For the Museum’s 100th blog, I thought it would be fun to look at sketches that Eva Scott Fenyes created 100 years ago. While Eva kept written journals, she also kept what scholar and author Julie A. Stires refers to as “the painted chronicle.” Eva studied art as a child, and while she never considered herself a professional artist, she continued to hone her artistic skills throughout her life. She also used quick sketches and watercolors to record her family’s activities and their travels. She collected most of her paintings and drawings, approximately 3,800, into fourteen folio sketchbooks dating from 1866 to 1928. Each sketch is identified by number, location, and date, and many have additional annotations. The sketches in this blog date from January to November 1920. The locations include several California cities - Pasadena, Walnut, Santa Monica, and Montecito - as well as various areas in New Mexico,
January 1920 was an exciting month in Pasadena. In addition to everyone who came out for the Tournament of Roses, the City received a special visitor at the end of the month - John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing. Pershing, who earned the rank General of the Armies, had been the commander of the American Expeditionary Forces on the Western Front in World War I. The event is preserved in the Museum Archives through photographs, newspaper clippings, and letters. The occasion is also marked by a sketch in Eva’s folios titled "Pershing Passes".
While traveling throughout California, Eva made an effort to paint a historic record of uniquely-California structures, particularly adobe houses and missions, at the encouragement of her friend and preservationist Charles Lummis. It is clear from her sketches that Eva and her family also spent a significant amount of time at the beach in the Spring of 1920.
New Mexico always held a special place in Eva’s heart. Eva had moved to Santa Fe in November 1889. It was in New Mexico where she gained her freedom and a divorce from her first husband, William Muse. In the years and decades that followed, Eva and her family continued to own property in the state and developed a deep appreciation for the landscape and culture of the Southwest. As noted by Stires in As She Pleased: Stories from the Life of Eva Scott Fenyes (Raymond Press, 2019), “With her characteristic enthusiasm, Eva embraced new possibilities and challenges. Almost immediately she began to study New Mexico’s history and Pueblo culture.”
When the end of the year neared, the Fenyes family returned to California. Below is a sketch Eva drew while visiting the former home of Mrs. Fannie G. Stevenson, widow of the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, who was best known for Treasure Island and who notoriously came to California in pursuit of Fannie.
- Michelle L. Turner