Framing Mary DeNeale Morgan

Here’s a lovely Mary DeNeale Morgan (1868-1948) pastel we just framed in a cove profile, our No. 308.0. Morgan was best known for her Monterey cypress trees. This is a classic California oak, though, and is suitably framed in quartersawn white oak with Weathered Oak stain. The 8 x 10 pastel is in a 2-1/2″ wide profile with a pale gold slip. It was framed for—and just sold by—California Historical Design.

Morgan grew up in Oakland, where she was a student of William Keith’s. Long drawn to the Monterey Peninsula and the artists’ colony at Carmel-by-the Sea, she eventually left the East Bay to buy fellow artist Sydney Yard’s Carmel house in 1910, taking up full-time residence in the town.

Scott Shields writes in Artists at Continent’s End that according to Morgan’s sister, the painter

M. DeNeale Morgan painting

A 7″ x 10″ Morgan gouache painting of Carmel Beach we framed in walnut several years ago.

possessed an ‘innate and prophetic sense of the transiency of the beautiful country which surrounded her in Carmel.’ She became one of the town’s leading preservationists and in 1922 led a successful fight to save Carmel’s beach from developers. She identified this transience not only in the coastal dunes but also in the trees and historic adobes of Monterey. Her paintings manifested her philosophy. A reporter for the Carmel Pine Cone explained ‘Miss Morgan says she will stick to painting her cypress trees until they sink into the ocean, or, what is just as tragic or final, be hopelessly built around. Another from the Californian noted, ‘Her strong, vital style has recorded the Carmel of yesterday and today, free from the signs of the progress of tomorrow.’

Morgan used several media, most often tempera. Mary DeNeale Moran paintingIn the twenties, though, she started using oils more—a small one we framed last year is at right—the natural boldness of which better conveyed the confidence of an accomplished painter. Combined with her habit of signing her paintings “M. DeNeale Morgan”, at least one critic assumed she was a man, writing, “Morgan of the famous art colony down the coast is giving his first one-man exhibit in Berkeley. Almost all of his paintings are large, of masculine vigor, resounding with color spread with a broad, vigorous brush.”

After being named by Scribner’s Magazine, in 1928, one of the nation’s foremost female artists, the press took to referring to her as the “Dean of Women Painters.” You have to wonder what title they would have bestowed on her had all the critics believed she was a man!

Shields’s entry on Mary DeNeale Morgan concludes, “An unfinished painting remained on her easel when she died of a heart attack in a Carmel cafe at the age of eighty.”

Mary DeNeale Morgan pastel

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