Alfred Villiers Farnsworth (1858-1908)
“Bolinas Lagoon” by Alfred Villiers Farnsworth (1858-1908) is a new acquisition for Bolinas Museum’s Permanent Collection. This loosely painted watercolor is a fascinating window into Bolinas history. Painted in 1901 from the sand spit we now call Seadrift (seen in the foreground), the painting looks up Bolinas Lagoon to the distant Wilkins Ranch, at the head of the lagoon. Mid left, we see the reddish roof of the Waterhouse studio, which still stands over the lagoon on Wharf Road. From there, the path to the mouth of the lagoon (before Wharf Road was extended in 1903) leads our eyes to the left edge of the artwork and the schooner “Jennie Griffin,” which commuted between Bolinas and San Francisco. Acquired at auction, the painting previously resided in the collection of renowned Marin collector of early California paintings, Roy Farrington Jones (1925-2019).
This new painting joins the Farnsworth watercolor on paper titled “Bolinas” already in the museum’s Permanent Collection. That painting depicts the Wharf Road waterfront as seen from Kent Island, before the 1906 earthquake destroyed the large hotels that once stood at the water’s edge. Both paintings were created as payment for room and board to Sherman Smith Sr., who owned the hotel where Farnsworth stayed. Smith Sr. was the grandson of the founding Briones family of Rancho Las Baulines. Because of generous supporters, the museum is able to bring important historical paintings back to Bolinas, to preserve for future generations.
Alfred Villiers Farnsworth was from an upper class British family, well educated, and a member of the British Royal Engineers. While furthering his education in Paris, he turned to painting as a career. He immigrated to San Francisco in 1892, where he worked for the San Francisco Examiner, and spent the latter part of his life in Marin County—in San Anselmo, Stinson Beach, and San Rafael. He is known for his paintings of British fox hunts on horseback, grand & detailed scenes of ships in San Francisco Bay, and luminous Bay Area landscapes.