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Distant View of Old Mission in Carmel

Sugimoto, Henry [ bio ]

Distant View of Old Mission in Carmel
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H: 26.75 in, W: 32.5 in

Carmel, Calif., ca. 1939


Gift of Madeleine Sugimoto and Naomi Tagawa, Japanese American National Museum


Unstretched and unframed canvas.

View of the Pacific Ocean behind the Mission San Carlos Borromeo complex, also known as the Carmel Mission, with a stretch of sandy beach at mid-left and small hills at center-right in between. A fence runs in front of the Mission structure, with a smaller fence behind the structure at left. A mountain appears across the water in the background. The Mission has red roofs and a red domed bell tower. Sky is dark and cloudy.

Signed in medium, bottom left corner: Henry Sugimoto

Sugimoto returned to California from France in 1931. Soon after his arrival, he was awarded a one-man show at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor and a contract with the Courvoisier Gallery in San Francisco. Now an experienced artist, Sugimoto turned to the landscapes of Northern California with the same dedication he gave his studies of the haystacks of Voulangis and other aspects of the French countryside he loved so well. In this painting of the Old Carmel Mission, Sugimoto captures the expansive quality of the landscape by taking a more distant point of view than in previous works. The Mission cluster with its distinctive red roofs and bell tower extends across the right portion of the canvas while a stretch of sandy beach to the left adds depth. Reminiscent of those in Japanese woodblock prints, the mountain looming in the background furthers the sense of an endless horizon. The light's bleached quality contributes to a mood of serenity and timelessness unusual in Sugimoto's early landscapes. Sugimoto's choice of a Pacific landscape also reflects a turn in his work during the period. Always attracted to the relationship between architecture and nature, Sugimoto painted several landscapes featuring the Pacific Ocean and the Yosemite River when he returned to California. The steady movement and immense power of these bodies of water seemed to appeal greatly to Sugimoto when he returned to the region where he began his early formal training in art.

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