The Mantle of Spring

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The Mantle of Spring

United States, 1917
Paintings
Oil on canvas
Frame (framed): 57 × 67 × 3 1/4 in. (144.78 × 170.18 × 8.26 cm)
Gift of Los Angeles District Federation of Women's Clubs (21.2)
Not currently on public view

Curator Notes

Wendt’s earliest work appears to have been in the poetic tonalist style of the Chicago painters of the period that had evolved toward a form of impressionism, but throughout his career Wendt retained ...
Wendt’s earliest work appears to have been in the poetic tonalist style of the Chicago painters of the period that had evolved toward a form of impressionism, but throughout his career Wendt retained a sensitivity to the spiritual and poetic aspects of nature, as shown in his choice of motifs and titles. He was particularly attracted to the appearance of the hills in springtime, when the seasonal rains bring a lush greenness to the grass and live oaks, as in this painting. Its unusually strong greens and deep shadows combine to make it one of Wendt’s most lyrical and tender works, notwithstanding its large size and vigorous, choppy brushwork. The high horizon and even, overall pattern of light and shade contribute to the decorative quality often found in Wendt’s variety of impressionism. The Mantle of Spring was an early acquisition of the museum, the first work of art given to any institution by the Los Angeles District Federation of Women’s Clubs, who presented it in "grateful tribute to the Boys of America who gave their lives and the Mothers who gave their Sons in the World War." It was one example of the numerous cases nationwide of art patronage resulting from the First World War.
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About The Era

The late nineteenth century witnessed a growing cosmopolitanism and sophistication in American culture....
The late nineteenth century witnessed a growing cosmopolitanism and sophistication in American culture. Great riches were amassed by railroad tycoons and land barons, and along with this came the desire for a luxurious standard of living. Collectors filled their homes with European as well as American works of art. American artists, generally trained abroad, often painted in styles that were indistinguishable from their European counterparts.
Most Americans who studied abroad did so in the European academies, which promoted uplifting subject matter and a representational style that emphasized well-modeled, clearly defined forms and realistic color. Academic painting served American artists well, for their clients demanded elaborate large-scale paintings to demonstrate their wealth and social positions. With an emphasis on material objects and textures, academic artists immortalized their patrons’ importance in full-length portraits.
Academic painting dominated taste in Europe throughout the century. But in the 1860s impressionism emerged in France as a reaction to this hegemony. By the 1880s this “new painting” was still considered progressive. Mary Cassatt was the only American invited to participate in the revolutionary Paris impressionist exhibitions. Despite her participation and the early interest of several other American painters, few Americans explored impressionism until the 1890s. Impressionist painters no longer had to choose subject matter of an elevated character but instead could depict everyday scenes and incidents. Nor did impressionists have to record the physical world with the objective detail of a photograph. Artists were now encouraged to leave their studios and paint outside under different weather conditions. American impressionists used the new aesthetic to capture the charm and beauty of the countryside and the city as well as the quiet delicacy of domestic interiors.
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Label

As its large scale and assertive composition suggests, The Mantle of Spring is the most important painting William Wendt created in the early years of his mature style....
As its large scale and assertive composition suggests, The Mantle of Spring is the most important painting William Wendt created in the early years of his mature style. Trained at the Art Institute of Chicago, Wendt began visiting California in 1894 and fell in love with the region. In 1906 he and his wife, sculptor Julia Bracken, settled in Los Angeles. There he promoted the French impressionist idea of painting outdoors in full sunlight (en plein air) and became California’s premier impressionist painter. This canvas is early enough that his characteristic mature palette of bright green and yellow ochre is not quite established: green alone dominates, suggesting the new growth of springtime. Wendt applied his pigment with a straight-edge brush; his brushstrokes are blocky and assertive, more akin to those of postimpressionist painters such as Paul Cezanne than impressionist ones. Paintings such as this one helped boosters and real estate developers promote California as a new Garden of Eden in the early part of the century. However, Wendt, more than any other Southern California landscape painter, conveyed a personal love and respect for the region’s untouched nature. The hand-carved Arts and Crafts frame is the original.
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Bibliography

  • About the Era.
  • Blake, Janet, and Deborah Epstein Solon. Art Colony: the Laguna Beach Art Association, 1918-1935. Laguna Beach: Laguna Art Museum, 2018.
  • Fort, Ilene Susan and Michael Quick.  American Art:  a Catalogue of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Collection.  Los Angeles:  Museum Associates, 1991.
  • About the Era.
  • Blake, Janet, and Deborah Epstein Solon. Art Colony: the Laguna Beach Art Association, 1918-1935. Laguna Beach: Laguna Art Museum, 2018.
  • Fort, Ilene Susan and Michael Quick.  American Art:  a Catalogue of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Collection.  Los Angeles:  Museum Associates, 1991.
  • South, Will, Jean Stern, and Janet Blake. In Nature's Temple: the Life and Art of William Wendt. Irvine: The Irvine Museum, 2008.

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