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Selden Conner Gile


Prile's Cherry Orchard

Oil on canvas
28.25 x 34.5 x 1.125 in.
Gift of the Marie Eccles Caine Foundation

Prile’s Cherry Orchard, a radiant depiction of springtime composed in a flurry of lively brushstrokes, epitomizes Selden Gile at his impressionistic best. His exposure to French impressionism six years earlier, at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, marked a turning point for the artist. His work underwent a significant change in color palette and paint handling, moving away from the atmospheric tonalism then prevalent in Northern Californian art.

This painting illustrates the new principles Gile adopted: using color juxtapositions, working outdoors, and revealing instead of concealing the artist’s hand in the painted surface. Like the impressionists, he avoided using black. Instead, he mixed complementary colors to achieve rich dark hues, seen here in the trunks and branches of the cherry trees. Yet at the same time that Gile aspired to capture a world similar to the one evoked by the impressionists, he was alert to differences. In this joyous painting, for example, the atmosphere and luminous quality of light belong to Northern California, not France.

Gile’s affinity with the rural Bay Area environment, which he depicted in so many of his canvases from this time, is conveyed in a 1927 letter to fellow California artist Louis Siegriest:

"Weather today was very ne, very much like spring. Everything is green again and the brooks are running merrily and the ferns and mushrooms are on the way back. Took a ten-mile hike this morning and came back with ass dragging on the ground. But it was delightful all the way, the old meadowlarks chirping and frogs croaking in all the little pools—sort of gives one a thought of all’s well that ends well."

The exuberance that comes through in Gile’s writing is manifest in the dancing blossoms of this painting as well.

Nancy Boas

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