cover image Society of Six

Society of Six

Chronicle Books, Nancy Boas. Chronicle Books, $39.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-938491-03-3

This oversize, attractive study examines the lives and oeuvres of six plein-air painters who worked in northern California early in this century and who called themselves the Society of Six or the Oakland SixSelden Gile, August Gay, Louis Siegriest, Maurice Logan, Bernard von Eichman and William Clapp. Tracing their development as a group under the influences of the impressionists, the San Francisco art scene and each other, freelance writer Boas provides an unpretentious and comprehensive look at these undervalued painters and, indirectly, a portrait of the emergence of California culture. Each of the artists is amply represented with selections from their extant paintings, reproduced large and, cruciallyas it was their distinguishing characteristicin full color. With affection and sensitivity, Boas details how their fates devolved through the Depression and mid-century while the group dissolved, careers floundered and friendships waned. Much commentary taken from the artists' own letters, and from interviews and reviews, is included. The narrative of these men's lives proves interesting alone, but Boas manages a fine balance of biography and critical analysis as she assesses the group's accomplishments within their own day and from history's perspective. Finally, the informal, life-loving spirit of the paintings themselves rules this book, and, often inspiring in its beauty, makes for an enriching experience. First serial to Horizon magazine, The Californians magazine and San Francisco magazine. (August)