The War Years (1940-1950)

     During World War II, many artist members of the Guild became involved in the war effort. Isabelle Churchman became a draftsman for the 11th Naval District and both Dayton Brown and J. Milford Ellison specialized in camouflage work. Consolidated Aircraft hired a number of artists including John L. Stoner, Ethel Greene, Monty Lewis, and James Clark. The University of California Division of War Research on Pt. Loma also hired artists. At the wars end, they moved to the Naval Electronics laboratory where Barney Reid later directed the program and Ethel Greene and Dan Dickey worked there. Ruth Ball and Anna Valentien taught sculpture and crafts at the U.S.O., and Belle Baranceanu created posters and murals for the war effort.

     The Guild continued to exhibit at the Fine Arts gallery in the early 1940's, including a special print and drawing show in Oct. 1941. Everett Gee Jackson, Maurice Braun, James Tank Porter, Elsie Kimberly, Ivan Messenger, continued the Guild tradition of lectures at the Fine Arts Gallery during the 1940's. Belle Baranceanu's mural "The Seven Arts" was unveiled at La Jolla High School in February 1941. This mural was later destroyed in 1975, but has since been restored.

     In 1941 the Business Men's club organized with several Guild members to enjoy painting as a hobby. Charles Small when he was president of the Business Men's Art Club said he was "something of a missionary in spreading his belief that it is fun to paint." This organization under the guidance of Alfred Mitchell later became the San Diego Art Institute.
     Ruth Ball, sculpture and Mrs. John Stoner, painting and general chairman held art classes for sailors. There were also classes held for children. Both classes were free. Also space was provided for studios for the servicemen and Alfred Mitchell, Otto H. Schneider, and Jean Rittenhouse offered assistance and criticism. All materials were provided free as well.
An article about this was written in the San Diego Union February 13, 1942:

Special Class in Drawing Organized for Servicemen

Sailors from the San Diego Military Reservation kibitzing a children's sketch class at the San Diego Fine Arts Gallery.

     "The children's art classes at the Fine Arts gallery created so much interest among sailors stationed in Balboa Park that a special class for navy men is being organized this month."

     Maurice Braun, Charles Fries, and Charles Reiffel all died within a short span between 1940 and 1942. During the summer of 1942, the Fine Arts Gallery held a large retrospective of the late Charles Reiffel's work.

Charles Reiffel

     In November of 1940, the Guild held an open studio tour. This was the first such event ever held in San Diego. Here is the caption of the map for the directions to the studios and galleries that participated in this tour, written by Eileen Jackson in the San Diego Union on November 28, 1940:

     "Are you surprised to see a map in the social column? It has social as well as art significance because it shows you how to locate the artist's studios and galleries, which will be open to the public this afternoon. All artists have been asked to keep 'open house' today in celebration of Art week. Use it for your art tour today: (1) Fine Arts gallery, Balboa park; (2) San Diego Academy of Fine Arts, Balboa park; (3) Miss Ruth Ball, Balboa park; (4) Spanish Village Art Center, Balboa park; (5) Alfred Mitchell, 1506 Thirty-first st.; (6) Charles Reiffel, 5302 Orange; (7) Georgia Bemis, U. S. Grant hotel; (8) Belle Baranceanu (evening only), 3068 First ave.; (9) Everett Gee Jackson, 1234 Franciscan way; (10) Duke Lovell, 3232 Dove st.; (11) Mrs. H. L. Sumerlin, 4011 Ingalls st.; (12) Elizabeth Sherman, 1415 Plumosa way; (13) Miss Keffer, 4334 Valle Vista; (14) Mrs. A. M. Shoven, 2151 W. California. Also cooperating in the open house but not within the radius of this map are: Maurice Braun, 61 Silvergate, Pt. Loma; Donal Hord, 3838 Kendall, Crown Point; James Tank Porter, 4990 Porter Hill rd.; La Mesa; Mrs. Lester, 1218 El Granito, Grossmont, and Mrs. Mary McCartin, 941 G ave., Coronado."

     Because of the war, accessibility to the gallery was difficult during the evening, so in April 1942 the Guild held an opening tea at 3:00 during daylight hours. Otto Schneider held a one-man show, simultaneous with the Guild's annual that year.

     This article written in the San Diego Union in the July 25, 1942 issue describes an unusual event caused by concerns about the war:


Students Get Thrill Out of 'Dull' Class Work

     "Members of the Fine Arts gallery summer watercolor class were a bit disappointed yesterday when their teacher, Everett Jackson, head of the arts department at State College set them to painting pictures of the new Robinson st. bridge, being constructed over Eleventh ave. canyon.
     They thought the assignment was not colorful enough. Before the day was over, they realized they were wrong.
     Neighbors mistook the vari-colored smocks of the 20 students for kimonas; decided spies were sketching strategic structure and telephoned the authorities.
     'What's going on here?' demanded an operative of one of the secret federal services.
     Jackson sought to explain. Reginald Poland, director of the Fine Arts gallery, who was in the class, also sought to explain. The students began wondering who would furnish bail.
     All was satisfactory, however, when Jackson vouched for Poland and Poland vouched for Jackson. The painting continued, with Jackson giving assurance that the works of his class would never get to the enemy and that as engineering designers his students would be of little assistance to anyone."

     A few years after the war began, the US Navy moved temporarily into the Fine Arts Gallery. They turned the museum into a Naval Hospital. The Fine Arts Society and the Art Guild moved to a new donated location at 2324 Pine Street in 1943. In October of 1943 the Guild held another art mart on the lawn of the public library. Works by non-Guild artists, guests, and service men were featured.

Alfred Mitchell teaching - 1943

     An article written in the Progressive Journal on December 12, 1943 describes a show in the new gallery:


     "The 29th annual exhibition of the San Diego Art Guild opens this afternoon at the Art Gallery building, 2324 Pine st. Mostly San Diegans, exhibitors are all members of the Fine Arts society of this city. This 29th exhibition is unique, in confining itself, as to pictures, to examples reduced in size, because of limited space at the Gallery's temporary quarters. Visitors will find new interest in studying this problem, and seeing something different this year.
     At 3 o'clock the announcement of winners of four $25 War Bonds and a number of honorable mentions will be made. At 4 o'clock tea will be served. Invitations have gone out to all members of the Fine Arts society and their friends. The Gallery doors are open to the public, free; a cordial invitation is extended to all…"

Maurice Braun

     An exhibition of Maurice Braun and several other shows including a watercolor show by the Guild were also held at the Pine St. Gallery.
Several Guild members who served in the military had shows at the Gallery, Tech. Sgt. Milford Ellison and Lt. Jean Swiggett were among them.

City's Art Lovers Throng Library Lawn

Art goes to war on the home front. Art patrons examine the talents of local artists at an open-air mart on the public library grounds. The exhibit is sponsored by the San Diego Art guild and all purchases are made with war bonds.

     On August 25, 1944, Wilma Crittenden wrote this article for the Tribune-Sun:

Open-Air Art Show Delights
     "Art lovers of San Diego turned out in appreciable numbers yesterday for the opening of the San Diego Art guild's three-day art mart on the lawn of the public library.
     The grounds, gay with colorful umbrellas spread under the tall palms, offered an interesting array of talent to patrons who thronged the exhibit throughout the day, purchasing their selections with war bonds.
     Scarcely two hours after the opening of the show, sales of more than 20 art pieces had been made, at an average of a $25 war bond each according to Mina Pulsifer, president of the guild…
Oriental Work
     Outstanding also was the Oriental brush work of Elsie S. Kimberly, whose water colors are as delicately beautiful as the lotus blossom. Daughter of the late Rear Adm. Lewis Ashfield Kimberly, Miss Kimberly was born in the navy yard I New York. She christened two destroyers which bore her father's name, one in each world war, she said…"

Sunset Blvd. Gallery

     The Guild and Gallery moved from Pine St. to 2030 Sunset Blvd. in 1944. The Gallery opened on Dec. 31, 1944 with several exhibitions including "Portraits of Guild members by Guild members."

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

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