The Journal of San Diego History
SAN DIEGO HISTORICAL SOCIETY QUARTERLY
Summer 1977, Volume 23, Number 3
James E. Moss, Editor
Thomas L. Scharf, Assistant Editor
Maurice Braun was born in Nagy Bittse (Nagybicsce), near Budapest, Hungary, October 1,1877, son of Ferdinand and Charlotte (Leimdofer) Braun. Brought to the United States when four years of age, he spent his youth in New York City where the family settled at 655 East 163rd Street. He enjoyed the boyhood pursuits of the baseball diamond and the track field. His interest in baseball was never to diminish for he remained an avid baseball fan to the end. However, he devoted more time to the arenas of his special interests, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Opera.1
At the Metropolitan Museum the budding artist could be found copying from works on view. His was a precocious talent; when only two or three years of age the boy was copying images on coins. An unknown writer gives a somewhat romantic picture of the artistic proclivities of the youthful Braun: “His artistic bent became apparent at an unusually early age. It is said of him that at the age of three his young friends would ‘borrow’ the butcher’s pencil so that their small artist-chum could ‘make faces for them’.” This was a story that the artist, his family, and other writers, delighted in repeating.2
At fourteen Braun was apprenticed to a jeweler but he soon rebelled.3 Even though his family could not understand why anyone would want to waste time on art which could not be expected to bring any returns, the future artist began his professional studies at the National Academy of Fine Arts from 1897 to 1900, where he concentrated on portraiture and still life painting.4 He studied with Francis C. Jones (1857-1932), George W. Maynard (1843-1923) and Edgar M. Ward (1839-1915), all products of the French academic tradition.5 Following his formal training at the academy, Braun studied one year with the noted American painter William Merritt Chase (1849-1916).6 His travels abroad from 1902 to 1903 visiting the cultural centers of Berlin and Vienna, in addition to spending six months in Hungary, allowed him the opportunity to see first hand works by past masters of painting.7 It was a study trip rather than a working stint.
Back in the United States, Braun set out at once to practice as a serious painter. Earnest effort and sound training from an established source, which he had now mastered, were essential for a student pursuing a successful career in art. Success usually meant both financial and personal achievement. Braun’s primary concern always was for an art and form that expressed his very being. This was his definition of success. What monetary rewards he earned were welcomed for the sustenance of life. For Braun, intense and serious labor alone was insufficient to succeed. Inspiration must also be a part of the artist’s makeup as well as a certain amount of sacrifice. Braun was a practical, as well as a disciplined artist. He would reduce prices for convenience sake in an era of economic depression, which characterized his age. He also advocated personal integrity, honesty, particularly with dealers, and that the artist always be a gentleman in complete control. As a teacher he attempted never to impose his personal style of painting on his students but allowed them to develop naturally.8
In 1909 an established New York figure and portrait painter, Braun, found portrait painting too constraining artistically and came to California to escape the influence of other artists working in the area. He became a pioneer of Western American art and achieved renown as a respected landscape painter.9 This was at a time when writers would stress that “Landscape painting is undoubtedly the most popular branch of our art, and the one most encouraged by dealers.” And, foreign artists would remark that “. . it seems. . that American artists paint nothing but landscapes.”10
As an early California artist Braun was inspired to interpret its natural landscape. Southern California offered many new challenges. The colors and forms of the region were a revelation. Brown grasses, blue mountains and rugged rock formations were to provide endless sources of painting problems relative to the interplay of light and color with the artist’s strong sense of composition. Braun was captivated by the area which he repeated over and over again in his art always seeking a new interpretation of mood and expression. The drama of its settlement was left to a future generation of artists.
During this crucial period in the artist’s professional career, when he was searching for expression and style, Braun revived his student-day interest in Theosophy.11 It was the philosophic nature of the group, perhaps, as well as their interest in archaic civilizations, particularly Greece and the Orient, transferred into valid and real art forms, such as drama, literature and music, that appealed to the artist.
In San Diego Braun soon sought out the small but highly serious and intellectual circle of Theosophists. At the recently established International Headquarters on Point Loma he joined such men as Kenneth Morris, poet; Talbot Mundy, novelist; William Gates, specialist on Mayan culture; Rex Dunn, composer; and Osvald Sirén, art historian, all attracted to the Theosophical Society directed by Katherine Tingley.12 Morris, Gates and Dunn made their home at the headquarters. Sirén often visited when en route to the Orient from Sweden where he was founder and director of the Institute of Asiatic Antiquities. He was a world authority on Oriental art. Madame Tingley urged Braun to continue his professional career rather than to immerse himself in the activities of the headquarters’ community. The Society, of which he remained an active member always, was to exert its influence upon his art.
Tenets of the Society, its Transcendentalism, speculative thoughts of God, man and the universe with brotherhood a fact in nature, would have a lasting effect on the artist’s style, evidenced by an unknown writer of the New York Tribune who perceived that “Mr. Braun has expressed new moods of nature rather than the facts of landscape.”13
For all that was said about subject or style by the art writers of his day, Braun considered art a much deeper experience than just a visual one, more subjective and mystical than objective and reportorial. It has been noted that he avoided originality of style and loosed himself from the idea of art as a “way of looking at things” in an effort to let nature speak for herself and to capture fundamental qualities.14 He wrote in his final year: “Let us remember that method, style, subject and all the rest are merely the clothing in which the thing itself, ‘Art’, is enclosed, . . . It is the aroma of the message that is important. . . . We find many artists searching for new principles, but they only discover, even (in) the most ancient art, the same fundamental rules or laws that every true work of’ art submits to are so much nature’s own laws that they may be looked upon as practically changeless. . . Let the real aim of art and purpose of the student who wishes to penetrate the mysteries of art be, therefore, the achievement of inner vision.”15
To what extent the artist was successful in synthesizing his beliefs and his art, for one at least, was brought into focus by John Fabien Kienitz, formerly of the Department of Architecture, University of Wisconsin. Kienitz wrote in the preface to the catalogue of the memorial retrospective of the artist’s works in San Francisco in 1954:
“Maurice Braun’s serenity before the vexations of life and the complexities of nature impressed all who knew him. He was an artist of deep philosophical conviction for whom all expressions of life were divine. So it is natural that in the look and feel of his work you should find pastoral peace. This peace is born of his sense of wholeness. Through an interplay of religious respect and esthetic resolve he found equilibrium and this was for him, as it can be for us, the secret of life itself. In his own small yet distinctive way Maurice Braun was able, out of a comparable largeness of vision, to create space and color relations not unrelated to the superb formal clarity reached by Cezanne.”16
The Southern California landscape school grew from a sympathetic response of Eastern painters such as Braun and his contemporaries Charles A. Fries (1854-1940), Charles Reiffel (1862-1942), Leon D. Bonnet (1868-1936), Elliot Torrey (1867-1949) and others who succumbed to its climate and countryside. Braun’s landscapes became known for their impressionistic and decorative qualities as art writers emphasized the significance of the artist’s “close study of out-door effects of light.”17 The light and airy style of the French impressionists and William Merritt Chase seemed to have left their influence upon Braun. His sympathy for the California scene he attributed to the appeal of “its bigness, its richness and its optimism.”18 His paintings were vehicles for spreading the image of the familiar Eucalyptus trees gracing the Southern California area. . . “Where a tree appears in his landscape it is nearly always characteristically the Eucalyptus which in his California work lends itself to such a great variety of effect and mood, an indication that, like the Oak in New England and English landscape, the Eucalyptus will endear itself as typically California.”19 Today the term ‘Eucalyptus School’ is frequently uttered in a derogatory sense, a reference to amateur painters whose canvases are bountifully arrayed with groves of such trees. Undoubtedly Braun contributed to the establishment of that imagery as a part of the Southern California pictorial vocabulary even though the significant meaning has now become obscured.
The decade between 1910 and 1920 may be looked upon as the artist’s formative years. At the turn of the twentieth century American art was in a critical state of transformation. The New York Armory Show of 1913 left its indelible mark. Traditions in art hereafter would be cast aside. Modern European art movements were introduced which stirred artists and public alike. Henceforth labels would be applied to new trends in great abundance as styles frequently changed under the influences from abroad and as critics sought to define those trends. On the west coast Braun remained apart from the resultant confrontation of traditionalists and modernists. However, he was certainly aware of the excitement created by these modern rebels and their impact upon the national art scene.
One of Braun’s first accomplishments in San Diego was the founding of a Fine Arts Academy which opened in June 1912.20 Here he also had exhibited his first major painting of the San Diego landscape, Bay and City–San Diego, a large canvas showing the city lying low along the shore. Over the scene, in a large expanse of sky, hover masses of clouds. This was included, along with seventy-four other works in the artist’s first major West coast exhibition.21 The academy, including his studio, was located in the Isis Theater, formerly the Fisher Opera House, on B Street.22 Classes in designing, drawing and painting, in addition to outdoor sketching, were offered. Among his first students to attain national recognition was Alfred R. Mitchell (1888-1972).23 Mitchell was San Diego’s first trained and resident artist of note.
Soon after his arrival Braun was exhibiting his Southern California landscapes in the East where they met with favorable critical acclaim as early as 1911.24 Between 1911 and 1915, Braun exhibited annually at the National Academy in New York as well as in annual exhibitions of contemporary American painting at the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, and the Detroit Museum of Art.25 In November 1915, he had his first one-man show at the Milch Gallery in New York. This was not Braun’s premiere showing in New York, however, since he had been a frequent exhibitor at the National Academy since 1910.26 Nonetheless, this important one-man show met with what would become customary critical accolades. That year, and in 1916, Braun was the recipient of Gold Medals at World’s Fairs in San Diego, for his San Diego Hills and California Hills, and San Francisco, for Eucalypti and an unknown work. In 1915 he had submitted Hills and Valley, Sunlit Hills and Morning: The Hillside.27 All three had been accepted by the jury for the San Francisco Exposition. The present location of these works is unknown. From this time on, the artist’s popularity grew.
Ever encouraging the cultural growth of the community, the artist was instrumental in organizing practicing area artists into the San Diego Art Guild. He became its first treasurer upon its formation in 1915 and served as its second president from 1917 through 1918.
In 1917 Braun, was represented on the West coast by the Kanst Art Gallery, Los Angeles, where he was that dealer’s biggest drawing card. He had also interested the Macbeth Gallery in New York in his work and subsequently in representing him on the East coast. Braun wrote to a former pupil, at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, that his work “from now on (would) be carried by them. . . I feel highly flattered as I know he [Macbeth] is rather averse to taking on new men unless they are unusually good, and often not even then.”28 Apparently, Macbeth’s eye had caught something special in Braun.
Throughout 1918, much of the artist’s energies was engaged in the details of exhibiting from coast to coast, an experience which became routine for him during the twenties and thirties. The year began with major one-man shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco comprised of seventeen and thirty works respectively.29 In May, the Babcock Gallery, New York City, featured him in a solo exhibition.30 It was his first there. His second show at Babcock would follow two years later.31
Braun had never wandered too far from the local setting for his inspiration until 1918, when he made a trip to Yosemite to fulfill a commission. He worked there for several weeks reveling in the majesty of the awesome giants and lush green meadows. One work completed during this time was of the popular Inspiration Point, location unknown, which received its share of complimentary press coverage when it went on local display.32
Personal happiness came to Braun when he took as his bride Hazel Boyer, formerly of Potosi, Missouri, on January 30, 1919. The year also brought the artist further professional achievement as he exhibited with the newly organized ‘Ten Painters Club’ in Los Angeles at the Kanst Art Gallery.33 Other members of this group included Benjamin Brown (1865-1942), Pasadena; Roi Clarkson Colman (1884-1945), Laguna Beach; Edgar Payne (1882-1947), New York; Guy Rose (1867-1921), Paris and California; Hanson Smith (dates unknown), Los Angeles; and Marion Kavanaugh Wachtel (1876-1954), Chicago and Los Angeles. The artist was also invited to exhibit in a group show at the Detroit Museum of Art and at the Albright Gallery, Museum of Art, Buffalo.34 Elsewhere he was complimented for his work exhibited at Pomona which one writer found “undoubtedly the finest [exhibition] which has ever been shown at Pomona College.”35 Seemingly blessed with success of both a personal and professional nature, Braun gave up most of his students during the year in order to keep up with his own work.36 By this time he was well known in national art circles as the interpreter of California and the West.
If 1919 had been a good year in sales, 1920 would prove to be even better. The artist wrote to Alfred Mitchell that “the first two months of this year have eclipsed my greatest expectations in the ways of sales; if the rest of the year continues in a similar average I will be quite rich. Last year was the best year I have ever had but this one so far is about three times as good.”37
The artist was also receiving portrait commissions from local civic leaders and firms. In 1920 he painted likenesses of Joseph W. Sefton, Sr. and M. T. Gilmore, both commissioned by the San Diego Savings Bank.38
It was in the twenties that the artist was at his “zenith of popularity” according to one writer who justified his opinion by citing the fact that popular periodicals such as The Literary Digest LXXX (March 13, 1926), California Southland VIII (June 1926), Touring Topics XX (May 1928), and National Motorists (June 1931), were then using reproductions of his works on their covers.39
Adding to all this good fortune, the birth of a daughter brought the artist further joy. Charlotte Le Clere, the Brauns’ first child, was born January 19,1920.
That summer the artist spent some time in the Mesa Grande region where he produced twenty-four pictures that received the expected favorable reception at a fall exhibition in San Diego. Successive trips to the area would follow.40
During the 1920’s Braun divided his time between the East and West coasts. After twelve years in San Diego, and feeling an urge to paint more of America, he planned to be away several years working in New York and New England.41 He departed San Diego June 1, 1921, stopping first in the Rocky Mountain region where he explored and painted the Wasatch Mountains of Utah and Colorado. He remained six weeks on a ranch near Georgetown where he worked.42 The artist delighted in the varying landscapes across the continent, but particularly enjoyed Missouri. Autumn found him painting in the Ozarks and along the Missouri River.43 Twenty-nine wax crayon sketches the artist made in Colorado were displayed in the art room of the public library in St. Louis in September.44 At Healy Gallery in that same city in November, one critic compared his work favorably with that of Chauncey Ryder (1868-1949).45 At this time his son Ernest Boyer, was born in St. Louis, September 13, 1921.
During the first winter months in New York where his reputation as an artist of the East and West had preceded him, the couple established an apartment studio at 2301 Creston Avenue, well heated and ventilated with excellent working conditions.46 Business flourished during this period for in two months Braun sold twenty-five pictures.47 A year later he settled in a little colonial cottage in Connecticut near an artists’ colony called Silvermine. Here he remained happily working for almost another year. He later opened a studio for a short time at Old Lyme. This community attracted the leading painters of the day such as Henry W. Ranger (1858-1949), the first important American artist to work there, and, particularly, the so called American Impressionists such as Childe Hassam (1859-1935) for whom Braun expressed admiration. While in the East Braun’s exhibition activities continued at a rapid pace. In his shows scenes of the waterfront and New England landscapes were now included for the first time as a result of this Eastern stint. In 1923 he not only exhibited with the Lyme Art Association but also in Hartford and in New York’s Macbeth Gallery. Meanwhile he sent paintings on exhibition to Dallas, Wichita and other Southwestern cities. In Dallas, Texas, fourteen pictures were sold within fifteen minutes after the show’s opening. By the end of the second day the show was sold out.48
By November 1, 1923, Braun closed his Old Lyme studio and was working in Hartford, Connecticut. January or February 1, 1924 brought the artist back to his San Diego residence.49 In 1924, he and his family moved into a new Point Loma home on Silvergate Place, designed by Richard Requa, one of the community’s leading architects. For the next five years he would spend a part of each year in Connecticut, usually in the autumn and early winter.
During the mid-twenties the artist was painting in Texas and the Southwest. In 1926 he was working in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.50 Picture titles reveal a wide choice of subject matter resulting from these trips, Cottonwoods in Colorado, The Catalina Mountains and Texas Blue Bonnets, among them.
In 1929 Braun joined with ten other San Diego artists to form the Contemporary Artists of San Diego.51 They included painters Alfred R. Mitchell (1888-1972), Leon Durand Bonnet (1868-1936), Charles Arthur Fries (1854-1940), Everett Gee Jackson (1900- ), Leslie W. Lee (1871-1951), Charles Reiffel (1862-1942), Otto H. Schneider (1875-1950), and Elliot Torrey (1867-1949). Two sculptors were counted among this group. They were James Tank Porter (1883-1962) and Donal Hord (1902-1966). Porter was elected President and Mitchell, Secretary-Treasurer. Their intention was the promotion of local art and artists on a national level and the development of a wider appreciation of fine local art both at home and outside the area. The artists modeled their program after that of the Grand Central Art Gallery of New York. Membership was comprised of artists and of local patrons. The latter contributed funds for two years which entitled them to draw for a work of art at the end of each major gallery exhibition featuring the artists. The artists showed as a group continuously for six years (1930-1936), with the exception of 1935 because of the California Pacific International Exposition. Other exhibitions of their works occurred concurrently as far away as Pasadena and Los Angeles and in a local downtown sales room which they maintained from December 1, 1931, to April 30, 1932.52 It proved an impractical venture and an economic failure in an economically difficult time nationally. After six local exhibitions, and with the death of Bonnet in 1936, the first organization of’ major San Diego artists became history.
At the apex of his career in 1929 Braun won a $2000 award at the Witte Museum of Art in San Antonio, Texas, for a painting Texas Fields, now in the permanent collection of that institution.53 The painting depicted a blanket of wild flowers beneath a group of oak trees. It was awarded third prize within the competitive theme of landscapes based upon Texas wild flowers. According to one account, the picture was the second by Braun to enter the permanent collection of the Witte Museum.54 In April he was also awarded a $350 prize by the Gardena High School, Los Angeles, in their sponsored exhibition of works by Southern California artists.55 During the summer of the next year he would receive $350 from the Chicago Galleries Association as a prize in the Ninth Semi-Annual Exhibition for his picture Village Brook in Winter (location unknown).56 While the artist’s financial condition was certainly enhanced, it was nevertheless the year of the big crash. Undoubtedly the economic situation the country was to endure would affect the future status of the arts generally.
For Braun, a busy exhibition schedule occupied his time from the first of the year. In February, 1929, the Jules Kievets Gallery, Pasadena, featured him in a one-man show comprised of forty works. At the invitation of the Vose Gallery of Boston he was included in an exhibition Vose sponsored at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles with his picture Mountain Heights (location unknown). He also participated in the annual exhibition of Southern California artists at the Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego. These were only West coast samplings of his schedule. Press notices indicated exhibitions in the East and Midwest also.57
The Brauns were in the East from September through December in 1929. In a letter to Mitchell, regarding details of the organization of the Contemporary Artists of San Diego, the artist mentions painting along Boston’s North Shore for several weeks. He and Mrs. Braun were also enjoying New York’s art scene even though dealers were “wailing about hard times.”58
The effects of the Depression years and the innovative styles of contemporary art are frequently cited as reasons for the declining fame of many of the early artists during the thirties including Braun. While programs were assisting artists under the Civil Works Administration, Braun never engaged in participating in the San Diego area. To augment his income, Braun was again giving instructions in painting. Junior and senior high school students from Hoover and Chula Vista, and adults in the Adult Education Program were among students meeting at the Chula Vista Art Center, schools and at his Point Loma studio. During this period when many artists were discouraged by the sobering aspects of the depression, Braun’s attitude seemed to provide optimistic impetus to his own endeavors. He is often quoted as saying,. . . “no one can take away our love of work, our joy in painting; life in reality is beauty and harmony and we are challenged to give this message to the world.”59 Conditions of these bleak years did not seem to deter his enthusiasm. Newspaper clippings indicate that he continued to exhibit from coast to coast in such cities as Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Memphis, Montgomery, New York, and San Francisco as well as in La Jolla and San Diego, all with the same critical acclaim as the preceding decades although there was a serious decline in sales. In 1934 his painting Wharf Building (location unknown) received the $100 Leisser-Farnham prize at the Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego, the most popular work in an exhibition of Southern California artists. A six week tour on the New England coast four years earlier resulted in the production of a series of paintings including this prize winner.60
In January 1935, Braun joined fellow San Diego artists Anni Baldaugh (1886-1954) and Charles Reiffel in the First Annual Exhibition of the Academy of Western Painters in Los Angeles. These three artists were among a distinguished list of American painters comprising the academy. It included Paul Lauritz (1889- ), President, Carl Oscar Borg (1879-1947), Maynard Dixon (1875-1946), Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955), Armin Hansen (1886-1957), Frank Tenney Johnson (1874-1939), and William Wendt (1865-1946).61 His own exhibition pace continued even though sales were slim and the artist’s financial sources dwindled. Braun’s prolific output helped keep the proverbial wolf away by bartering for goods and services in exchange for paintings. He even managed to drive a prestigious Pierce Arrow.
Braun was most frequently, but not exclusively, a studio painter. His usual approach to landscape painting began with a sketch made in situ. This sketch became the model for the completed larger works finished in the studio. Although an academician, he took the color sense of modernism and applied it to his own style. Through his choice of palette the artist captured those evasive seasonal moods: the cool sobering somberness of winter; the rejuvenated spirit of spring; the languid idleness of summer; and the nostalgic beauty of autumn. A student of composition, Braun sought to capture a sense of place and time. His realistic treatment was tempered by poetic moods of color, correct composition and the ability to render what nature offered without alteration. While he may not have been a disciple of any modern school, he did recognize that “the fad of modernistic movement has unconsciously helped the artist’s cause, for it has awakened a widespread interest in painting that was nonexistent before.”62 What he found lacking in modern art was “purpose and its relation to life.” The doctrine of art for art’s sake was not enough. It must also inspire and uplift.63 Technically, the mature works of the late twenties are marked by a greater strength and intensity, and reveal a freer and more painterly style. The short broken brush stroke and the greater apparent freedom may be attributed to his appreciation of Chase and the Impressionists. It could be further credited to his earlier use of the palette knife as noted by a Los Angeles Times art critic: “Braun has a technique that is always broad and direct,. . . and when he takes up a palette knife?which is pretty often?he displays the same distinguishing freedom of handling. He sees forms, the splendid mountain forms and broad stretches of sunlit valley so characteristic of California, in a big way, giving weight and solidity to his interpretation.”64 The writer was commenting on the artist’s work of his first decade in San Diego. Works of the second decade are characterized by definite outline and thinner paint application, but not without a certain bravura common to the moderns of his day.
Neither of the reasons cited appears to adequately fully explain the decline of the artist’s fame. Perhaps the answer is to be found in the fact that the art centers of Los Angeles and San Francisco exerted stronger artistic leadership and that the idea of a Southern art center in San Diego was obscured by these two larger communities.65 One must also remember that the idea of the promotion of arts, then as now, seemingly emanated from New York and the East. The artists of the remote Southwest, unfortunately, were far removed from the galleries, writers, museums and promoters exerting the greatest influence as taste makers.
During the thirties, Braun became, more and more, a student of both Oriental philosophy and the natural sciences. This interest becomes noticeable in his art as a number of still life paintings become filled with motifs suggestive of the East, i.e. ceramic T’ang horses, single flowers in a vase. Other still life paintings were motivated by flowers to be found in his own garden. The influence of Braun’s intensified interests was sensed by Kienitz in his observation:
“Absolute composure rules his studies of still life. It is impossible for him to look at what was small or large in nature, or among man’s things, without translating what he saw into lucid and harmonious arrangement. Here, as elsewhere in his art, delicate relations of line, form, and color are simply signs of an even more exquisite fineness which he knew to be basic in nature. In the art of this man you may well find an oriental, even peculiarly Chinese bent. You may agree that he paints as an apostle of resignation whose spirit is like those men of Sung who could see the tragic in the turn of an autumn leaf and still, somehow, never be defeated by it.”66
Other critics noted an increasing number of still life paintings from the artist’s brush which conveyed for at least one a “more tender personal mood,” discerning a new development in the artist’s oeuvre.67 In the mid-thirties also, one critic rediscovered Braun the portrait painter in a pleasurable way. His painting of the girl Jo Bobbie (location unknown) came as a surprise to the writer who in reviewing a show of Braun’s work, compared its dreamy quality to Velazquez.68
During the last decade of his life, Braun continued his involvement with the Theosophical Society’s activities and became a member of the director’s cabinet. In 1937, he headed the art department of the Theosophical University which had been organized and chartered in 1919. Mrs. Braun was an instructor in the history of art.69
When events led to the necessity of relocating headquarters of the Society, the Brauns were suggested as a committee of two to make recommendations as to future sites. The golden age of the Theosophical Society had passed.70
On the afternoon of November 7, 1941, the artist and his wife had jointly addressed the Chula Vista Women’s Club where he showed a few of his works. After the program, while he was putting the pictures in his car, he fainted. After resting until 6 p.m., he asked to be driven home. At 8:30 p.m. he died, a victim of a heart attack. Braun had not been ill, and he had just returned from a painting excursion in the Julian hills. His death was unexpected. Private services were conducted at the Theosophical Temple on Point Loma where he had been a member for over thirty years.71
In 1951 a large memorial exhibition of Braun’s work was held at the Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego and three years later he was remembered by a memorial retrospective in San Francisco.72
Obscured by modern movements and innovators in the main stream of American art, Braun and other early artists outside the major art centers are nonetheless being re-evaluated for a new generation. Certainly Braun was San Diego’s most important artist during the first third of the present century. He familiarized the generation between 1900 and 1930 with the Southern California landscape scene. He prophetically noted in 1928:
“California has already contributed to the history of art in America but she is destined to add far more brilliant pages, not in individual effort, but in the great number of artists who will take part in making here a culture which is not yet imagined.”73
His vision of the future seems to have arrived.
Braun’s artistic success was founded in thorough training and a respect for good craftsmanship. His gentle nature and immaculate demeanor and dress reflected the discipline he applied to his art. While he approached nature objectively, he infused it with a poetic and happy atmospheric mood appealing to viewers, admired by critics, collected by museums.
A former director of the Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego, Thomas B. Robertson, summed up his importance, writing in a 1951 article, that during the early years in San Diego, Braun made this city’s leading contribution to the national art scene.74 He was certainly the most famous of San Diego’s first painters.
Martin E. Petersen is Curator of Painting at the Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego. He has written and lectured on numerous topics related to his field.
A Selected List Of Known Works
|Across the Street
Across the Valley
After the Rain
After the Thaw
Afterglow at Mesa Grande
Along Point Loma Shore
Along the Merced River
Along the River
Along the Road
Along the Shore
Along the Shore, San Diego Bay
Along the Wharf
Anemones and Daffodils
Approach of Dusk, Point Loma
Art in California
At Day’s End
At La Jolla
At Palm Springs
At the Pier
Autumn at Bronxville
Autumn, Connecticut River
Autumn in Connecticut
Autumn in New England
Autumn on Mount Kisco
Autumn, Southern California
Barn and Mountains
Bay and City of San Diego
Bay, San Diego
Beeches at Mount Kisco
Before the Wind
Bells, Balboa Park
Birches in Autumn
Bit of Georgetown
Bit of La Jolla
Bit of Valley
Blue Bonnets of Texas
Broad River, Norwalk
Brook in Autumn
Brook in Spring
Brook in Winter
California Landscape: Sycamores
California Mountain Lake
California Valley Farm
Canyon to the Sea
Catalina Mountains, Tucson, Arizona
City and Bay of San Diego
Clear Day in Autumn
Cliffs at Point Loma
Cloud Shadows on the Catalinas
Copper Tea Kettle
Cottonwoods in Colorado
Creek in Missouri
Dashing Wave, La Jolla
Day in March
Day in Winter
Desert and Mountains
Desert, New Mexico
Down Library Lane
Down the Valley
Early Moonrise, Coronado Bay
Early Moonrise, Point Loma
Early Morning on the Desert
Early Snow, Mount Kisco
Edge of the Grove
Edge of the Woods
El Cajon Mountain
El Cajon Valley
El Capitan, San Diego
Elms in Autumn
Environs of San Diego
Evening at Point Loma
Evening Glow, Eucalyptus Trees
Evening in the Hills
Evening on the River
Farm in the Winter
Foggy Day, A
Foggy Morning, A
From Mount Tamalpais
From Palomar Mountain
Gentle Slopes of Southern
Glimpse of San Diego Bay from Point Loma
Glimpse of False Bay
Glimpse of the City
Glorietta Bay, San Diego
Gray Day on the River
Green and Blue
Group of Eucalypti
Half Dome, Yosemite
Headlands at La Jolla
Henshaw Lake from Palomar
Hills and Mountains
Hills and Trees
Hills and Valley
Hills and Valley, Southern California
Hills in Winter
Hills near Lakeside
Hills near San Diego
Hills of California
|Hopi House, La Jolla
Icehouse at Old Lyme, Connecticut
In El Cajon
In El Cajon Valley
In Pine Valley
In the Canna Bed
In the Garden
In the Grove
In the Hill Country
In the Pasture
In the Spring
In the Valley
Inspiration Point, Yosemite
La Jolla Cliffs
La Jolla Rocks
Land of Lost Borders
Land of Sunshine
Mountains From Palomar
Mountains in Summer
Mountains, Southern California
Mrs. Braun and her Children
New England Landscape
New England Twilight
New England Winter
Nook in the Harbor
Oak Clad Hills
October in Connecticut
Of Old China
An Old Barn
Old Lyme, Connecticut
Old Spanish Wine Jug
On the Line
On the River
Orange, New Jersey
Out There Beyond
Over Hill and Valley
Pacific. Coronado Islands
Pass to the Desert
Point Loma Canyon
Point Loma Hills
Point Loma Shore
Point Loma Slope
Point Loma Vista
Pool Bed, Point Loma
Portrait of Dr. Hyman Lischner
Portrait of Joseph W. Sefton. Sr.
Portrait of M. T. Gilmore
Portrait of Miss Frances Holladay
Portrait of Miss H….
Portrait of Mr. C. S. Barnes, Bristol
River in Winter
River Landing Near New London,
Road to the Canyon Road to the Field
Road to the Mountains
Rockledge in Autumn
Rocks and Trees, California
Rocks and Waves
Rocks at La Jolla
Rose Tinted Heights
Sailing the River
San Diego Bay
San Diego Bay and City
San Diego Boat Harbor
San Diego From Point Loma
San Diego Hills
San Diego River
San Diego Waterfront
Shacks at Gloucester
Shadow of Spring
Shadows, Sunshine, Sea
Silver Sage in Montezuma Valley
Silvery Sage, The
Snapdragons and Roses
Snow Clad Hills
Snow in New York
Southern California Hills
Southern California Valley
Spanish Wine Jug and Apples
Spring at Old Lyme
Spring in the Forest
Springtime at Silvermine, Connecticut
Springtime in the Hills
Storm Clouds, Mission Hills
Sunlight and Shadows
Sunny Day in Autumn
Sunset, La Jolla
Surf at La Jolla
Surf at Point Loma
Surf on the Pacific Shore
Sycamores and Mountains
Sycamores in Autumn
Sycamores in Missouri
Texas Blue Bonnets
Toward the Desert
Torrey Pine Canyon
Trail to the Hills
Trail Up the Mission Canyon
Trees in Autumn
Tucson Mountains, Arizona
Under California Skies
Untitled ? Landscape
Up the Valley
Valley and Hills
Valley and Mountains
Valley in the Hills
Valley Vista, California
View of the City, A
View of Mission Valley
View From Inspiration Point
Village Brook in Winter
Village Water Front
Waterfront, New England
Wind Swept Pine
Winding Road, The
Winter, Comstock Hills
Winter Evening in Pennsylvania
Winter in the Hills, New England
Winter Light and Shade
Winter, New England
Woods in Early Spring
Young Oaks in Autumn
1. “Maurice Braun: Painter,” San Diego Magazine, (December-January, 1951-52), 2, 15.
2. San Diego Union, March 3, 1929.
3. Katherine Morrison Kahle, San Diego Sun, October 4, 1933.
4. Reginald Poland, “The Divinity of Nature in the Art of Maurice Braun,” Theosophical Path, XXXIV (May 1928),474.
5. The number of years the artist remained at the Academy varies with the sources. Most agree it was four years and that by 1902 the artist was in Europe. San Diego Union, November 18, 1951.
6. Dallas Morning News, February 11, 1923. Chase was one of the most influential art teachers in the history of American painting. He was among the first to absorb the technique of the French Impressionists and spread its methods.
7.Ibid. While local press sources include Paris in the artist’s itinerary, Braun was never in that city according to his daughter (Conversation, February21, 1975).
8. Braun’s description of an artist gleaned from correspondence to Alfred R. Mitchell, a local artist who first studied with Braun, provides an apt description of Braun himself. See especially: Letter, November 20, 1916; April 23, 1917; December 18, 1919. These letters were a gift to the Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego from Mrs. Alfred R. Mitchell and are in the Vertical Files of the Art Reference Library.
9. New York Herald, February 11, 1923.
10. Sadakichi Hartmann, A History of American Art (New York, 1901), 1, 107.
11. According to one source, Braun had known Madame Tingley in New York as a boy but this episode is not verified and is probably not true according to the artist’s daughter. See: Emmett A. Greenwalt, The Point Loma Community in California 1897-1942 (Berkeley, 1955), 124.
12. “Maurice Braun: Painter,” San Diego Magazine, (December-January, 1951-52), 13ff. Kenneth Morris led the Celtic revival of literature in Wales. Osvald Sirén was a specialist in early Italian Painting as well as a world authority on Oriental art. These two shared an enthusiasm for Eastern philosophy and art with Braun,
13. New York Tribune, November 21, 1915.
14. Harold Kerr, San Diego Independent, March 19, 1939.
15. Hazel B. Braun, San Diego Tribune-Sun, November 22, 1941, noted as from a book Braun was preparing at the time of his death. To be entitled, Art for Everyone, it was never published.
16. San Francisco, M. H. DeYoung Memorial Museum, March 1954, Maurice Braun, Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings, Introduction by John Fabien Kienitz.
17. For example see Anthony Anderson, Los Angeles Sunday Times, December 10, 1911.
18. Springville, Utah, High School Art Gallery, 1942. An Exhibition of Paintings by Maurice Braun, Introduction by Reginald Poland.
19. San Diego Evening Tribune, June 12, 1911.
20. San Diego Union, June 15, 1912.
21. San Diego Evening Tribune, June 12, 1911.
22. “Maurice Braun: Painter,” San Diego Magazine, (December-January, 1951-52), 16. In the power struggle for control of the Theosophical Society, an English rival had spoken out in the theatre quite effectively against Mme. Tingley. To insure that it would never happen again, Tingley bought the opera house and eventually changed the name. E. A. Greenwalt, The Point Loma Community in California 1897-1942, 101-113.
23. For the life of Mitchell see: Martin E. Petersen Journal of San Diego History, XIX (Fall 1973), 42-50.
24. “Maurice Braun: Painter,” San Diego Magazine, (December-January, 1951-52), 14.
25. Unidentified source in the possession of the artist’s daughter.
27. Eucalypti was the 1916 gold medal winner in San Francisco. The 1915 winner would have been among the three works listed in the text.
28. Letter, February 12, 1917, from Braun to Mitchell. Also Letter, April 23, 1917.
29. Los Angeles, Museum of History, Science and Art, January l918, Exhibition of Paintings by Maurice Braun, and San Francisco Art Association (Palace of Fine Arts), February-March 1918, Exhibition of Paintings by Maurice Braun.
30. New York World, May 15, 1918.
31. New York American Sunday, January 11, 1920.
32. San Diego Union, July 17, 1918. Touring Topics, XX (March 1928), 9, relates an amusing account of the artist’s trials of traveling horseback to inaccessible areas of Yosemite. The trip is dated erroneously as 1915. Half Dome. Yosemite, was reproduced on the cover of this issue.
33. San Diego Union, February 1919.
34. San Diego Union, April 28, 1919.
35. Pomona, Student Life, November 14, 1919.
36. Letter, November 19, 1919, from Braun to Mitchell.
37. Letter, February 15, 1920, from Braun to Mitchell.
38. San Diego Union, December 12, 1920. The portraits are illustrated.
39. Emmett A. Greenwalt, The Point Loma Community in California 1897-1942,124.
40. San Diego Evening Tribune, September 18, 1920.
41. Hazel Boyer Braun, Southwest Magazine, (March 1924) 7. Also Art News (November 1923).
42. Denver, Rocky Mountain News, July 3, 1921.
43. St. Louis Dispatch, September 4, 1921.
44. St. Louis Star, September 4, 1921.
45. Emily Grant Hutchings, St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat, November 6, 1921.
46. The artist worked in New York for a full year. Letter, December 30, 1922, from Braun to Mitchell, and Reginald Poland, Theosophical Path, May 1928, 474.
47. Letter, February 14, 1922, from Braun to Mitchell.
48. Helen Comstock, “Painter of East and West,” International Studio, LXXX (March 1925), 46-47.
49. Art News, (November 1923) and other undated articles verify this date.
50. Hazel Boyer Braun, San Diego Evening Tribune, 1926.
51. For an account of this organization see Martin E. Petersen, “Contemporary Artists of San Diego,” Journal of San Diego History, XVI (Fall 1970), 3f.
52. Reginald Poland, San Diego Union, February 2, 1930, and M. E. Petersen, Journal of San Diego History, (Fall 1970, 3f.
53. San Diego Union, February 25, 1929.
54. Unidentified newspaper article in the San Diego Fine Arts Gallery file dated February 25, 1929.
55. Reginald Poland, San Diego Sun, April 27, 1929.
56. Hazel Boyer Braun, San Diego Evening Tribune, June 14, 1930.
57. San Diego Union, March 3, 1929, Hazel Boyer Braun, San Diego Evening Tribune, June 8, 1929, and Chicago Evening Post, April 16, 1929.
58. Letter, November 12, 1929, from Braun to Mitchell.
59. Hazel Boyer Braun, San Diego Evening Tribune, May 9, 1936.
60. San Diego Union, September 18, 1934, with illustration of the work.
61. San Diego Sun, January 5, 1935, and San Diego Evening Tribune, January 12, 1935.
62. Unidentified article in the collection of the artist’s daughter.
63. “San Diego Artist Gives Views on Modernistic Art,” unidentified source, in San Diego Fine Arts Gallery file.
64. Anthony Anderson, Los Angeles Sunday Times, January 20, 1918.
65. In an early unidentified newspaper article in the collection of the artist’s daughter, Braun is quoted as saying “San Diego has the possibility of’ becoming a great art center,. . . ” The well known American painter, Walt Kuhn had made the same observation also on a San Diego visit in 1938. San Diego Union, January 7, 1938.
66. San Francisco, M. H. DeYoung Memorial Museum, 1954, Introduction by J. F. Kienitz.
67. Julia Gethman Andrews, San Diego Union, May 31, 1936.
68. Julia Gethman Andrews, San Diego Union. October 11, 1936.
69. “Maurice Braun: Painter.” San Diego Magazine, (December-January, 1951-52), 43. Mrs. Braun wrote a column in the San Diego newspapers during the 1920’s and 30’s. She returned to New York in 1944 and died there March22, 1946.
70. E. A. Greenwalt, The Point Loma Community in California. 1897-1942. 191. The remnants of the San Diego community are now located in Pasadena.
71. San Diego Union, November 8, 1941, obituary, and San Diego Tribune-Sun, November 8, 1941, obituary.
72. San Francisco, M. H. DeYoung Memorial Museum, March 1954.
73. Maurice Braun, “American Art Attains Recognition,” The Modern Clubwoman, October 1928, 7.
74. Thomas B. Robertson, San Diego Union, November 11, 1951.