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Constance Draper Seely Still (1901 – 1971)

Sea and Land Abstraction, 1936, oil on canvas board, 20 x 16 inches, signed and dated lower left, exhibited at the 18th Annual Paintings and Sculpture Exhibit at the Los Angeles Museum Exposition Park (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), from April 9 through June 12, 1937 (label verso, including title, original price $500 and artist’s address, 1011 North Alfred), another label verso reads “226” and “0-0-1”, framer’s label verso with a W. 7th street, Los Angele address


About the Painting

A unique aspect of 1920s and 1930s modernism in Los Angeles was a distinct combination of bright bold colors and what was then described as an “Oriental” line. The playful and striking palette was largely due to the influence of the founding members of Synchronism, Morgan Russell and Stanton MacDonald-Wright, who assumed leadership of the Los Angeles Art Students League in 1923 and served as a WPA supervisor for the Los Angeles area beginning in 1935. The influence of the “Orient” came from the proximity of the West Coast to Asia, the extensive trade with the East which flowed through California ports, and the large number of Japanese and Japanese American artists working during this period in Southern California, including Hideo Date and Benju Okubo. For these artists, it was natural that the Pacific Coast of the United States would look to Asia for inspiration, while the Atlantic coast turned toward Europe. Many of these Japanese American artists developed works based on flat patterning, non-traditional perspective, an undulating, curvaceous and delicate line, and the use of large blocks of color to define space. Still’s Sea and Land Abstraction is a product of these influences. It is anything but a conventional Southern California beach scene. The umbrellas are brought forward and seem to float above the ground. The sandy beach and cliffs are a riot yellows, pinks, and purples while the ocean, sky, and surrounding hills swirl around the composition calling to mind Hokusai's Great Wave Off Kanagawa. A feeling of movement is everywhere. The resulting work is a magical painting that captures the essence of the California coast - a delicate West Coast alternative to the cubist influenced angles of Marin's or Hartley's Northeast Atlantic scenes.

About the Artist

Constance Draper Seely Still was a Southern California modernist painter. She was born in Ohio, but moved with her family to Burbank, California by 1910. Little detailed information is known about her biography or art education. In 1918, she entered charcoal sketches to the annual scholarship competition for the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, but it is not known whether she won a scholarship or whether she attended art school in San Francisco. According to the 1920 US census, she maintained an address with her parents in Los Angeles and the 1940 census indicates Still had completed two years of college. In 1934, she married Andrew Lewis Still, a mechanical engineer and submariner during World War II. Several years after their marriage, in 1937, Still had a son, Andrew. She showed paintings, including Sea and Land Abstraction, at the Los Angeles Museum (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) in 1936 and 1937 as part of the Annual Painters & Sculptors of Los Angeles exhibitions. The 1940 Los Angeles voter registration rolls list Still as a professional artist and the original price of Sea and Land Abstraction in 1937 was a princely $500. Her husband’s 1942 draft registration card lists Andrew as being unemployed suggesting that Constance was the family’s bread winner during this time. By 1953, the family moved to New Mexico where Andrew died in 1956. After Andrew’s death, Constance moved back to Los Angeles, where she died in 1971. She is listed in Who was Who in American Art and Hughes’ Artist’s in California 1786 – 1940.


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