by Elaine Adams
The California Art Club (CAC) was established in 1909 by the early California Impressionists or Plein Air Painters, and was developed from the Painter’s Club of Los Angeles, which was founded in 1906 as an informal group of male artists. A significant impetus that helped form the California Art Club was the objective to allow women artists to participate in group exhibitions and in fellowship. Instrumental in the founding of the CAC were the artists, Franz Bischoff (1864-1929), Carl Oscar Borg (1879-1947), Hanson Puthuff (1875-1972) and William Wendt (1865-1946) , whose wife Julia Bracken Wendt (1871-1942) was a sculptor of high merit.
Under the leadership of William Wendt, who served as president for six years, the California Art Club quickly became a powerful and prestigious institution that was recognized as a cultural authority on the west coast. The Club’s membership included such luminaries as Edgar Payne (1883-1947), Granville Redmond (1871-1935), Guy Rose (1867-1925), Jack Wilkinson Smith (1873-1949) and Marion Wachtel (1876-1954) . With the success of the CAC’s quality group exhibitions, the supporting “Patron” membership grew to include many of southern California’s leading citizens. Among the Patron members was Aline Barnsdall who in 1926 gave her home, Hollyhock House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, to the California Art Club as their headquarters for a fifteen-year term. However, after the 1929 stock market crash, World War II, and the onset of international modernism, the Club’s status and membership declined, and in 1942, the CAC had to give their prestigious headquarters to the City of Los Angeles. Astonishingly, the California Art Club did not completely perish over the years, but was able to continue as a small group of professional artists and amateur painters.
In 1993 artist Peter Adams was asked by Patron member Verna Gunther to help revive the California Art Club. Together with his wife, Elaine Adams, their vision to restore “traditional” art to a high standard became realized as they implemented their revival plan. With the help of fellow artists Dan Goozeé, Steve Huston, Stephen Mirich, Daniel W. Pinkham, Tim Solliday and William Stout, they recruited top artists from northern to southern California. Prestigious artists residing outside California were also invited to join as “Out-of-State Artist” members.
California Art Club president Peter Adams states, “A major tenet of the California Art Club is to look to our heritage for inspiration and guidance brought through the knowledge of artistic techniques nearly forgotten. The intention of the California Art Club is to encourage the education and continuation of fine traditional art by inviting the public to witness the evolution of our artists’ new timeless creations.” Adams continues, “Traditional art is now the new avant garde.”