The Prequel (1904-1914)

     The history of the Guild begins in January 1904 with a meeting of local artists and their friends. The first article written about that event was published in the San Diego Evening Tribune on February 19, 1904. It is as follows:


     "Organization was practically completed at Thearle's music rooms of the San Diego Art association, some thirty being in attendance, a noticeable increase over the size of the first meeting two weeks ago. Much enthusiasm was manifested and the feeling prevailed at the close, that an era of awakened interest in art in this city may be confidently expected.
The report of the by-laws committee was read by Chairman Macfadyn and adopted, following which Anthony Loftus, one of the prime movers in the organization, read a brief but most interesting paper on the influence of art culture on the moral and spiritual life of communities. He foresaw a time, not long distant, when San Diego would rival the European centers of art, and spoke for the growth of a spirit which would bring artists of repute here to make their home."

     On August 19, 1904 the San Diego Art Association was formally incorporated. Future Guild members on the original document as Directors or Trustees of said Corporation are Daniel Cleveland, Charles A. Fries, and Nora V. Sullivan. President Daniel Cleveland stated at the time of incorporation the objectives of the new association:

I. "The encouragement and study of art in all its higher branches.
II. To establish and maintain art schools.
III. To establish and maintain collections of works of art.
IV. To erect, own, equip and maintain buildings for the purposes of this corporation.
V. To purchase and lease lands and buildings, and to acquire by purchase, gift, devise and otherwise, and to own, hold, possess and manage real and personal property for the purposes of this corporation."

     Two months after incorporation, bylaws were adopted and the association established the annual meeting to be held on the third Thursday in January. Cultural leaders and artists who signed the bylaws included, Daniel Cleveland, Charles A. Fries, Annie Pierce, and Julius Wangenheim. Standing committees within the organization included the Outdoor (Civic) Committee as well as the standard Program, Membership, Finance, Exhibition, and Art Purchase committees. The association worked to develop an art interest within the community through educational, exhibition, and collecting programs.

     Daniel Cleveland was the first Republican mayor of San Antonio, Texas. After the Civil War, this Poughkeepsie, New York native came to San Diego in 1869. A practicing lawyer for over fifty years, he was active in local banking, railroad promotion and real estate development. Among his many interests was co-founder of San Diego's first bank-the Bank of San Diego-with Alonzo E. Horton, Matthew Sherman, and others, in 1870.
     Cleveland is also remembered for his civic and philanthropic activities. He was instrumental in preventing the privatization of land within City (Balboa) Park in 1872. Cleveland also helped organize the city's first hospital, tubercular clinic, summer school, library and art association (the forerunner of the present Museum of Fine Art), and children's municipal playground. A noted local historian and naturalist, in 1874 he helped found the San Diego Natural History Society - the oldest scientific society in Southern California - serving as its president and benefactor for many years. An active amateur botanist, Cleveland sent a large number of terrestrial and marine plant specimens, a number of which were named after him in his honor, to Harvard and Yale universities.
     Cleveland was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery.
(Contributed by Alexander D. Bevil.)

     In the beginning, the San Diego Art Association held several exhibitions in the art gallery on the second floor of the Andrew Carnegie public library. Their first exhibition was held in July 1905. Among the exhibiting artists were Charles Fries, Ammi Farnham, and San Diego natives Annie Pierce, and Alice Klauber. The first exhibitions were held twice yearly, during the summer and winter months. These exhibits featured mostly local art, but other artists were allowed to show. Works were frequently sold and the gallery was freely opened to the public. The association also purchased works of art for a permanent collection. A series of lectures was sponsored by the association on the third Monday of each month. These monthly meetings were held in the private homes of its members. There they discussed art, had the lectures about historical artists and their work, and planned for the future of the visual arts in our community. In March of 1905 a sketch club was formed.
     The first donation of a work of art to the organization was a painting, "California Roses" (present location unknown) by Edith White. Several citizens of San Diego gave it to the association in 1905.

     Daniel Cleveland stated at the association's annual meeting in January 1906, "Our local artists have felt and acknowledged the stimulus and help given to them by the association, and they have entered enthusiastically into our purposes and our work. The display of their pictures in our public exhibitions has made them and their merits better known to the public, and has created a demand for their work. It has been seen that our artists compare favorably with painters in other sections of our land, whose pictures hang on the same walls with them. Our artists have been drawn more closely together in a spirit of good fellowship, and in mutual respect and helpfulness."
     He later said at the association's annual meeting in January 1907, "Not the least of the good work done by our association has been the drawing together of our local artists through membership in our association, and the creation in this way of fraternal, harmonious, and mutually helpful relations among them. As members of our association they have all worked together for the common good. They seem to be free from the spirit of rivalry, narrow competition, and petty jealousy. Whenever this association is preparing for a public art exhibit our artist members freely give of their time and labor, and in all practicable ways they generously dedicate their services to the aid of the association."
     He also discussed the goal of the organization, which included the establishment of a permanent art gallery.
     Numerous other leaders of the San Diego community became members including George Marston, Julius Wangenheim, Herbert C. Hensley, and Dr. Peter C. Remondino. Other members included artists Leda Klauber, Alice D. Peirce, Annie Pierce, Anna Valentien, Mary Belle Williams, and Nora V. Sullivan. Artists Charles A. Fries, Ammi Farnham, Alice Klauber, Albert R. Valentien, and architect Irving Gill served as members of the board of directors of the organization.

Note: Links go to photos on The San Diego History Center werbsite.

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