E. Charlton Fortune (American, 1885-1969)
Feeding Time. Monterey, 1918
Feeding Time. Monterey, 1918
CrockerArt Museum, Melza and Ted Barr Collection
Many of Euphemia Charlton Fortune’s paintings, such as this one, seemed to embody her optimistic, buoyant, and colorful personality. She was a well-known figure, traveling about the Monterey Peninsula on a bicycle laden with paint supplies, and came to be highly regarded for her landscapes and coastal views, architectural subjects, and depictions of local activities. She was the Peninsula’s foremost Impressionist and, more broadly, one of California’s premier practitioners. Critics considered her “the strongest woman artist of this Coast.”1 When Fortune was thirteen, she went to live in Scotland and studied at the boarding school of St. Margaret’s Convent in Edinburgh. Following her graduation in 1904, she attended St. John’s Wood School of Art in London. She returned to San Francisco in the fall of 1905 and began training with Arthur Mathews at the Mark Hopkins Art Institute. Her training was cut short, however, by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, which destroyed the school and, because it was leveled in an attempt to halt the flames, her family’s home. The Fortunes then fled to Carmel, living in a tent as refugees. Following this experience, Fortune went to New York to study at the Art Students League, where her primary teachers were Frank Vincent Dumond, F. Luis Mora, and Albert Sterner. Having won three scholarships, she left the school in 1910 and returned to Scotland. During her two-year European sojourn she visited Paris and admired the work of the Impressionists. She returned to San Francisco in 1912 and soon secured a second studio in Monterey. In Monterey, Fortune taught art classes and began to produce the most powerful and colorful paintings of her career. She painted many of these in the years around the PanamaPacific International Exposition of 1915 in San Francisco, at which she exhibited seven canvases and won a silver medal. Although some of her paintings continued to show the tonal and even mystical influence of Mathews, there were many more that were overtly concerned with the light and atmosphere of the outdoors. Art writer Michael Williams described the latter as “spirited and buoyant things, so full of a sense of power held in reserve.”2 In 1921, Fortune returned to Europe and lived in a studio-home in St. Ives on the northern coast of Cornwall. She returned to her former studio in Monterey in 1927. Shortly thereafter, she established the Monterey Guild, through which she sought to thoughtfully decorate church interiors with fine art and furnishings.
1. Anna Cora Winchell, “Artists and Their Work,” San Francisco Chronicle, 19 December 1920. 2. Michael Williams, “A Pageant of American Art,” Art and Progress VI (August 1915): 348.