Artist Frank Coburn painted this image from a published photograph of the famous Polish-born theatre star Madame Modjeska posed in her beautiful Southern California garden home she called Arden. The very quick and multi-toned brushstrokes are indicative of the French-influenced impressionistic style of painting popular among Southern California painters at the turn of the 20th century. Focusing on movement and feeling instead of detailed representation, it is impossible to see the features of Modjeska’s face or the specifics of her garden home. For Coburn, expressing emotion was the most important aspect of painting.
Unlike other Southern California artists of the period who focused exclusively on landscape painting, Coburn’s body of work covered a broader range of subject matter including Native American and Mexican and Chinese American portraits and influences, industry around shipyards, cityscapes and still lifes. Coburn also painted many landscapes from the numerous sketches he made as he traveled throughout Southern California in his “El Vagabundo,” a bus-like precursor to the motor home that also functioned as his studio.
Frank Coburn lived a modest life. Born in Chicago he was schooled at the Art Institute of Chicago. Believing talent was learned not gifted, he described himself as a self-trained artist who continually studied the art of painting. Coburn lived in Santa Ana, California and kept a studio in Los Angeles before painting exclusively in “El Vagabundo.” During his painting career, Coburn had only one solo exhibition, which occurred in 1938 at the Bowers Museum where a large collection of his work is stored and exhibited.
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These are beautiful!
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