M. Evelyn McCormick (American, 1862-1948)
Cactus Garden, Del Monte, ca. 1893-1894
Oil on canvas 37 in. x 50 in. (93.98 cm x 127 cm)
Crocker Art Museum Purchase, F. M. Rowles Fund, Edan Milton Hughes's Artists in California Fund, and Rose Huckins Memorial Fund2003.26
One of Evelyn McCormick’s earliest California paintings, Cactus Garden, Del Monte, was completed shortly after the artist returned from Giverny, France, and illustrates the degree to which French Impressionism—Monet in particular—influenced her. Yellows, greens, and blues dominate, enriched by purple shadows without a hint of black. Yet, unlike Monet, McCormick retained the solidity of her forms and chose not to dissolve her subjects in light. Born in Placerville and raised in San Francisco, McCormick attended the California School of Design before traveling to Paris with fellow artist Guy Rose to study at the Académie Julian. When she returned to California in 1891, she was among the first to apply Impressionist strategies to the California landscape. This painting depicts the “Arizona Gardens” that Rudolph Ulrich designed in 1881 for the Hotel Del Monte in Monterey. Ulrich’s gardens incorporated a quadrilateral layout of cactus beds edged with serpentine rock, all of which McCormick captured with tiny, flickering strokes. The artist herself thought highly of this work and exhibited it at the San Francisco Midwinter International Exposition of 1894. McCormick was an early and important member of the Monterey Peninsula art colony and spent much of the rest of her career depicting the region’s architecture and scenery. Although her brushwork became increasingly broad as she matured, she always retained the underlying solidity of her forms. Her most frequent subjects were the historic adobe buildings of Monterey, which she painted until her death at age eighty-five.