Highlighted in this exhibition were four women artists who were both active and influential in California during the first half of the twentieth century. All four exhibited in the gallery of the Laguna Beach Art Association. Two—Hills and Wendt—were prominent residents of the community and active members of the art association. All received recognition and awards for their work during their lifetimes, and that appreciation continues today.
Anna Althea Hills (1882-1930), born in Ohio and educated at Olivet College in Michigan, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Cooper Union in New York, settled in the burgeoning art colony in Laguna Beach in 1913. A dynamic leader and educator and president of the art association for multiple terms during the 1920s, she was the driving force in achieving the goal to build a gallery on Cliff Drive, which opened in 1929 and is the core of today’s Laguna Art Museum.
Julia Bracken Wendt (1871-1942), a successful sculptor, was also a leader in the Laguna Beach arts community. Having studied in Chicago with Laredo Taft in the 1890s, she achieved success as a portrait sculptor. In 1906 she married painter William Wendt, and together they moved to California, settling in Laguna Beach in 1911. William Wendt became one of the most influential artist/teachers in Southern California, and Julia Wendt continued her own work, receiving numerous commissions nationwide.
Born in Wisconsin, Donna Norine Schuster (1883-1953) received her arts education at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts. She furthered her studies by enrolling in a painting tour of Belgium with William Merritt Chase. Settling in Southern California in 1913, she built a studio-home in the Griffith Park area of Los Angeles. She maintained a cottage and studio in Laguna Beach and taught at Otis Art Institute until her death in 1953.
Marion Kavanagh Wachtel (1876-1954) studied at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and in New York with William Merritt Chase. A noted portrait and figure painter, she was commissioned by the Santa Fe Railroad to paint scenes of the route to California. She met and married painter Elmer Wachtel, one of the earliest artists to settle in Southern California. Together they traveled and painted around California and the Southwest. Adept in both oil and watercolor, she is highly regarded for her works in the latter medium.
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