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Carl Sammons: California Impressionist Landscapes from the Donna Walsh Sumner Collection
Carl Sammons, Rocky Coastal Scene, circa early 1920s, pastel on board, 10 x 14 ".

MORAGA, CA.- Carl Sammons, a prolific plein air artist who began as a sign painter in Iowa then gained fame as a Bay Area landscape painter whose colors were bathed in the warmth and light of the sun associated with Southern California artists is featured in an exhibit of rarely seen works at the Hearst Art Galley of Saint Mary’s College from July 12 through Sept. 21.

Sammons painted a wide and impressive variety of subjects, from Southern California deserts to the flowers and birds of Golden Gate Park to thundering ocean breakers. He painted the high mountains, lakes, and the rolling hills of the coastal ranges.

Sammons’ colors could be subtle or intense; he could convey in oil paint the warmth of the desert sand and the chill of a Sierra winter with equal mastery. He felt that painting was an act of God’s creation, in which each artist expressed his interpretation. Hs style was to paint rapidly to capture the light, his brushstrokes were meticulously applied, then carefully finished in his studio.

The Hearst exhibition is a rare opportunity to see many of Sammons’ works that are never exhibited. Most of the paintings in the Hearst exhibition are on loan from Donna Walsh Sumner, the artist’s niece, rarely on public view. A color catalog, with an essay by Douglas S. McElwain, accompanies the exhibition. The exhibition is organized by Hearst Registrar and Collections Manager Julie Armistead.

In spite of being a landscape painter, Sammons was atypical of the bay Area tonalists of his time. Sammons work was exhibited at the 1926 California Industries Exposition in San Diego and the 1940 Golden Gate International Exposition and World’s Fair. His large oil of the Sacramento River was exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution during the 1976 Bicentennial celebration.

Born in Nebraska in 1883, Sammons studied under a respected German painter F.P Frisch. He spent the years between 1913 and 1917 in Northern California and made a permanent move West in 1920, enrolling briefly in the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute. Throughout his life, he made regular painting trips to the Monterey Peninsula, Russian River, Palm Springs, Humboldt County, Santa Barbara and Yosemite, and beyond the Golden State’s borders to the West’s most scenic national parks, including Bryce, Crater Lake, Glacier, the Grand Canyon and Zion.

Among the artists with whom he was associated were Edward Borein, Albert De Rome, John Gamble, Paul Grimm, Lorenzo Latimer, and Thaddeus Welch. He was also a friend of Donald Rheem, developer of Rheem Valley, now part of Moraga. Sammons died in Oakland in 1968. In recent years his paintings have been on view at the Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, the Grace Hudson Museum, Ukiah, and the Carnegie Art Museum, Oxnard.

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