Above: E. Charlton Fortune, Above the Town (Monterey Bay), 1918. Oil on canvas, 30 1/8 x 40 1/8 in. Collection of Stephen P. Diamond. MD.

EXHIBITION: E. Charlton Fortune: The Colorful Spirit
VENUE: Crocker Art Museum, 216 O Street, Sacramento, CA
DATES: January 28 — April 22, 2018

  • One of the West's leading plein-air painters and nationally renowned ecclesiastical designer
  • Bold, vigorous paintings often thought to have been painted by a man
  • Largest exhibition of the artist's work ever assembled.

Sacramento, Calif. - UPDATED January 24, 2018 - The Crocker Art Museum is pleased to announce the January 28 opening of E. Charlton Fortune: The Colorful Spirit, an exhibition of work by one of California's most progressive female artists. This exhibition brings together approximately 85 of Fortune's portrait drawings, her most important impressionist and modern landscapes, and ecclesiastical paintings and furnishings made for the Catholic Church.

E. Charlton Fortune, Christ Meets His Mother. Oil on panel, 32 x 34 in. From The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the Providence Hospital Chapel, Oakland, California, 1953. Collection of Paula and Terry Trotter.

Euphemia Charlton Fortune (1885–1969), who went by Effie and signed her paintings E. Charlton Fortune, was born in Sausalito, California, and came of age during a time when women began to redefine their expected roles in society. She studied at San Francisco’s Mark Hopkins Institute of Art and continued her training at the Art Students League in New York. After travelling abroad, Fortune returned to California in 1912, and spent that summer painting in Carmel-by-the-Sea. She generally spent summers on the Monterey Peninsula making art and teaching, returning to San Francisco in the winter to complete unfinished paintings, exhibit them, and produce charcoal portraits.

Unmarried and of independent spirit, she often rode her bicycle to find the perfect setting to paint in plein air. The resulting landscapes were not delicate, soft, or feminine but bold and vigorous — and often thought to have been painted by a man. Because Fortune’s paintings were daring, many reviewers described them as masculine, attributing their success to a perceived virility — then one of the most highly regarded qualities in art, especially in California.

“Fortune’s strong personality and progressive spirit are manifest in her work,” said Crocker Art Museum Chief Curator, Scott A. Shields. “Though her paintings are frequently labeled Impressionist, she often moved beyond the style, a fact recognized even in her own time,” he added. “Commentators were happiest when they could bestow adjectives like powerful, vigorous, forceful, and direct — especially on paintings by men, but also on those made by women. They found these qualities in strong color, boldly developed structure and composition, and confident, assured brushstrokes, all of which characterized Fortune’s mature paintings.”

In the 1910s, many critics began to express the opinion that no female artist in California had a brighter future than Fortune. “She hit her stride,” Shields said, “around 1915, the year of San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition, where she won a silver medal.” Fortune ultimately became best known in California for views of Monterey and its wharf, which featured architecture, people, and other elements of modern life; she was drawn to similar scenes abroad and was especially interested in humanity’s impact on the environment. One of her most important contributions lay in her ability to combine multiple subjects — landscape, architecture, people, and boats — while most other California artists prioritized land, coast, and sea. Fortune saw herself as part of a new era and aimed to accord as much attention to the formal qualities of her art as to her subjects.

In March 1921, Fortune travelled to Europe with her mother, where she pursued an even bolder, more colorful style. In Cornwall, England, she primarily painted local activities with boats, people, and architecture. Her Summer Morning, St. Ives (St. Ives Harbor) won a silver medal at the Société des Artistes Français Salon of 1924—the award going to “Monsieur Fortune (Charlton).”

E. Charlton Fortune, Summer Morning, St. Ives (St. Ives Harbor), 1923. Oil on canvas, 38 1/8 x 48 1/4 in. Monterey Museum of Art, gift of Msgr. Robert E. Brennan.

In Saint-Tropez, France, Fortune continued to pursue subjects like those she had rendered in St. Ives, but with even brighter color than before. Fortune returned to Monterey in 1927, but new opportunities, the onset of the Great Depression, and, for the first time, unenthusiastic reviews of her work conspired to change her course. Her foray into ecclesiastical design began at St. Angela Merici church in Pacific Grove, not far from her home, when Father Charles T. Kerfs asked her to decorate its sanctuary. The project led Fortune to found the Monterey Guild, which she, as director, envisioned as a modern version of a medieval craft guild. The venture was cooperative, with Fortune producing designs and overseeing the work of Guild members, who made devotional furnishings in wood, metal, and the needle arts.

During this time, Fortune essentially gave up easel painting, though she continued to limn religious works for the Catholic church, eventually transforming more than 70 Catholic church interiors in 16 states. In Kansas City, for example, Fortune’s work included a bishop’s private chapel; the creation of an altar, furnishings, and monumental reredos in St. Peter’s Catholic Church; and a tabernacle, liturgical objects, and a large mosaic for the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. For the latter, in 1955, Pope Pius XII granted her the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (For Church and Pope) medal and certificate, the highest distinction awarded to an artist by the Vatican. Fortune even worked in Sacramento, California, accepting a commission to produce altar furnishings for Saint Rose Chapel, a project sponsored by the McClatchy family.

Monterey Guild, Altar Furnishings, including tabernacle, candlesticks, embroidered dossal, riddels, and a guilded, wooden crucifix carved with rose leaves and roses, Saint Rose Chapel, Sacramento, c. 1937–1938.

Fortune spent her final years in Carmel Valley, California. Never afraid to pursue her own path or push the boundaries of “her station,” she earned the admiration and respect of both genders. Few could dispute her standing as one of the West’s leading painters and, later, as an ecclesiastical designer of national importance.

“I am proud that the Crocker has a history of bringing underrecognized artists into the public eye,” said the Museum’s Director and CEO, Lial Jones. ”Ms. Fortune’s art is as bold and influential as she was. It is our pleasure to shine a light on her extraordinary life and work."

Fortune in her studio at Portsmouth Priory, Rhode Island, c. 1950. Photographer unknown. Photograph courtesy of James R. Fortune.

E. Charlton Fortune: The Colorful Spirit is organized by the Pasadena Museum of California Art and curated by Scott A. Shields, Associate Director and Chief Curator at the Crocker Art Museum.

A 236-page, fully illustrated catalogue written by Crocker Art Museum Associate Director and Chief Curator, Scott A. Shields, featuring scholarly essays by Shields and Julianne Burton-Carvajal, accompanies the exhibition. The catalogue includes more than 150 reproductions and photographs of Fortune’s paintings and church furnishings, as well as photographs of the artist and a detailed chronology outlining her unconventional life.

High resolution images of several works featured in this exhibition are available to the press/media upon request.

Karen Christian
Media Relations Associate, Crocker Art Museum

(tickets available at crockerart.org)

Curator Talk: Scott A. Shields on Impressionist E. Charlton Fortune
MARCH 4, 2018, 2 PM
Artist Euphemia Charlton Fortune found her way to success in the decidedly male-dominated art world of the early-20th century. In the largest exhibition of Fortune’s work ever presented, E. Charlton Fortune: The Colorful Spirit offers viewers a full and robust understanding of her extraordinary career and Impressionist depictions. Join Scott A. Shields, the Crocker’s chief curator and associate director, for an in-depth look at Fortune – a singular personality whose career took surprising turns – to better understand her work and her colorful spirit.

Lunch & Learn
MARCH 6, 2018, 12 & 1 PM
Join an in-depth examination of E. Charlton Fortune’s painting Summer Morning, St. Ives (St. Ives Harbor), 1923. Before or after the 30-minute gallery conversation, take time to enjoy lunch at the Crocker Cafe by Supper Club. Each Lunch & Learn features a different work of art.

Art History: Women, Art, and History: E. Charlton Fortune, Corita Kent, and Faith Ringgold in Context
This spring, the Crocker will host three exhibitions, each devoted to an important American female artist: E. Charlton Fortune, Corita Kent, and Faith Ringgold. Because the dates of these shows overlap, they offer a unique opportunity to explore in depth the subject of women in 20th-century art history. From Fortune’s picturesque Impressionism to Kent’s spiritually-infused Pop and Ringgold’s socially-engaged quilts, we will explore the unique contributions these women and their sister artists have made to the history of American art.
Instructor: Kevin Muller


The Crocker Art Museum’s mission is to promote an awareness of and enthusiasm for human experience through art.

About the Crocker Art Museum
Accredited with the American Alliance of Museums for characteristics of excellence, the Crocker Art Museum features the world’s foremost display of California art and is renowned for its holdings of European master drawings and international ceramics. The Crocker serves as the primary regional resource for the study and appreciation of fine art and holds permanent collections of Californian, European, Asian, African, and Oceanic art, works on paper, ceramics, and photography. The Museum offers a diverse spectrum of exhibitions, events, and programs to augment its collections, including films, concerts, studio classes, lectures, children’s activities, and more. The Museum has also dedicated the historic building’s entire first floor as an education center, which includes four classrooms, space for student and community exhibitions, the Gerald Hansen Library, and Tot Land.

Hours & Admission
Museum hours are 10 AM – 5 PM, Tuesday through Sunday, and 10 AM – 9 PM on Thursdays. General admission is free for Crocker members, Adults $10, Seniors and College Students $8, Youth (7-17) $5, and Children 6 and under are free. Every third Sunday of the month is "Pay What You Wish Sunday", sponsored by Western Health Advantage.

Location & Parking
The Crocker is located at 216 O Street in downtown Sacramento. The Museum is accessible by Light Rail with stops close by at 8th & O and 8th & K streets. Bike racks are located in Crocker Park, across the street from the Museum’s front door. Ample parking is available within walking distance including street parking, parking lots, and public garages.

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