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 E. Charlton Fortune  (1885 - 1969)

About: E. Charlton Fortune
 

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Lived/Active: California/New York / United Kingdom/Scotland      Known for: landscape, interior, figure and mural painting

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Ad Code: 1
E Charlton Fortune
from Auction House Records.
Late Afternoon, Monterey, 1914
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A pioneer female artist in a world basically reserved for men, she was an independent, dedicated professional woman in early 20th-century California.  After her death, her reputation diminished, but the quality of her landscapes, interiors, figures, and murals has been rediscovered in the second half of the century.

She was born in Sausalito, across the Bay north from San Francisco to a Scottish father, William Ranken Fortune, and a mother, Helen Hersberg, who was a native of San Francisco.  She did not like her given name of Euphemia, and came to be known to friends as "Effie" and usually signed her paintings "Charlton," the family name of her grandmother.  From her father she inherited a cleft palette, which was a prominent deformity, and it is thought that her being told she would pass this onto her children figured prominently in her decision never to marry.

In her childhood, she was much influenced by her visits to Barnsmuir, her father's home in Scotland, where she from the age of four learned 19th century etiquette, the security of having financial resources, and Victorian sharp repartee in conversation. However, later when she struck out as an artist in "bohemia," her family had trouble understanding her desire.

In 1894, the father died, and several years later "Effie" and her mother and brother moved to Los Angeles, but she was sent back to Scotland where she attended St Margaret's Convent, a Roman Catholic girls' school for six years. She suffered the torments of being made fun of because of her cleft palette and was terribly homesick, but her Scottish aunts took her to a dentist who made her beautifully fashioned dentures and a much improved face.  In Scotland, she had much exposure to art at the National Gallery in Edinburgh.

Returning to California, she moved back to San Francisco with her mother and brother, and Effie studied at the Mark Hopkins Institute with Arthur Mathews, whom she admired for his emphasis on beauty and dignity in painting.  She became very much a part of the local art scene and fraternized with many men who became well known artists including Armin Hansen, Maynard Dixon, and Maurice Logan.

She and her family suffered severe property devastation in the earthquake of 1906, and all of her work to that point was lost.  Afterward, she and her family moved to New York City, where she studied at the Art Student's League.  Her favorite teacher was Frank Vincent DuMond, who emphasized using one's own style to express oneself clearly.  Another favorite was Luis Mora, a brilliant painter and illustrator from South America, who saw to it that she had the qualities of a good illustrator.

She painted at Woodstock in the Catskill Mountains at the invitation of Spencer Trask, and at Lake George with Frank DuMond and other students and was much accepted by the respected professional artists.  She was elected women's vice-president of the Art Students' League and also did a few illustrations for Harper's magazine.

Gradually she began to develop a unique style of skillfully using light, movement, and continuous lines to achieve her own aesthetic expression.

In 1910, she and her mother returned to San Francisco where Luis Mora had used his influence to get Effie a job illustrating for Sunset Magazine, but first she visited family in Scotland and toured Paris to see firsthand the 19th century French masters. She became immersed in the modernist movements of Impressionism and Cubism, etc., but was more convinced than ever that the style she was calling her own was best for her.  She returned to San Francisco with over forty paintings accomplished. There she also did many portraits, and was especially skillful at depicting children.

In 1913, she and her mother spent the summer in Monterey, something they did for many succeeding summers excepting the six years they spent in Europe from 1921 to 1927.  A special event for them was the 1914 visit of William Merritt Chase, for which she took credit but some thought unjustified.  Between 1916 and 1920, she conducted her own workshops in Monterey, but she was not a popular teacher because she had trouble explaining her theories concisely and presenting her lessons in an organized way.

Alternating between living in San Francisco and Monterey, she had a reputation as a highly unique individual in both places.  She often wore a tan corduroy suit and Belgian shoes with shining buckles and habitually rode a bicycle on which she transported her painting supplies in a special carrier.  Later she bought an automobile which she named the "Blasphemia," and she was reportedly a frightful driver.  She was active in the Red Cross during the War but did not slacken her painting output which included many coastal landscapes and town views.

In 1920, she was elected to the National Academy of Design.  After the lengthy trip abroad, she basically settled in Monterey which she loved for the outdoor painting views and the inexpensive living.  In 1927, an exhibition of her work was held at the Beaux Arts Gallery and was acclaimed, but when shown at the Oakland Gallery, the works were criticized for being too beautiful and not focusing on social realities.

From that time her work was controversial and some thought hopelessly outdated, but she continued to have a strong following.  She spent her last years doing religious paintings which included decorating the interior of St. Angela's church at Pacific Grove.  She became a leader of a Monterey group that crusaded for sane liturgical art, a mission a bringing eternal beauty to everyday people that she pursued for the the last twenty five years of her life and took it all the way to the East Coast.


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Sausalito, CA on Jan. 15, 1885.  While in her teens Fortune studied art at Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland and St John's Wood School of Art in London. Returning to California in 1905, she studied at the Mark Hopkins Institute under Arthur Mathews followed by work at the Art Students League of New York City under DuMond, Mora, Sterner, and Chase.

Many of her early works were destroyed when the family home in San Francisco was dynamited during the disaster of 1906.  Early in her career she concentrated on portraiture; however, it was her landscapes and harbor scenes which brought her international acclaim.  She lived and worked in Europe during three periods between 1897-1927. In California her energies were divided between her studio-home in San Francisco at 1254 Hyde Street and the Monterey Peninsula.  One of the first artists to introduce the bright palette of Impressionism to California in the early part of this century, her style was considered modern by conservatives.

Fortune was a devout Catholic and in 1928 founded the Monterey Guild which was dedicated to ecclesiastical art.  In the mid-1930s she abandoned easel painting for the liturgical arts and, with nine other artists, decorated over thirty Catholic churches across the country.  In 1956 she received the Gold Medal Pro Excelsior et Pontifice from Pope Pius XII for her mosaic adornment of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City.

Fortune never married, and died in Carmel on May 15, 1969.

Member: Carmel AA; SFAA; Society of Scottish Artists; Monterey Guild.

Exh: Del Monte Art Gallery, 1907-28; SFAA, 1913-34; Calif. Art Club, 1914; Panama-Calif. Expo (San Diego), 1915 (silver medal); PPIE, 1915 (silver medal); Helgesen Gallery (SF), 1918, 1921 (solos); NAD 1921-32; Paris Salons, 1923, 1924 (silver medal), 1934; Galerie Beaux Arts (SF), 1927 (solo); Crocker Museum (Sacramento), 1927 (solo); LACMA, 1928 (solo); Santa Barbara Art League, 1928 (solo); Carmel Art Gallery, 1928 (solo); San Diego FA Gallery, 1928 (solo); Calif. State Fairs, 1928-30 (1st prizes); GGIE, 1939; Oakland Museum, 1981; Monterey Peninsula Museum, 1992.

In: Oakland Museum; De Young Museum; Shasta State Park; Monterey Peninsula Museum; Monterey Historical and Art Ass'n; Irvine (CA) Museum.
Source:
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers (Fielding, Mantle); California Art Research, 20 volumes; Artists of the American West (Doris Dawdy); California Impressionism (Wm. Gerdts & Will South); Art in California (R. L. Bernier, 1916); Women Artists in America (Collins & Opitz); Yesterday's Artists on the Monterey Peninsula; American Art Annual 1929; Women Artists of the American West; California State Library (Sacramento); Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs, et Graveurs (Bénézit, E); Monterey Peninsula Herald, 5-16-1969 (obituary); Antiques & Fine Art magazine, Jan. 1990.
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from Jeffrey Morseburg:
Euphemia Charlton Fortune’s work may be the most sought after of all the California Impressionists because of the rarity and quality of her works.  Because she was a devout Catholic and devoted much of her life to ecclesiastical art, only a handful of works of significant size exist and a number of those are in public collections, leaving precious few for the market.   Fortune is known for her sun-splashed depictions of the California coastal towns of Carmel and Monterey.

She was born in the San Francisco Bay town of Sausalito, so her appreciation for the coastal towns and the water came from a childhood spent on and around the ocean.  Because “Effie” as she was nicknamed was born with the unsightly deformity of a cleft palette and all the difficulty that this impairment must have entailed, she was spurred to develop other qualities.  Her father died when she was young and she and her mother and brother moved south to Los Angeles for a time before she was sent to her father’s native Scotland to attend a St. Margaret’s Convent, a Catholic girl’s school in Edinburgh.   Fortune had a difficult time in Scotland, but her visits to the nearby National Gallery of Scotland heightened her interest in art and when she came back to the states, she was determined to study painting.  

She studied at the Mark Hopkins Institute under Arthur Matthews.  All of her early work was lost in the earthquake and subsequent fire of 1906.   Afterward, Fortune and her widowed mother traveled east so that she could study at the Art Students League in New York where she learned from Francis Luis Mora, Frank Vincent Dumond and William Merritt Chase.  After a European tour, where she became conversant with the new modern movements that were sweeping Europe, she returned to San Francisco in 1910 and took a job as an illustrator with Sunset Magazine.  As she matured artistically, she and her mother began spending summers in Monterey, where she painted the town and coast, often from a high vantage point she could ride her bicycle to.  By 1920 Fortune was elected to membership in the prestigious National Academy of Design.  After a lengthy sojourn in Europe, from 1921 to 1927, she returned to exhibit her work at the Beaux Arts Gallery and the Oakland Gallery. 

As she aged, she found the impressionist style she favored was becoming outdated as critics and younger artists favored either “realism” that accentuated the social conditions of the time or the even more modern “isms” that were changing the art world.  But instead of changing her art to suit others, Fortune retreated to the ecclesiastical world and her leadership in championing liturgical for California's Catholic Parishes art saw her honored by the Catholic Church late in her life.

Jeffrey Morseburg
copyright 2008

Biography from Edenhurst Gallery (Artists A to L):
Euphemia Carlton Fortune was a notable early California who is most recognized for her paintings in and around the picturesque Monterey Peninsula, especially the harbors and coastal villages of Carmel and Monterey.  As a professional artist, she lived and worked in Europe during three periods from 1897-1927, mainly in Britain, and in the 1930's gave up easel painting altogether in order to devote her life to liturgical mural painting for the Catholic Church.  A devout Catholic throughout her life, she had studios in San Francisco and Monterey, and along with nine other artists, formed the Monterey Guild which was dedicated to eclesiastical art. 

Fortune was born in Sausalito, California in 1885 and at a young age was sent to Edinburgh, Scotland for art instruction.  By 1905 she was in San Francisco studying under Arthur Mathews, then to New York and the Art Student's League with Dumond, Mora, and William Merritt Chase.  Known for her progressive and colorful style, she was considered modern by many conservatives.  She died in Carmel in 1969.


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E. Fortune is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
The California Art Club
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
California Painters
Women Artists

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