Sullivan Goss
AN AMERICAN GALLERY
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GEORGE POST

(1906-1997)

California Watercolorist; Educator

By Erin Carroll

George Post embodies a man deeply rooted and in love with the West. His artistic portrayals of the charming city of San Francisco to the wine country of Sonoma Valley and on to the rugged coasts of Mendocino cements this adoration. When he painted, Post required that he be outdoors, it is possible that the images flowed directly from life and onto his paper.




Table of Contents

I. BIOGRAPHY

George Booth Root III was born on September 29, 1906 in Oakland, CA. In 1915, he moved to Nevada with his mother, Ruth Godfrey Root and step-father, Walter Post. During this time, George changed his last name to Post. Beginning around the age of five or six, Post showed an interest in drawing. He started formal art classes in high school. His art teacher recognized Post as a stand-out pupil and submitted some of his drawings to the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco (currently called San Francisco Art Institute). Post received a scholarship and began his two and one half year education there in 1924. It was during this time that he studied landscape painting and was introduced to painting en plein air.

In 1927, Post left school and worked in a variety of labor oriented jobs. By 1929, he was craving to use his artistic skills again and began to search for employment in which he could incorporate his talent. While strolling the streets of San Francisco on a job hunt, Post stumbled upon an exhibition by the Carmel-based watercolorist, Stanley Wood (Sept. 12, 1894-July 28,1949). These works depicted regional scenes of California cityscape and landscape. Post has said these works sparked his interest in watercolor and attributes Wood’s exhibition of crisp, bold pieces as a major influence in his artistic career.

Finding time to paint was of incredible importance to Post. Since one painting would take him about one to two hours to complete, he was able to paint every day and still maintain a “day job”. In 1930 he took a job producing commercial illustrations and advertising designs. During this time, Post also married Lou Rusk MacLean, a young art student. The couple had one daughter, Shelley, but divorced several years later.

In October of 1931, Post’s diligence paid off. His well-developed portfolio featuring California and Nevada scenes was displayed in a solo exhibition at San Francisco’s Galerie Beaux Arts. As the Depression was growing worse, Post was laid off from his job, and over the next three years worked on an oil tanker traveling to New York and back through the Panama Canal. He also spent time in Sonora, California, where he assisted his aunt and gold miners who were flocking to the Mother Lode region. This period of time allowed him to paint and create important historical documentations of the Mother Lode region and seaports during the Depression.

In 1934, Post contacted the Public Works Art Project, a government relief program for artists struggling during the Depression. The WPA paid the artist $90 a month, and he was free to travel and paint, returning once every two weeks to drop off his work in San Francisco. Post held this time in high regard and especially enjoyed the freedom he was given to paint whatever he pleased and do so outdoors. He has said, “I’ve never since those days enjoyed working inside as much as working outside because I got such a wonderful start in getting used to the elements…it seems that I’m most inspired by working outdoors.”

Money saved from his work with the WPA allowed Post to travel to Mexico, Europe and Canada from 1937 to 1938. Traveling gave him an opportunity to paint, and when he returned to San Francisco, the artist was in high demand, with three to four solo shows a year.

In the 1940s, Post added a new aspect to his career, teaching. He began instructing summer school watercolor classes at Stanford University. To his delight, the experience left Post with a desire to teach more classes and he decided to continue. From 1947 to 1972, he taught at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. In 1949, he began teaching at the Brandt-Dike Summer School of Painting. Post taught at the school until 1955 and continued after its name change to Rex Brandt Summer School of Painting until 1977. From 1971 to 1987, Post taught classes through T.H. Hewitt. Teaching allowed him to paint with his students, therefore giving him the ability to continue his career as an artist and share his knowledge with his students.

Post retired from teaching and painting in 1988. He resided in the city of San Francisco, painting occasionally, until his death in 1997.

II. AN ANALYSIS OF THE ARTIST'S WORK

“I think that the first split-second reaction, that first wonderful visual image, is the thing one must try to project on paper, not the very literal and painstaking eyeful.” – George Post

As an artist and a teacher, Post had the ability to make fresh, simple statements with confidence and effortlessness. He taught his students that, “painting should be quickly and easily tied together and accented with the individual shorthand symbols of the artist’s own particular calligraphy.” Post’s work reflected his advice. The artist’s works have a simplicity to them that requires a high level of mastery and apparent ease with painting in watercolor.

Post did not receive any formal training in watercolor painting while he was a student at the California School of Fine Arts. He was completely self-taught and credits actual time spent painting as having greater influence over his skills than any class. This especially applies to his inclination for painting outdoors. The majority of his paintings were done on-site with Post kneeling over the paper, applying carefully planned and executed strokes. By watching his surroundings and going to museums and exhibitions, Post developed a style versatile enough to be accepted by the Modern art community, yet conservative enough to be included in more traditional circles.

Post’s earliest works were mainly farm or landscape scenes produced using a wet into wet technique. In order to achieve soft edges that capture skies, clouds and water, Post would soak paper in water then, while it was still damp, he would apply paint. Throughout the years of World War II, his style evolved. By using a wide flat brush, Post formed thick, bold, transparent lines. These angular strokes formed a very personal and individual style of geometric abstraction. He also integrated the use of white paper, refusing to use white paint. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the artist began to use an off-brand paper that many artists shunned. This inexpensive paper was too thin to allow for alterations once the initial paint had been applied. Paint must be applied with direct, firm and well planned strokes. Use of this difficult paper further acknowledges and reinforces Post’s skill as a watercolorist.

George Post did not find it necessary to paint dazzling subject matter. His work generally portrays dockyards, streets, small towns and San Francisco hills. The artist resisted trends of painting only things of perfection, but focused on the mood and feeling of his subjects. His paintings are fresh, individual and realistic. They capture scenes of the West Coast with admiration and present them to the public with a deep love. Through his lifetime devotion of capturing it onto paper, Post has helped us to realize the unique beauty of the West Coast.

III. CHRONOLOGY

  • 1906 Born on September 29 in Oakland, CA
  • 1919 Attended Polytechnic High School in San Francisco
  • 1924-1926 Attended the California School of Fine Arts
  • 1930 Marries Lou Rusk MacLean
  • 1932 Daughter Shelley was born
  • 1933 Post and his wife divorce, he takes a job on an oil tanker, travels to New York via Panama Canal
  • 1936 Taught watercolor classes at the Art Students League of San Francisco
  • 1937-1938 Travels and paints in Mexico, Europe and Canada
  • 1940 Taught summer-school watercolor class at Stanford
  • 1942-1945 Worked in shipyard as storage planner
  • 1947-1972 Taught watercolor classes at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, CA
  • 1949-1955 Taught watercolor classes at the Brandt-Dike Summer School of Painting in Corona del Mar, CA
  • 1951-1952 Taught watercolor classes at San Jose State College, CA
  • 1955-1977 Taught watercolor classes at the Rex Brandt Summer School of Painting in Corona del Mar, CA
  • 1957-1959 Traveled to Oregon, Utah, Arizona and Nevada on painting excursions
  • 1962 Taught students from the Oakland Art Association while traveling across Europe
  • 1963 Elected member of the West Coast Watercolor Society
  • 1963-1965 Taught watercolor classes in CA, NV, WA
  • 1968-1969 Sailed around the world on a painting excursion
  • 1971-1987 Taught T.H. Hewitt watercolor painting classes
  • 1988 Retired from teaching
  • 1997 Died in San Francisco
  • IV. COLLECTIONS

  • California Historical Society
  • California Palace of the Legion of Honor
  • Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Mills College in Oakland
  • Oakland Museum
  • San Diego Museum
  • Santa Barbara Museum of Art
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum
  • Sonora High School (mural)
  • V. EXHIBITIONS

  • 1931 Beax Arts Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 1932-34 San Francisco Arts Center
  • 1933 Gelber-Lilenthal Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 1934 683 Brockhurst Gallery, Berkeley, CA
  • 1935-36, 1941 San Francisco Museum of Art, CA
  • 1937, 1948 Oakland Art Gallery, CA
  • 1937 Sacramento Junior College Art Gallery; Albatross Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 1939-1940, 1945, 1950, 1960 California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA
  • 1939 Courvoisier Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Sacramento Art Center; Oliver and Sammons Gallery, Berkeley, CA
  • 1940 American Art Co. Gallery, Tacoma, WA
  • 1940,1948 College of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA
  • 1941 University of Washington, Seattle
  • 1942, 1949, 1956 Laguna Beach Art Museum, CA
  • 1945 Carmel Art Gallery, CA
  • 1946, 1949, 1956 Rotunda Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 1947 Santa Barbara Museum of Art; Weston Rouze Gallery, Fresno, CA; Burkehall Gallery, LA; Witte Museum, San Antonio, TX
  • 1948 M.H. DeYoung Museum, San Francisco, CA; Laurel Wilshire Gallery, Tucson, AZ; Frederick and Nelson Gallery, Seattle, WA; Visalia College Gallery, CA
  • 1949 Seattle Art Museum, WA; Miami Beach Art Center, FL; Forum Gallery, Wichita, KS; Carmel Art Association Gallery, CA
  • 1950 Fuller Gallery, Berkeley, CA; Eastern Washington Historical Society, Spokane; Washington and the Bruner Art Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 1951-1952 Mezzanine Gallery, Oakland, CA
  • 1951 Gump’s Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Bosko’s Gallery, Berkeley, CA
  • 1952 San Jose State College, CA
  • 1953-1954 Humboldt State College Art Gallery, CA
  • 1953 American Watercolor Society Exhibitions, New York, NY; Village Gallery, Houston, TX; Villa Montalvo Gallery, Saratoga, CA
  • 1955 Fine Arts Gallery, Fresno, CA; Breuners Art Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 1958 Cedar City Art Center, UT; John Muir Art Gallery, Modesto, CA
  • 1959, 1963 California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, CA
  • 1959 Allied Arts Guild, Menlo Park, CA; Cunningham Art Gallery, Bakersfield, CA
  • 1961 Storer Gallery, Central City, KY; University of Redlands, CA; Courtyard Gallery, Monterey, CA
  • 1962 Boise Art Gallery, ID
  • 1966 Derby Gallery, Berkeley, CA
  • 1967 Vacaville Art Gallery, CA
  • 1968 University Art Gallery, Orono, ME
  • 1970-1971 Byron Street Gallery, Palo Alto, CA
  • 1970 Modesto College Art Gallery, CA
  • 1971 Los Robles Art Gallery, Palo Alto, CA; Art Gallery, Carson City, NV
  • 1976-79 Challis Galleries, Laguna Beach, CA
  • 1986 Holy Name College, Oakland, CA
  • VI. MEMBERSHIPS

  • American Watercolor Society
  • West Coast Watercolor Society
  • VII. AWARDS

  • 1936 First Prize, Oakland Art Gallery Annual Exhibition
  • 1936 Purchase Prize, San Francisco Museum of Art
  • 1947 First Prize, Oakland Art Gallery
  • 1947 First Prize, California Water Color Society Annual Show
  • 1966 Purchase Award, Springfield Art Museum, MO
  • VIII. Bibliography

    1. 1. Ferbrache, Lewis and George Post, “Interview,” Smithsonian Archives of American Art, April 9, 1964.
    2. 2. Hughes, Edan Milton. Artists in California, 1786-1940, San Francisco: Hughes Publications, 1989, p.892.
    3. 3. McClelland, Gordon T. George Post. Beverley Hills: Hillcrest Press, Inc., 1991.
    4. 4. McClelland, Gordon T. & Jay T. Last, California Watercolors 1850-1970, Beverly Hills: Hillcrest Press, Inc., 2003.
    5. 5. Paintings of George Post. Sept. 10, 1999 to Nov. 30, 1999. Mendocino, Calif.: Mendocino Art Center, 1999.

    IX. WORKS FOR SALE BY THIS ARTIST


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