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The selection of California Impressionist paintings in Freeman’s American Week comprises 18 paintings from the Estate of Mary L. Means, a passionate and devoted collector of California plein air painting.
Like its Bucks County counterpart, California Impressionism was a regional offshoot of American Impressionism that flourished throughout the first quarter of the 20th century, taking root in the northern part of the state before spreading southward to the Central Coast (in and around Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea), Los Angeles and Orange County, and San Diego.
California’s plein air painters were attracted to the state’s diverse landscapes, from its redwood forests and rolling hills to its dramatic coastlines and agreeable climate, which allowed them to paint outdoors year-round. The richness of the state is on full display in the Means Collection: lupine-blanketed fields (John Marshall Gamble, Lot 36), live oaks near Monterey (Arthur Hill Gilbert, Lots 46 and 54), the brilliant waters of Laguna Beach (Benjamin Chambers Brown, Lot 26), and the awe-inspiring Sierra Nevadas (Edgar Payne, Lot 57). A sun-raked, late-afternoon view of San Juan Capistrano’s San Juan Mission by Anna Althea Hills (Lot 27) is among the most compelling of the group.
A Fine Collection of American Literature and History sale on June 8 features the superb Arthur Swann-Thomas Streeter copy of the first edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (Lot 64), which is considered by many to be the most influential collection of American poetry. Called “America's second Declaration of Independence,” the book is one of only 337 printed of the first edition. Described in the 1960 sale of Arthur Swann's collection as a "magnificent copy" and by another previous owner as "a splendid copy in remarkable state ... one of the finest copies in existence," this still rings true 63 years later.