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Theodore Wores (American, 1859-1939)

Sand Dunes and Wild Flowers, n.d.

Sand Dunes and Wild Flowers, n.d.

Oil on canvas 16 in. x 20 in. (40.64 cm x 50.8 cm)

Crocker Art Museum, gift of Drs. Ben and A. Jess Shenson


  • Theodore Wores was one of San Francisco’s first native artists, studying as a teenager under Virgil Williams at San Francisco’s California School of Design. In 1875, he enrolled at the Royal Academy in Munich. During his European study, Wores made the acquaintance of James McNeill Whistler, whose admiration of Japanese aesthetics inspired him. Wores became, in 1885, one of the first American artists to visit Japan, where he stayed for two years, followed Japanese customs, learned the language, and wrote numerous articles about the country. He returned for a second visit in 1892 and again stayed two years. While there he sketched and painted on small wood panels, often directly from nature. This painting is a faithful depiction of the village of Horikiri, which was famous for its iris gardens. In Japan, Wores’s dark, Munich-inspired palette lightened, and he began to use Impressionist color and brushwork. When he returned to California, he continued to work primarily in this style, producing landscape views of the San Francisco Bay Area and the Monterey region. Over the course of his career, he painted the state’s flowers, trees, coast, and natural landmarks. He most successfully realized California’s native wildflowers in combination with rocky shores, panoramic sea views, and hills, as well as with the adobe architecture of Monterey. Wores also painted the gardens and architecture of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. There, “his predilection for brilliant effects of sunlight, exotic scenes and people, [and] mellowed architecture, brought forth scores of canvases.”1

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