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Frances Gearhart color block prints at the Pasadena Museum of California Art

December 3, 2009 |  6:32 am

Usually I'm allergic to publicists' pitches, but a few days ago I received a press release about “Behold the Day: The Color Block Prints of Frances Gearhart” at the Pasadena Museum of California Art, which included this amazing rendering of Big Sur Bridge.

Big_Sur_BridgeMaybe it’s because I just returned from a romantic pre-Thanksgiving trip to Big Sur, but this made my heart swell. I love everything about this print -- the colors, the perspective, the subject matter. It’s thoroughly Californian, but not in the sunny palm tree way.

Desperate to know more about this artist, I called up Susan Futterman, a former television executive who almost singlehandedly put together the show at the Pasadena Museum.

Gearhart (1869-1959) worked as a school teacher, never married and lived with two sisters who also were artists and teachers. (Sounds like the makings of a Jane Austen novel to me!) Well known in her time, she fell into near obscurity in recent decades. This show is the first retrospective of her work.

More images and show info after the jump...

Untroubled_Waters_SS J.Scheer_October_Splendor

The exhibit includes 70 of Gearhart's prints, including "Untroubled Waters" -- which looks like a landscape in Big Bear -- and the spectacular "October Splendor." There are also images from a children's book that never reached publication. Futterman, however, got it published through the Book Club of California and it is available for sale at the museum.

To learn more about Gearhart, you can read Futterman’s essay on the artist here or check out the museum yourself. “Behold the Day: The Color Block Prints of Frances Gearhart” closes Jan. 31.

The Pasadena Museum of California Art, 490 E. Union St., Pasadena. $7, $5 seniors and students. Free this Friday and the first Friday of each month. Open Wed.-Sun., noon to 5 p.m. Closed holidays. (626) 568-3665.

-- Deborah Netburn

Photo credits: Frances Gearhart, "Untitled (Big Sur Bridge)," 1933; Frances Gearhart, "Untroubled Waters," 1931; Frances Gearhart, "October Splendor," 1930. Courtesy Pasadena Museum of California Art.