VIII. Museum Ties:
The San Diego Museum of Art, 1925-1950

. . . “In years much has been heard of the marvelous growth of San Diego industrially, and its many civic enterprises; Then came the realization that the real status of the community is measured not alone by its commercial achievements, laudable as they may be, but by the things which make for culture, for the beautifying and up building aesthetically of the city.
To this end there was organized, through the efforts of Miss Alice Klauber and a group of kindred spirits, a little over a year ago, a society called the Friends of Art, which has accomplished much in this direction.”
..................................................................................................... -The Sun Dial, January 28, 1922

. . . “Many San Diegans citizens will easily remember the first venture in an art organization. For the study of the history of art, Mr. Daniel Cleveland, near the beginning of the century, brought together a number of people, to meet in private homes; his plan was for the members to write and read aloud to the group, papers on the great masters of painting. I can recall the paper on Rembrandt by Mr. Ernest E. White, one on Greece by Miss Ruth Marston after her return from that country and several other subjects ably handled by the members. I mention this ‘Art Association of San Diego’ as the first organization for the art interests here, because it was from them that the art library of the Fine Arts Society had one of its first bequest of books and a small fund to bear interest yearly for the slow acquisition of them. This is what became later the art library of the Fine Arts Society. There were some paintings by California artists also bequeathed. At about the time of Mr. Cleveland’s resignation from the presidency of the Art Association, a group of art students met to work together, mutually to share the expense of a studio and models in the building on Sixth Avenue known as the B Street School. This group became the Art Guild of San Diego. They held small exhibitions from time to time, and to defray the extra expense of their activities which were open to the public, they went each year to a chosen few for financial support. Soon, rather approach the same generous friends each year the list was considerably extended to include new names. These associated members later formed what was called ‘ Friends of Art.’ It was about 1920 that the organization began to assume importance in the community and held its meetings in the New Mexico Building in Balboa Park.”

.......................... . ................................................................................................... -Alice Klauber

. . . Organized in 1904, the San Diego Art Association, thirty artists and cultural leaders, met at Thearle’s Music Company to adopt a constitution and establish by-laws. Daniel Cleveland was elected president. A native New Yorker, Cleveland arrived in San Diego during the Horton land boom of 1869. Previously he had been an attorney and served as mayor of San Antonio, Texas. Historically he is on record as the first Texan official to admit the testimony of a Blackman against a Caucasian. At their meeting, standing committees were formed to handle art purchases, exhibitions, finances and membership. Their objectives were five fold: to encourage and study art; to establish and maintain schools of art; to erect, equip and maintain buildings, property for the said purposes. The association worked to develop an art interest through educational exhibitions and activities.

. . . In March 1905, the Association established a Sketch Club, or Life Class as some referred to it, the first official art educational quarters in San Diego. The City Board of Education granted them free usage of facilities at the B Street School. Members shared costs of studio and models. Here artists, ages 12 through 60, could study from and sketch a living model, “no nudes however.” Classes were held in the early evening, later were rescheduled in the afternoon, 2:20 to 4:30 p.m. At the 1909 Annual Meeting Miss Klauber was elected to the Board. Among agenda discussions was a resolution to prominently feature an art exhibition under the charge of the Association. The members of the Association were already discussing the desirability of playing an important role in the establishment of a permanent art gallery with the coming of the 1915 Exposition. After 1911 records are non-existent and the group seems to have dissolved. A notice to the Association members appeared later in the local press on January 6, 1928, for the purpose of closing accounts. At the meeting, $300 was turned over to the Fine Arts Association of San Diego (Fine Arts Society of San Diego) as a nucleus of a permanent endowment fund for the Fine Arts Society. The motion had been made by Miss Klauber.

. . . On September 15, 1915, with Edna Mae Schofield as its moving spirit and supported by Charles A. Fries and Alice Klauber, an organizational meeting of the San Diego Art Guild was held at Hotel Barstow. At their first meeting, December 16, 1915, local architect Henry Lord Gay, 1844-1921, was elected president. Of English heritage, Gay lived in New England and the Mid-west prior to settling in San Diego where he opened an office in 1904. Among his notable credits were the design of the catafalque for Lincoln’s memorial service and his recognition as second place winner in the competition for a monument to honor King Victor Emmanuel in Rome, Italy. In San Diego he designed residences for leading citizens including the only brownstone home in the city. The twenty-two room home of his nephew was considered a showpiece. The Guild’s agenda was, like the Association, to inform and promote fine art in the community. There was a stronger emphasis on the role of the practicing artist in the Guild’s perception. In 1920 the Friends of Art came into being as an affiliate of the Guild.

. . . At the first Annual Meeting of the Friends of Art, Lyman Judson Gage, 1836-1927, chaired the group. Gage was a well known financier and former United States Secretary of the Treasury. Born in De Ruyter, New York in 1836, Gage had a limited education. He studied briefly at the Roman Academy and much later in Beloit where an Honorary L.L. degree was bestowed on him in 1897. New York University honored him with the same degree in 1902. Gage survived three marriages; May Ethridge (1864), Mrs. Cornelia Gage (1887), and Frances Ada Bellou (1909). He died at his Pt. Loma residence in San Diego, California January 26, 1927. In Chicago, Gage became affiliated with Merchants Trust Company and other banks. In 1893, he was appointed the first President of the Chicago Exposition and in 1897, President William McKinley tapped Gage for the position of Secretary of the Treasury, a position he maintained until the Theodore Roosevelt Administration.

. . . These were patrons essentially interested in promoting the arts, and its membership fees contributed to financing of area artists. Joseph Sefton, Jr. became its first president. In 1924 the Friends of Art moved into the Fine Arts Gallery, more commonly known today as the New Mexico building in Balboa Park, a remnant of the 1915 Exposition. In August of the same year, the amalgamation of the Friends of Art and the Art Guild with a combined membership of 500 names was announced in the local press. In 1925 President Willet S. Dorland, 1865-1929, issued a letter to members advising them of Mr. and Mrs. Appleton S. Bridges had proposed that an Association and a Guild merger be incorporated and that they operate the new museum which Bridges had given to the city and that was in process of being built. Ralph E. Jenney, b. 1883, prepared the papers. Jenney had received his LL.B degree in 1906, the same year he was admitted to the bar in Portland, Oregon. He relocated to San Diego in 1912 and was soon active in civic affairs. It was recommended that all members, should the proposal be accepted, be charter members. After a favorable vote in March, the incorporation became official in April 1925 and the Association members were secured as the membership of the new museum as the Fine Arts Society of San Diego. The first meeting of the new Board of Trustees, called directors, of the new corporation took place at the Fine Arts Gallery (New Mexico Building) on June 18, 1925, with Dorland presiding. These early organizations with an over lapping membership of artists and patrons indicated a determination to establish a cultural milieu in the city and Miss Klauber played a key role in its reality. She maintained a deep interest throughout her lifetime.

. . . The establishment of a permanent museum after the 1915 Exposition had been dominating Miss Klauber’s thinking, along with that of other business and cultural leaders, for a long time. After the San Francisco Exposition closed the French Commission, feeling that it was a dangerous time to send their art collections across the Atlantic because of the international conflict in progress, offered to send a part of it to San Diego if they might hope for fire proof buildings in which it could be housed. A small committee was sent north to choose exhibits and to clinch the matter. The committee included the San Diego Mayor, the President of the Panama-California International Exposition, as it was called in 1916, and other members, among them Mrs. Lawson and Miss Klauber. Because the San Diego facility was so small and the French Exhibition was so extensive, they chose the largest number possible from “what France had loaned to San Francisco from the Luxemburg Gallery in Paris.” Very memorable to citizens were important paintings by Eduoard Manet, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Paul Cezanne, Renoir, Daumier, and others of the Impressionist group, then “coming into great prominence.” The San Diego painter and art activist and other community leaders began to think very seriously about a new civic museum to benefit San Diego. Miss Klauber had proposed to the Wednesday Club on April 14, 1909, that the Club might be interested in building an art gallery. Her proposal was enthusiastically received by all indications by the social service’s members and Mrs. M. A. Luce moved that a “a committee be appointed to have in mind the work of building a public fireproof gallery, to be located in the park, suitable for the exhibition of valuable collections which may be secured from time to time.” Miss Klauber was named chairman of the Art Building Committee. The first benefit for the Art Gallery Fund was a repeat performance of a song-story, or melopes, in alternate prose and verse. The fund gradually grew until it was liquidated under happy circumstances. It took another decade, however, for it to become a reality. She unquestionably exerted some influence on patrons Mr. and Mrs. Appleton S. Bridges in their generous offer to build an art museum for the City after being informed that the City lacked a suitable building to house an important collection such as the modern French art that had been sent to San Diego for the Exposition of 1915. Incorporated in 1925, the Fine Arts Society (today called the membership) continues to operate the San Diego Museum of Art. Among Bridges’ charities, the San Diego Museum of Art was perhaps his favorite. Solidly supported by members, the Wednesday Club was categorized as a Fellow member. San Diegans gave the museum when it opened a rousing welcome and it was hailed for its beauty and richness locally and nationally. The building with the La Jolla Library earned Johnson international recognition when he was commissioned to design a three-building complex for the Spanish Exposition in 1929 commemorating the art of Francesco Goya. One of the buildings today, serves as the American embassy in Seville, Spain. For his Spanish architecture he was recognized by King Alfonso XIII, 1886-1941, playboy sovereign who’s affair with Mistinguett a colorful habitué of Parisian nightlife and made famous in the posters of Toulouse Lautrec, was an international scandal during la belle epoch. 48


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