With our current small exhibit of watercolors by Robert Tetlow, we’re emphasizing that medium this month. Thanks to our kind neighbors at North Point Gallery, we’ve borrowed and are also showing this exquisitely painted and historically notable watercolor which we framed for them last summer. It’s a depiction painted around 1890 of Mission San Gabriel California by early Santa Barbara artist Alexander Harmer (1856-1925). I’m especially pleased with the harmony of the profile with the painting’s perspective and refinement.
The 10″ x 17″ painting is in a compound mitered frame, No. 208 + Cap 328, 3″ wide, with a gilt slip to provide emphasis and echo the sunlight. The wood is quartersawn white oak with Medieval Oak stain.
It’s an honor to frame a work by an artist the California painting authority Edan Hughes wrote “is considered Southern California’s first great painter of the 19th century.” Born in New Jersey, Harmer first came west to fight in the cavalry against the Apache and from that experience contributed illustrations to Harper’s Weekly. After studying at the Pennsylvania School of Fine Arts in Philadelphia with Thomas Eakins and Thomas Anshutz, he came back out West and settled in Santa Barbara in 1890, about the time this painted was done. California’s missions were a favorite subject of Harmer’s, so this is an exemplary work.
The important Southern California writer and editor Charles Lummis (1859-1928) said of his friend Harmer,
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Whether by shrewd deliberation or by natural gravitation, Alexander Harmer has made a field (of art) peculiarly his own. No other painter has given so much attention to the Californio of the old times—and for that matter, no other painter knows the subject one-half as well.