Review: Grafton Tyler Brown’s California scenes at Pasadena museum’s final show

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-11-05 17:15Z by Steven

Review: Grafton Tyler Brown’s California scenes at Pasadena museum’s final show

The Los Angeles Times

Christopher Knight, Art Critic

Grafton Tyler Brown, “Cascade Cliffs, Columbia River,” 1885, oil on canvas (Pasadena Museum of California Art)

In 1879, Grafton Tyler Brown took a giant leap. A successful San Francisco businessman, then 38, he decided to become a Western scene painter. Brown sold his thriving lithography company and headed out to see the sights, brush in hand.

Over the course of the next dozen years, he produced picturesque portraits of Mt. Shasta and Mt. Rainier, the Cascade Gorge along the Columbia River and the geysers of the newly anointed National Park at Yellowstone. A sliver of what he saw on those wide-ranging travels is now on view in “Grafton Tyler Brown: Exploring California,” a modest exhibition at the Pasadena Museum of California Art.

Two other Brown exhibitions have been done — the first at the Oakland Museum in 1972, which focused on his commercial lithographs, and a 2003 survey of 49 paintings at the California African American Museum. (The painting show traveled to Baltimore’s Walters Art Museum.) One wishes that the Pasadena show had managed a full overview of his entire output, lithographs and paintings alike. That’s long overdue…

…Much more deserves to be known about Brown, the first African American artist believed to have been working in 19th century California. Light-skinned, he began to pass as white sometime after moving west from Harrisburg, Penn.

He launched G.T. Brown & Co. just as the Civil War was ending — perhaps a sign of candid optimism — and the business prospered throughout the Reconstruction era. But with patrons such as Benjamin Franklin Washington, editor of the then-openly racist San Francisco Examiner, Brown lived with the grinding daily risk of exposure. One cannot help but wonder whether the fitful end of Reconstruction in 1877, with its troubled aftermath for black Americans, might have propelled his decision to head out into the wilderness to paint scenic landscapes…

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Grafton Tyler Brown: Exploring California

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States on 2018-05-10 15:20Z by Steven

Grafton Tyler Brown: Exploring California

Pasadena Museum of California Art
490 East Union Street
Pasadena, California 91101
(626) 568-3665

2018-06-17 through 2018-10-07

Bridget R. Cooks, Curator; Associate Professor of Art History and African American Studies
University of California, Irvine

Grafton Tyler Brown, Grand Canyon and Falls, 1887. Oil on canvas. 30 x 20 inches. Courtesy of the Melvin Holmes Collection of African American Art. Photo ©John Wilson White Studio

Grafton Tyler Brown: Exploring California is organized by the Pasadena Museum of California Art and curated by Bridget R. Cooks Ph.D.. The exhibition is supported by the PMCA Board of Directors, PMCA Ambassador Circle, and the California Visionary Fund.

Grafton Tyler Brown (1841-1918) was a painter, graphic designer, and lithographer in the 19th century. A talented artist and entrepreneur, Brown was the only documented African American in his field in the western United States at the time.

Born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Brown learned about lithography while working for a printer in Philadelphia at the age of fourteen. The gold and silver mining boom in the 1800s encouraged him to venture West to establish a business and home. In 1865, Brown founded his first lithography business in San Francisco, where he served the emerging business communities in the area, designing stock certificates for a wide variety of companies ranging from ice to mining corporations, as well as admission tickets, maps, sheet music, advertisements, and billheads

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