by BRUCE KAMERLING
San Diego History Center Curator of Collections
ALTHOUGH LITTLE TANGIBLE EVIDENCE remains of the once-thriving Theosophical community on San Diego’s Point Loma, it was the site of a unique cultural and educational experiment. The Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society first took root on Lomaland, as it became known, in 1897 under the leadership of Katherine Tingley. Her dream of a White City and School for the Revival of the Lost Mysteries of Antiquity blossomed into a surprisingly successful communal experiment whose cultural achievements have only begun to be explored.
Theosophy, founded in 1875 by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, whose writings Isis Unveiled (1877) and Secret Doctrine (1888) became the original texts for the movement, did not claim to be a new religion. Instead, it was an attempt to search through the wisdom of the ages, bringing together Eastern and Western theological and philosophical thought, in order to draw out certain basic and universal truths. Theosophical doctrine did not include a god-like being. Followers believed instead in a unity between humankind and the universe that was manifest in a Universal Spirit. Basic to Theosophical thought was the concept of reincarnation through which a person was able to progress during a succession of lives in order to gain virtue and wisdom until unity with the Universal Spirit was achieved. The Eastern concept of “Karma,” or the inevitable consequence of one’s actions, good or bad, is also basic to Theosophical belief.1
Interest in religious mysticism in the nineteenth century more-or-less paralleled the so-called Romantic Movement in art. There was a shift in consciousness that caused artists and writers to distrust the growing materialism of their times, to strike out against the Age of Reason, and to question the ability of reason to govern all things. Artists turned toward their inner experiences and tried to create an art that could embody their dreams and emotions in pictorial forms. Visionary artists such as William Blake and certain of the Pre-Raphaelites and their followers, particularly Edward Burne-Jones, paved the way for the Symbolist Art Movement that flourished at the end of the century. Symbolist art, by using rhythms, colors, and symbols, created visual images that conveyed ideas, emotions and moods far above the obvious level of what was actually being depicted. It was an art that appealed to those who wished to remove themselves from the materialism and boredom of everyday life, and seek a higher level of consciousness.2
The first artists Katherine Tingley attracted to Lomaland were from Englamd and therefore well aware of current art trends in Europe. Reginald Machell had been introduced to Theosophy by Blavatsky herself and his paintings had taken on a mystical air long before he moved from London to Point Loma. Writing on symbolism for the Theosophical Path, Machell explains that art is but a language, and since all language is symbolic, it can have wide interpretation depending on the experience of the viewer. “An artist who endeavors to express a mystical thought or a spiritual idea in a painting, is necessarily appealing to a very limited public; but it may well be that his appeal will stir a desire for knowledge in the minds of some whose intelligence is awake but untrained, and also it may find a response in hearts that yearn for higher things than their education has made them acquainted with.”3 This concept of looking for the inner or hidden rather than the outer and obvious qualities in things is the link between Symbolist Art and Theosophy.
Artists having Symbolist inclinations had long done battle with “realistic” art contending that it was shallow-in fact skin deep. Theosophical artists believed that since every object has innumerable aspects, so-called realism in art was not at all real, being concerned with external appearances and not inner qualities. Machell, writing about artists of the symbolist and realist schools says “the real difference between these two lies in the degree of penetration into the inner meaning of things achieved or attempted by each.”4
After the 1913 Armory Show in New York, which introduced European avant-garde art to this country, American artists began to explore different ways of interpreting objects visually. But, to Theosophist Leonard Lester, “The extreme reaction from so-called Realism in the art tendencies of today, is, for the most part, but the substitution of other forms of externalism equally limited in their appeal to sensation.”5 Machell, writing on symbolism in art, concludes that since music is really sound-symbolism, why not have a similar system in pictorial art: “The correspondence between the colors of the solar spectrum and the sounds that are employed by musicians is so strangely close that it is a matter of surprise that there has not been yet developed an art of pure color corresponding to the art of pure sound which we call music.”6 For 1917 this was an advanced and abstract concept.
The validy of the “art for art’s sake” trend popular at the beginning of this century was also questioned by Theosophical writers. As Maurice Braun put it, “If the original purpose of art, namely the service of the divine powers in man, as it was with some of the ancients, or ‘art for humanity’s sake’ as it would be in our modern phraseology, had not fallen to ‘art for art’s sake,’ we would not have so much confusion; there would be no doubts as to the worth of any one of the numerous new art movements.”7 This concern for placing the needs of humanity above the desires of the individual is typical of the idealism of Theosophy.
Another tenet of Theosophy which had implications for the artist was the concept of reincarnation. Braun was to write, “With the doctrine of immortality. . . the student may go on confidently, knowing that even though his progress is slow, and final success or realization of the coveted power is not in sight, he yet has every incentive to continue to the end, for he knows that opportunity after opportunity will be his. . . “8 Theosophy offered a strong note of optimism and reassuring confidence to the struggling artist.
The ways in which Theosophical teachings influenced the Lomaland artists are as varied as the artists themselves. Machell’s paintings are frequently so wrought with complicated symbolism that they become difficult to appreciate as works of art, and in fact they were intended as much more than that. On the other hand, there is a peaceful serenity in the work of Braun who demonstrated great sensitivity to the subtleties of nature. Leonard Lester created mysterious scenes of haunting beauty, and Grace Betts was concerned with capturing magical effects through decorative images and imaginative colors. All of these artists attempted to capture the invisible, but somehow still noticeable, aspects of whatever they were depicting. It is this ethereal quality that makes their art so memorable.
The art colony (if it can be called that) at Lomaland had several facets. There were a number of “professional” artists (although none were paid in the usual sense) who produced work for the community including framed works (usually gifts to Katherine Tingley), interior decorations and architectural embellishments, and illustrations for publications. A group of talented women produced decorative items such as embroidery, fancy leatherwork, decorated china and batik for sale in the Woman’s Exchange and Mart which had branch outlets outside the community itself and generated a modest income. Another group of artists were employed as instructors at the Râja Yoga Academy, the former School of Antiquity. There were also persons with artistic inclinations who, because of other duties within the community, were not able to devote a great deal of time to art, but still managed to produce occasional paintings, drawings and other works of some merit.
Art instruction at the Râja Yoga Academy was in the conservative academic tradition common at that time. Students began by producing charcoal drawings after plaster casts of architectural details or fragments of antique sculpture. They were also taught to look at an object and then sketch it from memory. Sculptural modeling was also an integral part of art training, and more advanced students could learn to work in oil, pastel and watercolor. Landscape classes would meet at some scenic spot on the Lomaland property and begin work. It did not matter whether a student was any good, it was all part of Katherine Tingley’s concept of a well-rounded education.
It is interesting to note that at least at the primary level, Theosophy itself was not brought into the classroom except in the sense of promoting certain ethical values. It was a school that was ahead of its time both in its broadminded approach to education, and the fact that it started “as soon as you could hold a pencil.”9 As in all Lomaland activities, however, classes for boys and girls were kept separate.
A number of paintings by Theosophical artists are signed with their name followed by “POINT LOMA ART SCHOOL.” This was part of the general lack of egoism encouraged at Lomaland. Everyone was part of the community and worked for the betterment of humanity. But artistic creation demands a certain amount of egoism, and even though the high level of activity on Point Loma would have provided the opportunity and inspiration for artistic expression, one can’t help but wonder what effects this impersonal attitude might have had on creativity.
Another factor which no doubt had an effect on creative output was the distribution of duties within the community. In the communal spirit, everyone was expected to help in a variety of ways, and of ten someone was asked to perform duties in areas in which they were neither skilled nor interested. Sometimes this was done intentionally as a form of discipline.10 Such authoritarianism would have put a damper on anyone’s creative spirit. It is nice to tout the benefits of the well-rounded individual, but it is equally easy to imagine the frustration of an artistic personality called off to work in the bindery or orchards.
And what effect, if any, did the art community of Lomaland have on the outside world? The Theosophical interest in Eastern cultures was important in promoting an understanding of Oriental art, particularly through the writings of the well-known scholar Osvald Sirén, who often contributed to Point Loma publications. Many of the artists wrote articles for periodicals, such as The Theosophical Path, which were read all over the world, but mostly by Theosophists. Although the artists at Lomaland seem to have been aware of international art trends, their isolation prevented them from being noticed by the outside world. It is surprising to check through biographical reference works that trace the careers of some of the more important Lomaland artists and have them abruptly end when the artist moved to Point Loma, as if they had disappeared from the face of the earth.11
Again, it is necessary to keep in mind the impersonal community-oriented nature of Lomaland.
On a local level, it is difficult to determine whether what was being done on Point Loma had any lasting effects on the neighboring communities. Leonard Lester, Maurice Braun, Reginald Machell and Edith White all exhibited at the Panama California Exposition in San Diego in 1915. Braun won a gold medal for his work, but his case is slightly different in that, although he was actively involved with the Point Loma community, he never actually joined it as a resident.12 Katherine Tingley gave Braun studio space in the Isis Theater building in downtown San Diego, and it was here that he founded the San Diego Academy of Art, which opened in June of 1912. One painter of exceptional talent resulted-Alfred Mitchell-and it is intriguing to try to trace the Theosophical interest in hidden qualities in some of Mitchell’s more atmospheric works.13
The Symbolist Art Movement on an international scale had more or less died by the First World War. Few American artists showed any interest in the movement, preferring “realism” to allegory or dreams.14 It is therefore significant that in this isolated corner of the United States, a small group of dedicated Theosophists produced works that remarkably echo the products of Symbolist artists in Europe, and carried the ideology of the movement up to the early 1930s when the Depression began to eat away at the dream city on Lomaland. One is hard-pressed to find parallels in American art for an eerie moonrise through eucalyptus by Leonard Lester, one of Grace Betts’ imaginary landscapes, or a complicated allegory by Reginald Machell.
Grace “Gay” Betts*
b. New York, N.Y. September 4, 1883
The daughter of Edwin and Jane Betts, both artists and Theosophists, Grace was one of nine children, many of whom were also artists. She received some art instruction from her father, and was graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1903 with honors in the portrait department. The following year she joined the Point Loma community where, besides art work, she is remembered for her dramatic abilities and marvelous singing voice. She also wrote and illustrated articles and stories for Point Loma publications under the pseudonym “Filoteo.” Her paintings have a magical quality due to her decorative treatment and imaginative color sense. Marian Plummer (Lester) taught her the art of batik and she produced some outstanding examples for sale in the Woman’s Exchange and Mart. For a time, she taught art at the Râja Yoga Academies in Santiago de Cuba and Pinar del Rio. During the Depression she helped produce some dioramas for the Works Progress Administration (W. P. A.) in San Diego as well as some of the habitat groups for African Hall at the Academy of Science in Golden Gate Park. In later years, she became interested in Native American religions and moved around the Southwest painting Indians in New Mexico and Arizona on large unstretched canvas hangings.
b. Nagy Bittse (near Budapest), Hungary October 1, 1877
d. San Diego, California November 7, 1941
Braun arrived in the United States at the age of four when his parents settled in New York City. Showing an interest in art at an early age, he was eventually enrolled in the National Academy of Art where he studied from 1897 to 1900. In 1902 and 1903 Braun traveled to Europe where he visited the cultural centers in Berlin and Vienna. While in art school, Braun had developed an interest in Theosophy which eventually became as strong as his interest in art. In 1909, in order to get away from East Coast artistic influences and to get closer to the Theosophical headquarters, Braun moved to San Diego. Although he was ready to become a part of the Lomaland community, Katherine Tingley encouraged him to stick to his art since he was so young and talented, and not move to Lomaland. She gave him studio space in the Isis Theater building which she owned in downtown San Diego, and it was here that he founded the San Diego Academy of Art. Braun’s work was exhibited all over the country and his reputation was greatly enhanced by the gold medals he won at the San Diego and San Francisco Expositions of 1915. In that same year he helped organize the San Diego Art Guild. In 1919 he married Hazel Boyer who was also a Theosophist and wrote art criticisms for the local papers. During the 1920s, Braun divided his time between the East and West coasts setting up studios in New York and Connecticut. In 1924 he moved into a new home on Point Loma near the Theosophical headquarters and enrolled his daughter and son in the Râja Yoga School. Eleven San Diego artists, including Braun, banded together in 1929 to form “The Contemporary Artists of San Diego,” the first local professional artists group. This was at the peak of his career, but it was also the year of the stock market crash. Although he continued to exhibit, sales were slim and he often traded art for needed commodities. His interest in Oriental philosophy and Theosophy was renewed during these difficult times. In the early 1930s he became a member of the Theosophical Cabinet, and in 1937 he was named head of the art department of the Theosophical University. Later he became national director of Theosophical clubs. Although he was never a resident at Lomaland, Theosophy still had a noticeable effect on Braun’s art. The artist’s daughter feels that the Theosophical teaching of the unity of nature and man gave Braun a great sense of peace which allowed him to produce his work. Braun once wrote “The art student finds in Theosophy a clear, bright light by which, with true vision, fully alive to the real issues, his best efforts may come to their proper maturity.”15
Joseph Fussell, Sr.
b. Birmingham, England June 10, 1818
d. San Diego, California May 6, 1912
Fussell was a student of the Royal Academy Schools in London. His primary interests were landscape painting and engraving, and he was one of the first artists engaged on the “Illustrated London News.” He also produced illustrations for Kittos Encyclopedia and similar works. Exhibiting frequently in London, he later became a professor at the Art School in Nottingham. It was from there that he departed for Point Loma, arriving in the Spring of 1903 with his son Joseph Fussell, Jr. who was Secretary of the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society. Although quite elderly, he still managed to produce some artwork and also taught art at the Râja Yoga College for a time.
b. Cumberland Lake District, England February 4, 1870
d. Grossmont, San Diego County, California June 26, 1952
Lester was educated in the Quaker tradition in England and showed an interest in art in his early teens. He accompanied his family to Canada in 1889 and eventually into the United States, settling in Kansas City for a time. At the suggestion of some fellow artists, he moved to Los Angeles where he found a job making pen and ink drawings for The Art Amateur. His family soon followed and took up residence in Pasadena. In 1892, Lester was commissioned to produce large pen and ink illustrations of several buildings for the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. While there he met William Quan Judge, who was then the leader of the Theosophical Society in America, and attended his meetings. Lester and his family soon became members of the Theosophical Society and attended meetings in Los Angeles. Between 1894 and 1896 he studied at the National Academy of Design, the Art Students’ League of New York and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Also during this time he was making illustrations for Harper’s Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar and The Inland Printer. He returned to California in 1896 and at various times had studios in Los Angeles, Pasadena, Santa Barbara, Redlands and Montecito. Between 1900 and 1902 he traveled through Europe painting in Germany, England, France and Italy. In 1907, Lester visited the Point Loma Theosophical community before leaving for Cuba where his sister, Amy, was in charge of the four Râja Yoga Schools which Katherine Tingley had started after the Spanish-American War. He taught art there until the schools closed in 1910 and remained at San Juan Hill, which was then owned by the Theosophical Society, for six years. Lester returned to Point Loma in 1916 and remained until the stock market crash in 1929. At that time, many of the older Lomaland residents who could support themselves were requested to leave to help ease the bad financial situation. Lester moved to the Julian Eltinge Ranch near Alpine where his health, which had suffered in the damp Point Loma air, was restored. He married Marian Plummer on January 3, 1931 and painted in mountain studios for ten years, moving finally to Grossmont where he continued to paint until a year or so before his death. Lester’s works are among the most ethereal produced by Lomaland artists. This is partly due to his ability to capture a sense of atmosphere, which envelopes many of his scenes. His drawings in pencil and crayon are particularly noteworthy for their delicacy of touch and sensitivity to detail. He once wrote “Viewing all external nature as ensouled. . . the intuitive vision of the artist would take on new life and inspiration and rise to new and loftier forms of interpretation.”16
Marian Plummer Lester*
b. Tacoma, Washington May 16, 1893
Marian Plummer arrived at Point Loma with her family in 1903. She showed an interest in art at an early age and worked in a variety of media. Her oil paintings exhibit a great vibrancy of color. She taught herself batik and produced some outstanding examples as well as teaching others the process. Other types of craft-work interested her including decorative gesso panels and small highly detailed paintings of Buddha on wooden and metal plaques. Her flair for drama produced some memorable performances according to those who were fortunate enough to witness them. When Leonard Lester settled on Point Loma in the late teens, they met and were eventually married on January 3, 1931. During the Depression, she helped make illustrations and dioramas for the W.P.A. She lived with her husband in the mountains near Alpine after their marriage and then moved with him to Grossmont where they had a studio in the 1940s. After his death she moved to Pacific Beach, continuing to paint.
Reginald Willoughby Machell*
b. Crackenthorpe, Westmorland, England 1854
d. San Diego, California October 8, 1927
Educated at Uppingham and Owens College, Machell is recorded as having taken many prizes in drawing and also in the classics. He married Ada Mary Simpson in 1875, the same year he traveled to London to further his art studies. The following year he went to Paris to study at the Académie Julien. 1880 saw his return to London where he devoted himself to portrait painting and began exhibiting at the Royal Academy. In 1887, through a friend of one of his aunts, Machell was introduced to Theosophy and eventually to Helena Blavatsky herself. Machell joined the Theosophical Society and in 1890 did some interior decoration in Blavatsky’s Regents Park residence. He later moved his studio to the same building and the character of his work began to change toward mysticism and symbolism. In 1893 he was elected a member of the Royal Society of British Artists and began to exhibit in the galleries of that society. During the 1890s he also illustrated two sumptuous books by Irene Osgood, An Idol’s Passion (1895) and The Chant of the Lonely Soul (1897). Leaving for Point Loma in 1900 with his son Montague, Machell arrived on December 28 in the same party as Charles J. Ryan. Machell became actively involved with the decoration of the Lomaland buildings including architectural ornamentation, painted wall designs, and carved furniture and screens. He also carved his own frames which became an integral part of his paintings. Machell was a prolific writer and illustrator for the periodical publications on Point Loma as well as books such as Kenneth Morris’ The Fates of the Princes of Dyfed (1914). He also frequently took part in the many dramatic productions including being appropriately cast as Phidias in “The Aroma of Athens.” Machell’s work is mystical in the extreme and certainly the most didactic of any of the Lomaland artists. It combines both Pre-Raphaelite and Art Nouveau stylistic tendencies. The whip-lash line and entwined tendrils typical of the Art Nouveau style are particularly evident in his wood carving.
Charles James Ryan
b. Halifax, England August 31, 1865
d. Covina, California December 24, 1949
Ryan, whose father was also an artist, studied at the Collegiate School in Weymouth and later through private tutoring since he was of frail health and was unable to attend regular school. At the Royal College of Science and Art in London he studied painting and architecture and later took five years of special instruction from Sir Hubert von Herkomer, R.A. at his art school in Bushey, near London. Ryan also studied in Italy and France and exhibited at the Royal Academy in London from 1885 to 1892. After his father’s death in 1895, Ryan took over his father’s position as Headmaster of the Ventnor School of Art on the Isle of Wight. Ryan arrived at Point Loma in December of 1900 in the same party as Reginald Machell. While at Point Loma he began to develop on lines other than art, although he did continue to produce artwork. He was an instructor at the Râja Yoga Academy for many years where his favorite subject was astronomy. He also became a prolific writer and contributed a great number of articles to Point Loma publications.
b. near Decorah, lowa March 20, 1855
d. Berkeley, California January 19, 1946
As a child, Edith White came across the plains with her family to a mining camp in Nevada County, California. She became a graduate of Mills College in Oaldand and later studied at the San Francisco School of Design. In 1882 she opened a studio in Los Angeles, moving ten years later to New York for further study at the Art Students’ League. She returned to California in 1893 and opened a studio in the Green Hotel in Pasadena. Becoming a member of the Pasadena Lodge of the Theosophical Society in 1897, she made the move to Point Loma in 1902 where she became the principal instructor of art at the Râja Yoga Academy. She left Point Loma in the Depression year of 1930, returning to the Bay Area where she worked in Oakland and Berkeley. Her paintings are usually of landscapes and flowers, with roses a particular specialty.
Other Persons Associated With
the Arts at Point Loma
Marguerite (Lemke) Barton
British, taught art at Point Loma and produced detailed pen and ink drawings and watercolors in the English tradition. Later, while staying in Japan, she learned Japanese painting techniques. She and her husband, Hildor, eventually started their own private school for boys and girls in Topanga Canyon near Los Angeles.
Swedish, taught modeling and did some painting. She eventually returned to Sweden.
Involved with teaching and producing arts and crafts type work, including rafia, reed work, hangings, decorative netting, etc. that was sold at the Woman’s Exchange and Mart. She was also involved with spinning silk during the experimental silk industry in the earliest days of the community, and later in the costuming of dramatic productions.
British amateur artist who was also a jeweler. His art endeavors were usually on a small scale, and he also worked in the bookbinding department.
Benjamin Gordon *
Painter from New York who produced some very dream-like landscapes.
With Edith Wynn and Alice Pierce painted little scenes on correspondence cards for Katherine Tingley.
Grace Knoche (1871 – 1962)*
Directed the children’s Lotus Circles on an international scale and frequently contributed to Loma periodicals including a course in Sanskrit for children.
Resided at Point Loma from the late teens through the 1920s. He worked in pastel, oil and crayon.
With Edith Wynn and Estelle Hanson painted little scenes on correspondence cards for Katherine Tingley. She also did beautiful lettering and other meticulous work including Katherine Tingley’s invocation “Oh my Divinity” which was frequently published in the Theosophical Path.
Finnish, taught handcrafts such as weaving. She brought looms with her that were duplicated by the shops at Point Loma. She also made some of the more difficult costumes for dramatic productions.
Allan J. Stover
Arrived fairly late at Point Loma and did pen and ink drawings mostly. Worked for the W.P.A. during the Depression. Moved to Covina in 1942, but later returned to San Diego.
Henry W. Watson (1866 – ?)
Came to Point Loma from England in the early days as an art teacher and later returned for final residence in May of 1934.
British, teacher and amateur artist who with Estelle Hanson and Alice Pierce painted little scenes on correspondence cards for Katherine Tingley.
*Indicates artists whose work is represented in the collections of the San Diego Historical Society.
THE illustration on the cover of this Magazine is a reproduction of the mystical and symbolical painting by Mr. R. Machell, the English artist, now a Student at the International Theosophical Headquarters, Point Loma, California. The original is in Katherine Tingley’s collection at the International Theosophical Headquarters. The symbolism of this painting is described by the artist as follows:
THE PATH is the way by which the human soul must pass in its evolution to full spiritual self-consciousness. The supreme condition is suggested in this work by the great figure whose head in the upper triangle is lost in the glory of the Sun above, and whose feet are in the lower triangle in the waters of Space, symbolizing Spirit and Matter. His wings fill the middle region representing the motion or pulsation of cosmic life, while within the octagon are displayed the various planes of consciousness through which humanity must rise to attain to perfect Manhood.
At the top is a winged Isis, the Mother or Oversoul, whose wings veil the face of the Supreme from those below. There is a circle dimly seen of celestial figures who hail with joy the triumph of a new initiate, one who has reached to the heart of the Supreme. From that point he looks back with compassion upon all who are still wandering below and turns to go down again to their help as a Savior of Men. Below him is the red ring of the guardians who strike down those who have not the ” password,” symbolized by the white flame floating over the head of the purified aspirant. Two children, representing purity, pass up unchallenged. In the center of the picture is a warrior who has slain the dragon of illusion, the dragon of the lower self, and is now prepared to cross the gulf by using the body of the dragon as his bridge (for we rise on steps made of conquered weaknesses, the slain dragon of the lower nature).
On one side two women climb, one helped by the other whose robe is white and whose flame burns bright as she helps her weaker sister. Near them a man climbs from the darkness; he has money-bags hung at his belt but no flame above his head, and already the spear of a guardian of the fire is poised above him ready to strike the unworthy in his hour of triumph. Not far off is a bard whose flame is veiled by a red cloud (passion) and who lies prone, struck down by a guardian’s spear; but as he lies dying, a ray from the heart of the Supreme reaches him as a promise of future triumph in a later life.
On the other side is a student of magic, following the light from a crown (ambition) held aloft by a floating figure who has led him to the edge of the precipice over which for him there is no bridge; he holds his book of ritual and thinks the light of the dazzling crown comes from the Supreme, but the chasm awaits its victim. By his side his faithful follower falls unnoticed by him, but a ray from the heart of the Supreme falls upon her also, the reward of selfless devotion, even in a bad cause.
Lower still in the underworld, a child stands beneath the wings of the foster mother (material Nature) and receives the equipment of the Knight, symbols of the powers of the Soul, the sword of power, the spear of will, the helmet of knowledge, and the coat of mail, the links of which are made of past experiences.
It is said in an ancient book: “The Path is one for all, the ways that lead thereto must vary with the pilgrim.”
Author’s note: This project was originally started several years ago with the aid of the late Iverson Harris. Last year, his wife Katherine presented an important collection of works by Point Loma artists to the San Diego Historical Society in his memory. This generous gift provided the necessary spark to see the project through to completion. The author wishes to express gratitude to the following members and friends of the Theosophical community on Point Loma for providing valuable information and resources: Marian Lester, Theosophical artist; Edith Tyberg, student at Point Loma and still active in the local Theosophical Society; Dr. Charlotte White, daughter of Maurice Braun; and special thanks to Emmett Small who is in charge of the Point Loma archives remaining in San Diego and to John and Kirby van Mater of the Archives of the Theosophical Society International in Pasadena for helping to locate valuable resources and photographs in their files. Thanks also to Roy Mote for assisting with photography.
1. For further information on Theosophical doctrine and the development of the Point Loma Theosophical community see: Emmett A. Greenwalt California Utopia: Point Loma: 1897 – 1942 (San Diego: Point Loma Publications, 1978) and Iverson L. Harris “Reminiscences of Lomaland,” The Journal of San Diego History, XX (Summer, 1974), pp. 1-32.
2. An excellent and highly readable book on the Symbolist Movement in art is Edward Lucie-Smith’s Symbolist Art (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1972).
3. Reginald Machell, “Symbolism in Nature and in Art” The Theosophical Path, XIII (November 1917), p. 475.
4. Ibid. p. 473.
5. Leonard Lester, “Thoughts on Current Art” The Theosophical Path, XIV (January, 1918), p. 74.
6. Machell, “Symbolism in Nature and in Art,” pp. 475-76. It is interesting to note that the early Synchromist artists had already been experimenting in the area of pure-color painting.
7. Maurice Braun, “Theosophy and the Artist” The Theosophical Path, XIV (January, 1918), p. 13.
8. Ibid. p. 8.
9. Edith Tyberg in conversation.
10. Interview with Dr. Charlotte White, April 22, 1980.
11. Nancy Moure in her Dictionary of Art and Artists in Southern California Before 1930 (privately printed, Los Angeles, 1975) mentions that Leonard Lester was in the State “until at least 1907” (p. 150), and says of Edith White, “in 1893 she opened a studio in Pasadena where she remained.” (p. 272). Grace Betts, Joseph Fussell, Sr., and Charles Ryan are all listed in Bénézit’s Dictionnaire des peintres, sculpteurs & graveurs (Paris, 1953), but only their early careers are described.
12. Interview with Dr. Charlotte White, April 22, 1980. See also Martin E. Petersen, “Maurice Braun: Master Painter of the California Landscape,” The Journal of San Diego History, XXIII (Summer, 1977), pp. 20-40.
13. Dorothea Mitchell states that both she and her husband were Theosophists, but not of the Tingley variety. Mitchell was interested in Theosophy before his early contact with Maurice Braun.
14. A notable exception was Elihu Vedder who produced a number of dream-like works. Maxfield Parrish, another American, carried some Symbolist imagery well into the 1930s. Some of John Singer Sargent’s mural work can also be considered Symbolist.
15. Braun, “Theosophy and the Artist,” p. 7.
16. Lester, “Thoughts on Current Art,” p. 74.