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 Eva Scott Fenyes  (1846 - 1930)

About: Eva Scott Fenyes


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Lived/Active: New Mexico/California      Known for: landscape painting, often with adobes

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in New York City on Nov. 9, 1846 into a wealthy family, Eva Fenyes was well educated in New York, and then studied art in Europe and Egypt.  She was first the wife of General Wm Muse and in 1896 married Dr. Adelbert Fényes.

Two years were spent in Santa Fe, NM and four years in Europe before settling in Pasadena in 1897.  Despite a crippling arthritis, Mrs. Fényes spent over 30 years traveling by horse and wagon from San Diego to Sonoma painting hundreds of watercolors of the California adobes and missions.

Her artistic renderings are of historical importance since many of the structures depicted are no longer extant.  Although she painted constantly, she chose not to become a professional artist.

Benjamin C. Brown, one of her art teachers, once described her as "Too accomplished in many phases of art to become proficient in one."  A woman of varied interests, she was equally involved in philanthropy, history, archaeology, and music until her death in Pasadena on Feb. 3, 1930.  Her home on Orange Grove Blvd now houses the Pasadena Historical Society. The Southwest Museum of Los Angeles has a large number of her watercolors and in 1950 published a pamphlet entitled Thirty-two Adobe Houses of Old California.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Southern California Artists (Nancy Moure); Women Artists of the American West; Ferdinand Perret Files; The Woman Artist in the American West; Artists of the American West (Doris Dawdy); Pasadena Star News, 2-5-1930 (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 Pasadena Museum Of History:
Eva Scott Fenyes — Her Life and Her Art

The mansion housing the Pasadena Museum of History bears the Fenyes name, and the story of Eva Scott Fenyes’ life is always of interest to visitors to the Mansion. She was born in New York City in 1849, the daughter of Leonard Scott (of the Scott Publishing Company) and Rebecca Briggs Scott. She studied at private schools in New York and abroad, her refined education and her ability to travel freely, stimulated her natural talent as an artist.

Her first husband was William Muse, Brigadier General of the United States Marine Corps. He was the father of her only child, Leonora Muse Curtin. Eva met her second husband, Dr. Adalbert Fenyes, in Cairo. A physician and entomologist, he was the son of a titled Hungarian. They were married in Budapest in 1896. After a search for the “perfect climate,” Dr. and Mrs. Fenyes decided to settle in Pasadena. They first built a large home on South Orange Grove Boulevard. In 1905 they commissioned the noted architect, Robert Farquhar to build a smaller house at 170 North Orange Grove. It proved to be too small for their many interests, so in 1911 they hired Sylvanus Marston to make additions which included a solarium and a studio for Mrs. Fenyes.

Among the artists, writers and musicians attracted by her hospitality were prominent California landscape artists William Keith and Benjamin Brown. Carl Oscar Borg, known as a California Impressionist, also became a friend who benefited from Mrs. Fenyes’ patronage. She not only appreciated the talents of developing artists, she bought many of their works, and a number of them are hanging in the Fenyes Mansion today. It was not long before members of the motion picture industry in its early days, discovered the Fenyes’ beautiful house and gardens. Dr. and Mrs. Fenyes enjoyed being a part of the movie process and allowed them to make films on the property and became acquainted with stars such as Harry Carey and Douglas Fairbanks and the distinguished director D.W. Griffith.

Eva Fenyes spent many hours in her studio enjoying her love of the canvas, which had begun early in her life and continued into her later years. She has left a legacy of numerous albums starting with sketches made in the 1860s on trips to Sicily and Malta. Her pictures eventually covered many years and many places. She painted a quiet lake in Switzerland or the busy streets of Algiers with lovely luminous colors, all in her very personal style. In later years, she traveled throughout the United States, sketching things that interested her, from a town crier in Provincetown to automobiles of the 1920s. Most of us fill our albums with ordinary snapshots. Eva Fenyes’ albums contain her own portrayals of friends and family. Typical is a charming watercolor of her little daughter and nurse on the beach in Florida. Another is a pencil drawing of John Burroughs, made on a train trip through California. Her sketchbook was ready whenever she saw anything she wanted to capture.

Although she used watercolors extensively, she worked in other media, especially pastels which she used to depict scenes around Santa Fe (glowing with reds and gold or of fiestas or of Indians costumed for ritual dances). Her albums also include paintings of beautiful botanicals, and flawlessly reproduced flowers.

Through her art, Eva became a friend of Charles Lummis, the famous writer and editor. Impressed by her artistic talent, he suggested she preserve California's remaining missions and historic adobes in her watercolors. She followed his suggestion and later became involved with the Southwest Museum, which Lummis founded, and served on their Board of Trustees. Many of her watercolor paintings of California were given to the Southwest Museum after her death in 1930. The remainder, and her many sketchbooks are housed in the Pasadena Museum of History’s archives. Mrs. Fenyes was not only a gifted artist and a gracious patron of the arts, she contributed to her community in a number of ways. She founded the Pasadena Emergency League in 1910, along with Mrs. Robert Burdette, and MRS. W. F. Knight and was instrumental in the founding of the Pasadena Music and Art Association in 1912. Eva Scott Fenyes was, indeed, a remarkable woman and the Pasadena Museum of History honors her memory.

Prepared by Barbara Rumsey, November 4, 1991

Information on Mrs. Fenyes’ life is can be found in the files of The Pasadena Museum of History archives, including notes prepared by Sue Schechter & Marjorie Goebel

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