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 Elmer Wachtel  (1864 - 1929)

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Lived/Active: California/New York/Maryland      Known for: landscape and figure painting, illustration

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Ad Code: 2
Elmer Wachtel
from Auction House Records.
Landscape - Santa Anita Canyon
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A prominent landscape painter of late 19th and early 20th-century California, Elmer Wachtel specialized in panoramic desert and mountain landscapes using impressionist brushstrokes.  His early works were tonalist in mood, and his later paintings were more decorative and light hearted.

He was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and raised in Lanark, Illinois where he worked on a farm.  In 1882, he moved to San Gabriel, California to join his rancher-brother who, married to the sister of artist Guy Rose, managed the extensive Rose ranch.  Wachtel taught himself to play the violin, and then, while working as a furniture store clerk, became first violinist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.

He began sketching still lifes and saved enough money to study briefly at the Art Students League in New York with William Merritt Chase.  However, he did not like the teaching methods, so he showed his work, much of it city street scenes, privately to Chase.  He then went to London and enrolled at the Lambeth School.

Returning to California, he combined his music with giving art lessons by setting up a studio in the back of his parent's home on Griffin Avenue in Los Angeles.  In 1904, he married a student, Marion Kavanaugh, referred to Elmer by William Keith, and they first had a studio on Sichel Street and later in the Arroyo Seco of Pasadena.

But they spent most of the twenty-five years of their marriage traveling around Southern California and the Southwest in a specially artist-equipped motor car.

In Arizona, they painted Hopi Reservation scenes and desert landscapes, and they also painted in New Mexico.  Elmer died suddenly in Guadalajara, Mexico on a sketching trip.  He was a co-founder of the Los Angeles Art Association, and his works are held at the Laguna Museum of Art.

Source:
Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Elmer Wachtel was one of the first professional artists to live in Los Angeles, arriving in 1882, three years before the completion of the Santa Fe Railroad's Chicago route which would precipitate the first great Los Angeles land boom.  To supplement his meager income from painting. Wachtel also played violin in various orchestras.

Sometime about 1894, Wachtel moved to New York and briefly studied at the Art Students League with William Merritt Chase.  He returned to California in 1896, staying with William Keith in San Francisco before coming home to Los Angeles.  In 1903, he met Marion Kavanagh, a young artist who had been studying with Keith, and married her the next year.  Together they spent more than twenty-five years travelling and painting together.

In 1929, Elmer Wachtel died while on a painting trip in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Wachtel's style evolved from a traditional approach, based on the works of the French Barbizon painters, such as Diaz de la Pena and Theodore Rousseau.  These earlier paintings are often dark and somber, with a small area of clear sky in the center of the painting.  With time, Wachtel became influenced by Impressionism and used a lighter, more colorful palette, and a somewhat freer brush.  He continued, however, to rely on tightly defined forms and solid draftsmanship.

Source:
The John Stewart Gallery


Biography from Edenhurst Gallery (Artists M to Z):
Elmer Wachtel was one of California's most important impressionist painters from the early twentieth century. Born in Maryland in 1864, he showed an early interest in music, learning to play the violin. When the family moved from Illinois to Southern California in 1882, he continued with his musical pursuits and became the first violinist of the newly formed Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.

Eventually looking more and more to a career in art, he went to New York to study for one year at the Art Student's League under William Merritt Chase. Upon his return to California he continued both his music and artistic endeavors, beginning to teach art around 1903.

In 1904 he married Marion Kavanaugh and the two built studios in Los Angeles before settling permanently in Pasadena in their home in the Arroyo Seco. The Wachtels became a very important influence in the art scene of Southern California and exhibited widely throughout the state. Elmer painted primarily in oils, though in his earlier career he found more favor with watercolors. Ever deferring to one another, Marion turned to watercolors in an effort not to compete with her husband.

After his sudden death in Mexico in 1929, she eventually turned to painting exclusively in oils. Both artist palettes brightened over the years, keeping up with the impressionist trend towards an ever more colorful approach to landscape painting, although Elmer's interest in tonalist devices remained with him throughout his career.

Biography from DeRu's Fine Arts:
Elmer Wachtel was born in Baltimore, Maryland on January 21, 1864. When Elmer was quite young, the Wachtel family moved to Lanark, Illinois where he taught himself to play the violin. At age 18, he moved to San Gabriel, California where his brother had married a sister of artist Guy Rose and was managing the Rose ranch. He continued to play the violin and in 1888 became the first violinist of the Philharmonic Orchestra.

During this period his talent in drawing and painting began to emerge and in 1900 had saved enough money to study for one year at the Art Students League under William Merritt Chase and in London at the Lambeth School. Returning to California, he lived in Los Angeles where he continued to paint.

By 1903 his reputation as a painter was such that artist William Keith sent him one of his young pupils. It was Marion Kavanagh, whom he married in 1904. They built their home in the Arroyo Seco of Pasadena. The Wachtel's traveled all around Southern California in a specially designed motorcar built to accommodate their artistic needs. They painted and exhibited together until his sudden death on August 31, 1929. Elmer's early works were in dark and moody tones whereas, his palette later lightened and his works became more decorative. Today, Elmer Wachtel is considered one of Southern California's most important painters.

Biography from Lawrence Beebe Fine Art:
Elmer Wachtel was born in Baltimore, Maryland on January 21, 1864. He attended the Art Students' League of New York under William Merritt Chase, and the Art School in London 1901-02. He resided and maintained studios in Los Angeles and Pasadena.

In 1904 he married the artist Marion Kavanaugh Wachtel (1876-1954) in Chicago. Husband and wife painted the Southern California landscape by traveling by horseback over the San Marcos Pass to the Santa Inez Valley. They painted the coastline between Gaviota and Conception Lighthouse (just north of Santa Barbara, California), the Cooper Ranch (north of Santa Barbara), Matilija Canyon and Ojai, California. Then they traveled south to the San Luis Rey River (near present day Oceanside) and the Cerisa Loma Ranch (near San Diego). In 1908 they ventured to the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico painting the villages on the Moki and Navajo reservations.

During their marriage Marion specialized as a general rule in watercolors while Elmer stayed with oils. In 1906 a Los Angeles Times critic noted, "Elmer knows Southern California perhaps more intimately than any other artist. He paints her directly, simply, truthfully, and yet never with topographic hardness and realism...". While on a trip to Mexico, Elmer Wachtel died a sudden death in Guadalajara on August 31, 1929.

Biography from William A. Karges Fine Art - Carmel:
Elmer Wachtel was born in Maryland in 1864, and at age 18 moved to San Gabriel, California, where his brother had married Guy Rose’s sister, and was foreman on the Rose Ranch.

Elmer had taught himself to play the violin, and in 1888 became the first violinist in the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.  Discovering his visual arts talents late in life, Wachtel entered the Art Students League in New York in 1900.

Upon his return to Los Angeles, Wachtel continued to earn money as a violinist while also building his reputation as an artist and teacher. 

One of Wachtel’s pupils, Marion Kavanaugh, an outstanding artist in her own right, would eventually become his wife.  Elmer and Marion Wachtel would become two of the most recognized names in early California painting, with Elmer working in oils, and Marion in watercolors to avoid competition between each other.

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Elmer Wachtel is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Painters of Grand Canyon
The California Art Club
California Painters



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