By Sue Lang
As we mark Women’s History Month, did you know that a significant woman in history has left a legacy in the greater Redding area?
Come see the remarkable artwork of Eupherina Charlton Fortune (1885-1969) at the Shasta State Historic Park, the only designated art gallery within the California State Park System. Fortune’s work, along with others by world-renowned artists, are on exhibit as part of the Mae Helene Bacon Boggs collection.
Boggs was a strong proponent for the Votes for Women campaign in California. She also was an avid supporter women’s art. Approximately 25 percent of the artwork in the Boggs collection is by women artists.
Fortune was one of California’s first female impressionist painters. Her artistic style developed into one which is considered a bridge between the old academic style of painting and the new impressionistic style. An independent, dedicated professional woman in early 20th-century California, she was a pioneer female artist in a world basically reserved for men.
Fortune became very much a part of the local art scene in San Francisco and friended many men who became well-known artists, including Armin Hansen and Maynard Dixon. Both Dixon and Hansen’s work also can be seen at the Shasta State Historic Park. Some contend she was avoiding gender identification in the art world by using only her first initial and family name: E. Charlton Fortune.
Fortune suffered the misfortunes of a cleft palate, the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, two world wars, the Great Depression and the loss of her father when she was still a child. All of it may have both informed and altered her course as an artist.
Being born without what some would consider beauty at the time in the late 1800s narrowed her options for a career or courtship. Yet, sometimes her works were criticized for being too beautiful and not focusing on social realities.
Although Fortune may not have considered herself a modernist, in retrospect, she definitely was one who ended up, in turn, influencing generations of painters across the country.
Fortune was a brilliant colorist, who influenced painters such as The Society of Six, a group of male artists who painted outdoors, socialized and exhibited together in and around Oakland, California, in the 1910s and 1920s.
During one of three visits to Europe, fortune received a Silver Medal for “St. Ives After Sunset” while exhibited at the Paris Salon. She also won medals at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco and the 1915 California Exposition in San Diego. She won first-prize three consecutive years at the California State Fair from 1928 to 1930. She was an illustrator for Harpers and Sunset Magazine.
The Shasta State Park shows two of her works: “St. Ives After Sunset” (1922) and “St. Tropez Ship Chandler” (1926). She is also exhibited at:
- Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento
- Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
- Irvine Museum
- Monterey Museum of Art
- Oakland Museum of California
- Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art