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Marion Wachtel

(1870-1954)

Aliases: Marion Kavanaugh, Elmer (Mistress) Wachtel, Marion Wachtel, Marion Kavanaugh Wachtel

Painter, Water colorist

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Biography

One of the finest watercolorists of American western landscapes of her era, Marion was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on June 10, 1870. She grew up in a family having artists. Her mother and great grandfather (a member of the Royal Academy, London) were accomplished artists. She studied with Vanderpoel in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and subsequently in New York City with William Merritt Chase (1849-1916). For a time she taught at the Art Institute and in the Chicago public schools and developed a reputation for making figure studies and portraits of children. In 1903, she received a commission from the Santa Fe Railroad to paint murals in the San Francisco. That commission took her west where she visited many sites along the way, stopping to sketch in New Mexico, Arizona and California. This was also the year when she visited the Cooper Ranch in Santa Barbara where she stayed for some months as a guest of the owner, Ellwood Cooper. It was here that Marion saw and began to paint the handsome eucalyptus trees that became the subject of numerous paintings throughout her life. 1903 was also the year that she met the Southern Californian artist Elmer Wachtel (1864-1929), who had studied with the renown California landscape painter William Keith (1838-1911). Marion and Elmer were married in Chicago in 1904. Ever after, she signed her name Marion Kavanagh Wachtel. The couple returned to Los Angles and built a home and studio in the Mt. Washington Area. There they lived until 1921 when they moved to the Arroyo Seco section of Pasadena. Elmer painted mostly in oil while Marion painted watercolors. In the 1920s Marion was honored with two one-artist exhibitions at the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art. Her works might be described as Tonalist in inspiration but with influence from the Art Nouveau in her lyrical interpretations of nature. Her works were recognized and admired from coast to coast. She exhibited in New York City as well as in California. She became an elected member of the New York Water Color Club in 1911, an associate of the American Water Color Society in 1912, was a founding member of the California Water Color Society in 1921 and held memberships in other California and Western artists’ societies. When her husband died in 1929, Marion stopped painting for a time but resumed in 1931-- painting mainly in oils in and around the foothills nearby in the San Gabriel Mountains. She died in Pasadena on May 22, 1954, a much celebrated and admired artist who depicted the American west in lyrical, sweeping rhythms of rich tonal colors.

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