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 August Gay  (1890 - 1948)

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Lived/Active: California      Known for: modernist landscape, waterfront, mural

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August Francois Pierre Gay is primarily known as August Gay

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AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Woman in the garden
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Known as "Gus" Gay, he was part of the Society of Six, a group in the Bay Area of California in the 1920s led by Selden Gile that espoused a new style of painting focused on bright colors and impressionist techniques.  It was a rebellion against the prevalent sombre tonalism and decorative aesthetics of William Keith and Arthur Mathews.

Much of his painting was Cubist inspired and geometric, and he did not receive much national recognition until the 1950s.  In addition to painting landscapes and coastal scenes, many of them on cigar box tops, he was also a muralist, etcher, and furniture builder.

Gay was born in Rabou, near Gap, France between Marseilles and Turin and from this background, brought a strong appreciation of French Impressionism to the Society of Six although he was not a part of the Paris art scene.  He is credited with having an innate sense of color and a basic happiness that transferred to his bright, cheerful paintings.

He emigrated with his father and siblings to Oakland, California in 1900.  However, the mother stayed in France, and Gay never saw her again.  At age sixteen, he developed tuberculosis and spent three years recuperating on his uncle's ranch in the Imperial Valley.  During that time, he did much sketching and developed a commitment to art, but he never regained much energy and had a frail constitution. He was short, about five feet four inches, wiry, and seemed totally oblivious to most everything but his painting.

He met Selden Gile when he bought bricks from Gladding McBean, where Gile was employed, and in 1910, moved in with Gile to escape his very crowded, uncomfortable family home.  He worked menial jobs around the city including at a fruit cannery, a warehouse, and at the Palace Hotel Restaurant as a food checker.

He never seemed to have enough money and often wore Gile's clothing.  The two lived together for nearly a decade, although Gile, who gave financial support to his friend, was often impatient with what he regarded as Gay's slow pace.  After 1919, Gay lived in Monterey but continued to exhibit with the Six at the Oakland Art Gallery.

In Monterey, he shared a studio with Clayton Price, and living in Carmel during the last ten years of his life, worked as a furniture designer and custom framer until his death on March 9, 1948.

Gay's art education was minimal. He attended occasional classes at the California School of Arts and Crafts and later took night school at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. In 1916, he entered his first exhibition. 

His work is in the collection of the Oakland Museum and Monterey High School where he did a mural.

Source: Nancy Boas, Society of Six

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Rabou, France on June 11, 1890. "Gus" Gay arrived in the U.S. about 1901 and settled in Alameda, CA. He attended night classes at the CSFA (California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco) and CCAC (California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland). His roommate, Selden Gile, had a strong influence on his creative growth and the two artists were the first of a group who became known as the Society of Six. Although he lived in Monterey after 1919, he was still an active member of the Six and exhibited regularly with them at the Oakland Art Gallery until 1926. Gay supported himself during the Depression as an employee of the local fish factories and Oliver's Frame Shop. While in Monterey he shared a studio with Clayton S. Price in the Stevenson House. During the last ten years of his life he was a furniture designer and custom framer for the Monterey Guild (the furniture in the San Juan Bautista Mission is from his shop) and lived on the Monterey Peninsula until his death on March 9, 1948. Many of his oils were painted on cigar box tops. His interpretations of the Carmel Valley, coastal scenes, and the fishing fleet of Monterey Bay were Cubist inspired and geometric in form. Gay's work did not receive national recognition until the 1950s. Exh: SFAA, 1916, 1921; Del Monte Art Gallery (Monterey), 1919; Beaux Arts Gallery (SF), 1929; SFMA, 1935; Oakland Museum, 1972, 1981; Monterey Museum, 1993 (solo). In: State Museum Resource Center (Sacramento); Oakland Museum; Pacific Grove High School (mural); Monterey Peninsula Museum.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
California Impressionism (Wm. Gerdts & Will South); Society of Six; Painters & Sculptors in California: the Modern Era; Expo to Expo; Monterey Herald, 3-9-1948 (obituary).
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 William A. Karges Fine Art - Carmel:
August Gay was born in Rabou, France, in 1890. He immigrated to the U.S. with his family in 1900, settling in Alameda, California. Gay attended classes locally at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, and the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland.

Together with Selden Gile, Gay formed the "Society of Six" painting group, a loosely knit band of painters who shared expenses, ideas, and an appreciation of Fauvist color sensibilities. The group was active in the Bay Area from 1918 until about 1930.

Though Gay had moved to Monterey in 1919, he was an active contributor to the Six. Gay lived in Monterey and Carmel, where he worked at Oliver's art supply store, and continued to paint until his death in 1948.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

August Gay is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Impressionists Pre 1940
Society of Six
California Painters

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