Thursday, March 21, 2013

Anne Millay Bremer: Crusader for the Modern Movement

Anne Millay Bremer
An Old Fashioned Garden
c.a. No date
Oil on canvas
20 x 24 inches
Mills College Art Museum
Anne M. Bremer (1868-1923) was a native Californian who grew up in San Francisco. Influenced by cubism and futurism, Bremer was a modernist painter known for still lifes and landscapes and who was praised for her use of vibrant color and dramatic line. She was a respected artist whose enjoyed continuous and loyal support for her work.

Anne Millay Bremer
The Highlands
c.a. No Date
Oil on canvas
30 1/4 in. x 36 inches
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
In 1889, Bremer began her art studies in the city at the Art Students' League, San Francisco under Arthur F. Mathews and Emil Carlsen. [1] She attended the California School of Design, Mark Hopkins Institute of Art, San Francisco, under directorship of Arthur Mathews in1897and 98, after which Bremer received a University of California Certificate of Proficiency, in Drawing. In 1910-1911, she studied with AndrĂ© Lhote and at the Academies Julian, Moderne and La Palette, and while there exhibited at the Salon d'Automne in Paris. Her painting style underwent a dramatic change from moody, tonalist portraits and landscapes to a gestural abstraction akin to Cezanne and van Gogh.When she returned to San Francisco, Bremer remained active as an artist and a teacher in the city.

Anne Millay Bremer
Cypress at Saratoga, California
c.a. 1917
Oil on canvas
25.25 x 30.25 inches
Monterey Museum of Art, Exhibited Arlington Gallery, NYC, 1917 
Anne Bremer never took a studio in low-rent building known as the the Montgomery Block which housed numerous women and became the hub of artistic activity in San Francisco, [2] however, she was closely associated with the "Monkey Blockers," in that Bohemian enclave that was modeled after Montmartre in Paris. A socialist, Bremer was active in the fight for both artists' and women's rights. She served as president of the Sketch Club in the 1900s during which time she organized what might be the most critically acclaimed women's exhibition to date in February 1906 and was instrumental in leading the artists through the fallout of the earthquake that followed just two months later. [3]

Anne Millay Bremer
Sentinels
c.a. 1917
Oil on canvas
40 x 35 1/4 inches
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Bremer was praised for capturing "the peculiar light of varied California weather, sensitive to both dull and bright effects." [4] In addition, she was considered one of the most advanced artists with a style and technique that was much more modern than her contemporaries. Bremer’s work incorporates several elements associated with modern painting-each of her pieces utilizes the flat surface that holds the arrangement of paint, not as a literal representation or illusion of reality. Her brushstrokes are broad and distinct from one another, sometimes with areas of unpainted canvas showing through. There is either very little suggestion of depth, or the perspective is distorted or ambiguous. Colors are bold and not always found exactly as they appeared. The subject may be figures, landscape, still life, or a combination, but what was more important to Bremer was creating a successful composition and emotional effect. Hartley once wrote that in his opinion Anne Bremer was “one of the three artists of real distinction that California has produced.”[5] 

Anne Millay Bremer
Ravenlocks
c.a. 1920
Oil on canvas
30.50 x 25 inches
Mills College Art Museum
Anne Bremer
Still Life with Brass Bowl and Flowers
c.a. No Date
Oil on Canvas
25 x 30 inches
Alfred Bender Collection
From a feminist standpoint, modern art was slow to catch on in Northern California, however, many of its earliest supporters were women, despite the attitudes of various male instructors such as sculptor Ralph Stackpole, who told the women in his sculpture class "the place they really belonged was in bed."[6]  In San Francisco, those women modernists who were judged to have a "masculine" hand were the most critically acclaimed as they employed a direct, simple and powerful technique in their work...traits most desired in painters during this period.

Anne Bremer was diagnosed with leukemia in 1920. She gradually moved away from painting and spent her days writing until her death in 1923.

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Member: San Francisco Society of Women Artists; San Francisco Art Association (board of directors); San Francisco Sketch Club, (Pres. 1905-7).

Exhibited: Del Monte Art Gallery (Monterey), 1907-14; Salon d’Automne, Paris, 1911; Society of Washington Artists; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; Society of Independent Artists, NY; San Francisco Art Association, 1903-22; Panama-Pacific International Exhibition, 1915; de Young Museum, 1915, 1916; Hill Tolerton Gallery, San Francisco, 1916, 1922; Arlington Galleries of New York, 1917; San Francisco Palace of Fine Art, 1919, 1923; San Francisco Print Rooms, 1923; .

Works held: Mills College Art Gallery, Oakland; Oakland Museum; San Jose YWCA (memorial panel); Mt. Zion Hospital, San Francisco (mural); Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum.

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1. Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick, An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998), 29.
2. Patricia Trenton, ed. Independent Spirits: Women Painters of the American West, 1890-1945 (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995), 23.
3. Ibid.
4. Porter, Garrett, "Miss Bremer Pronounced One of San Francisco's Most Talented Painters," San Francisco Call, September 15, 1922.
5. As quoted (or paraphrased) by Ruth Pielkovo, San Francisco Journal, April 2, 1922; original source unknown.
6. Dorr Bothwell, interview with author, September 25, 1993.