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Guy Rose by Any Other Name Would Paint Just as Well

Detail of Marguerite, c. 1909
Guy Rose (American, 1867-1925); France
Oil on canvas; 15 x 19 in
Martha C. Stevens Memorial Art Collection

Stemming from California

In the 19th and 20th centuries the natural splendor of California made it a mecca for artists. Its coast a gem of glittering sapphire, golden sands rising to palisades, and sun in the sky bronzing the very earth itself, many, many artists came from around the world to California and never left. The impressionist painter Guy Rose was born in California and did something of the opposite by becoming the first Californian to achieve acclaim on an international stage. Guy Rose’s loose brush strokes and vibrant palette make for beautiful landscapes of coastlines and lavish depictions of domestic upper-class life, characteristic of many of the early painters in California, even if Guy Rose was a thoroughly atypical artist for the region. In this post we look at two Roses that were donated as part of the Bowers’ Martha C. Stevens Memorial Art Collection.

Photograph of Guy Rose in Giverny, France, 1890

Rose to Prominence

Baby Guy was born in San Gabriel, California in 1867 as the seventh child of Leonard John Rose—a state senator, viticulturist, and pioneer—and Amanda Jones Rose. Guy Rose was blessed with a childhood in which he should have wanted for nothing. The entire city of Rosemead takes its namesake from the family title. All the same, his childhood was far from perfect, including a particularly unfortunate hunting incident in which Guy was shot in the face by his brother. The only upside to the resulting convalescence was that it offered an opportunity for Rose to learn how to sketch and paint which many point to as the moment that he became interested in the arts. Following high school, Guy moved to San Francisco and attended the California School of Design. He later enrolled at the Academie Julian in Paris where he was inspired by Jean Paul Laurens and Jules Lefebvre. Guy won many scholarships and awards, including a scholarship to the Académie Delécluse. His works were exhibited in the Paris Salon and received an honorable mention, probably his single largest claim to fame as a California-born artist.

Detail of Claude Monet's The Water-Lily Pond painted in Giverny

Kiss from a Rose

It was during Guy Rose’s time in Paris that he met his wife, Ethel Boardman, while studying together. In 1895 they married. She herself was an artist of some repute, with illustrations appearing in Vogue and other magazines. Up until the turn of the century, the Roses travelled back and forth between France and New York where Guy painted and taught. In 1899, however, they returned to France and purchased a cottage in the town of Giverny, an art colony where Claude Monet painted for much of his life. The pair spent most of their time living there until 1912. Here, Guy became one of the few American protégées and friends of Claude Monet. Monet’s impressionistic style, serial painting, ability to capture light and natural forms greatly influenced Rose’s work.

Nude Figure by Firelight, c. 1909
Guy Rose (American, 1867-1925); France
Oil on canvas; 33 x 29 x 1 1/2 in.
Martha C. Stevens Memorial Art Collection

Petalled His Wares

Both Guy Rose paintings in the Martha C. Stevens Memorial Collection were created during his time in Giverny. Marguerite, the better known of the two, is considered one of the treasures of the Bowers Museum’s permanent collection and one of Rose’s most important figural works. As such, it is no coincidence that the painting was chosen as the cover for the museum’s A Legacy of Bounty catalogue. The titular model was a favorite of his that that he frequently employed in France. Her Asian-influenced dress was common for the time, a nod to Japanese influence in impressionism and the influx of Asian products, especially clothing, in late nineteenth century Europe. Artists enjoyed painting the lavish costumes because of their bright colors and bold patterns. Nude Figure by Firelight is a nude portrait of another Giverny model that has potentially been identified as "Berthe," an otherwise unknown French woman. Nude paintings are rare in Southern Californian collections. Many times, early Californian collectors tended to be too conservative to be interested in the genre.

Martha C. Stevens Memorial Art Collection


In 1912 Guy and his wife returned to America, and opened a school in Narragansett, Rhode Island where they taught sketching. In part due to lead poisoning from the paints that he used, only two years later the couple permanently moved back to Southern California, settling in Pasadena. Rose became the Director of the Stickney Memorial School of Art, a board member at a forerunner museum to LACMA, and held several successful solo exhibitions. Unfortunately, in 1921, Guy suffered from a debilitating stroke which left him paralyzed. He passed away not long after on November 17, 1925. Guy Rose was a Californian painting in a French impressionist style, rather than a European adoptee of California who painted in the state’s unique plein air style. As such, his work is vastly different than many of the other painters featured on the Bowers Blog. Despite this, he remained equally important in sowing the seeds for Southern California to be the nexus for painters that it became in the early and mid 20th century.

Text and images may be under copyright. Please contact Collection Department for permission to use. Information subject to change upon further research.

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