verdugo Woodlands, Hanson Puthuff (1875-1972), circa 1930s or 1940s. Oil on canvas.
In April this year Jonathan Club acquired the landmark painting Verdugo Woodlands by Hanson Puthuff, one of the most esteemed and influential of California landscape painters. Following some preliminary restoration and cleaning work, the painting joins the Club’s already rich holdings of plein air masterpieces.
Verdugo Woodlands will be the fourth Puthuff painting to be exhibited at the Town Club, where it joins Winter’s Gold, Purple Majesty, and Portrait of George Alexander, the latter depicting the president of the Jonathan Club from 1894 to 1895. And although this is a Jonathan Club purchase, it is the Jonathan Art Foundation tasked with cataloging, lighting, and caring for this prized new acquisition, as they currently do for the over 500 existing works in the Jonathan Art Foundation’s esteemed collection.
Hanson Puthuff’s artistic education began in 1893 at the University of Denver Art School and later continued at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. His foster mother was instrumental in helping the young Putthuff establish himself as a commercial artist, so that when Puthuff moved to Los Angeles in 1903, he was already an established pictorial artist, painting billboards and theater sets. He was commissioned by LACMA to produce dioramas for their habitat displays, and in 1915 created ten large panels to decorate a new theater in Long Beach. By 1926, however, Puthuff found himself in a position to abandon his commercial activities and commit himself full time to his easel painting.
His plein air painting emerged quite organically from Puthuff’s professional career. After the painter and his assistants had rode out on a horse-drawn wagon to complete a commercial assignment, they’d set up their easels, sketching and painting the surrounding environment until the wagon returned to collect them. The rural location of much of this commercial work proved a boon for Puthuff, who was primarily interested in figural painting before arriving in California, but found The Golden State - its colors, its diverse flora, fauna, and atmospheric conditions - so eminently paintable that he became almost completely preoccupied in capturing the native landscapes. As he explained, “I wander out into the region that has generally attracted me, and soon I see something that composes well--that makes a natural picture..I sit down and begin to work.”
Puthuff was a guiding light in California’s art scene, helping to form the California Art Club and the Laguna Beach Art Association. He was close friends with Antony Anderson, the LA Times art critic with whom he helped run the Art Student’s League of Los Angeles for a few years. Anderson held Puthuff’s ‘genius for composition’ in particularly high regard. Reviewing The Spirit of California, the panels his friend painted for the theater in Long Beach, he wrote, “...His mountains have weight and volume, his undulating hills and lush valleys seem to throb with the quick warm vitality of the South. He paints with a full brush and a free hand, producing pictures that hold almost a classic bigness of effect.”