Monday, August 21, 2017
California's First Great Woman Artist
Born in Marin County in 1885, Fortune found fame as a woman artist who painted like a man, dressed like a man, and was often assumed by critics to be a man. The E. stood for Euphemia.
PMCA's "E. Charlton Fortune: The Colorful Spirit" traces her career, starting with studies in San Francisco and New York (under Arthur Frank Matthews and William Merritt Chase, respectively). Fortune did the Paris bit, soaking up Monet, Cezanne, and Picasso. She sojourned in the art colonies of Woodstock, St. Ives, and Monterey (where she lived from 1927 on). Monterey was also the home of Henrietta Shore, the Canadian-born modernist who is better known today. Almost certainly a lesbian, Fortune was known for her corduroy suits and affection for a pupil, Ethel McAllister.
By about 1920, Fortune's bold brushwork and subtle cubist influences had elevated her to an advanced circle of American painters. Fortune's most challenging works are often small oil sketches signed to indicate they're finished. Below is Scavengers, St. Ives, 1922. The modern British seacoast is Bodega Bay. The birds are pecking out Monet's eye—but what an eye!