Selden Connor Gile (American, 1877-1947)
The Garden, 1919
The Garden, 1919
Crocker Art Museum, Melza and Ted Barr Collection
In 1917, an Oakland-based group of painters formed an association that came to be known as the Society of Six. Working in a Post-Impressionist and sometimes even Fauvist style, these six plein-air painters—William Clapp, Bernard von Eichman, August Gay, Maurice Logan, Louis Siegriest, and Selden Gile— brought a new emphasis on abstraction and vibrant color to their art. Gathering at Gile’s home in Oakland, they socialized, critiqued each other’s work, painted, and exhibited together. Primarily landscapists, their subjects included the East Bay’s hillsides, architecture, and waterfronts; here, Gile depicts his own garden. These expressive, painterly oils ultimately influenced Bay Area figurative painters and other artists of the 1950s and ’60s with an affinity for the viscosity of paint. A leader of the Six, Gile was a native of Maine. He completed high school in 1894 in Fryeburg and then lived with his brother Frank in Portland, where he attended Shaw’s Business College. He came west in 1901 and worked as a paymaster and clerk on a ranch in Rocklin, near Sacramento. He moved to Oakland in 1905 and sold ceramic building materials for Gladding, McBean and Company. Gile’s early work manifests the influence of Northern California Tonalists like William Keith and Arthur Mathews, but the paintings shown at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition forever changed his approach. Now fully exposed to European modernism, Gile embraced brilliant color and Impressionist brushwork. He exhibited regularly with other members of the Six at the Oakland Art Gallery (now Oakland Museum of California) and under the auspices of the San Francisco Art Association. He lived in the Oakland Hills until 1927 when he moved to Tiburon and, from there, to Belvedere.