Landscape Paintings on View >>>
ANNIE LYLE HARMON: ON HER OWN PATH
Neill-Cochran House Museum, Austin Texas
Through December 19, 2021
Austin’s Neill-Cochran House Museum is set to present an exhibition that gathers 17 California landscape paintings created by Annie Lyle Harmon (1855–1930), who is seldom highlighted today because most of her work was destroyed during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. Drawn from a private Austin collection that descended through the family of Irene Boone, a colleague of Harmon’s friend and patron Emma Noel, this project reveals how Harmon was inspired by the Golden State’s famously beautiful scenery, particularly its northern forests.
This is only the second known exhibition of Harmon’s work, the first having occurred in 2010 at the College of St. Mary in Moraga, California. Located just west of the University of Texas campus, the Neill-Cochran House Museum focuses its programming on the century that opened with its own construction (1856), and indeed Harmon’s paintings once graced homes just like this one.
Harmon was born into a lumbering family who had come from Maine to San Francisco in 1852 to satisfy the Gold Rush’s explosive demand for timber. Her art suggests that the time she spent in the forests where her family’s business thrived inspired in her a love for the very trees that supported them. Harmon’s relationship with her mentor William Keith, a friend of John Muir and one of California’s best-known painters of Yosemite and other natural wonders, influenced her approach to landscape painting. Unlike Keith, however, she focused on intimate and fleeting moments rather than monumental vistas.
The paintings on view this season include scenes from the estate of Laurel Court in Menlo Park and from a rubber plantation in Mexico, as well as California’s coastal forests. Several of them are truly intimate in scale, completed on cigar box lids and perhaps intended as gifts to friends. Industrial development rarely intrudes into Harmon’s scenes, even though San Francisco was surging outward at the very time she was painting.
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