John Gamble, an American painter who lived and painted in California, holds a high place in the early California school of Impressionism. Having lived 93 years, he spent most of his artistic career painting springtime displays of wildflowers in his beloved State of California. Earning a national reputation, his paintings of the California golden poppies, blue lupine and rolling coastal hills graced the walls of many museums and art collections across the country.

Born on November 25, 1863 in Morristown, New Jersey, young John Gamble received his early art training at the San Francisco School of Design in San Francisco under Virgil Williams and Emil Carlsen. Like many other American artists he made the customary pilgrimage to Paris for art study at the Academie Julian under Jean-Paul Laurens and Benjamin Constant, and he also attended the Academie Colarossi, Paris.

Returning from Europe he established a successful career in San Francisco, however in 1906 San Francisco experienced a devastating earthquake and fire that destroyed the city and his studio, only three paintings survived that were out with an art dealer. Packing up the little that was left he headed south for Los Angeles but only made it as far as Santa Barbara being captivated by the town’s charm and the landscape’s native beauty.

When questioned by an interviewer about his passion for floral painting, he replied: “I never painted them as flowers at all. I didn’t even think of them as flowers while I was painting. They were just color patches to me, I simply liked the way they designed themselves across the field”. Many stolid Easterners considered his paintings pure fabrications, however when they made the trip to California’s countryside in springtime the doubters were always proven wrong. After a long and successful career, and after a brief illness John Gamble’s life came to an end on April 7, 1957.

John Gamble held memberships with the San Francisco Art Association and the Santa Barbara Art Association. He won the Gold Medal Award at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, Seattle 1909.

Bibliography: Plein Air Painters of the North, Ruth Lilly Westphal, 1998; Edan Milton Hughes, Artists in California 1786-1940, 1989

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