Selden Connor Gile


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Painter. The leading spirit of the San Francisco Bay Area's Society of Six, he specialized in colorful, boldly patterned landscapes. Impressionist and fauve precedents underpinned his modernist interest in abstract structure. In the undated Boat and Yellow Hills (Oakland Museum of California), interlocking shapes represent unnaturally golden hills rising beyond a placid, predominately cool-toned cove, only to terminate in a dark blue sky. Born in Stow, Maine, near the New Hampshire border, in 1901 he made his way to California, where he studied in Oakland at the California College of Arts and Crafts (now California College of the Arts) and painted impressionist-influenced landscapes. His more personal style began to coalesce around 1915. In 1927 he moved across the bay from Oakland to Marin County and soon settled for a number of years on a houseboat in Belvedere. He died in San Rafael.

An informal and somewhat rambunctious association of progressive landscape painters, the Society of Six came together in the wake of San Francisco's 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, which provided the area's first large-scale introduction to recent trends in European art. Reacting against the moody gentility and somber tonalities of San Francisco's leading artists, Arthur Mathews and the recently deceased William Keith, the group self-consciously sought modern forms of expression. The society peaked during the mid-1920s, as its members vigorously traded ideas, worked frequently outdoors together, and exhibited annually at the Oakland Art Gallery (now the art division of the Oakland Museum of California). Economic hard times during the 1930s undermined the society, although members continued to meet upon occasion through the decade. Canadian-born William Henry Clapp (1879–1954), the only participant who had studied abroad and the least adventurous as a painter, served also as the curator of the Oakland Art Gallery. The other four were native Californians who had grown up in the Bay Area. Bernard James von Eichman (1899–1970) produced some of the group's most radical works, sometimes nearing abstraction, before he moved to New York during the 1930s. Louis Bassi Siegriest (1899–1989) after World War II went on to paint poetic abstractions based on the California desert. The best of August François Gay's (1890–1948) fluid, light-drenched scenes portend achievements of Richard Diebenkorn and other post–World War II Bay Area painters. Maurice George Logan (1886–1971) later continued to paint oils, as well as more numerous illustrational watercolors, while achieving considerable success as a commercial artist in San Francisco.

Subjects: Art.

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