Main Gallery

Pastoral California

The Art of Thaddeus & Ludmilla Welch

May 12 - June 24, 2007

Curated by Alfred Harrison

Welch’s paintings like “Marin Hills” seek to capture the charm of a real moment in California nature. Many Welch paintings conform to the Barbizon practice of letting the beautiful light of dawn or sunset confer an aura of spirituality unto a humble scene of animal grazing in a pasture.                                                    

– Curator, Alfred Harrison

Thaddeus and Ludmilla Welch were master landscape painters in the late 1800s and early 1900s. When you walk into the main gallery of the Bolinas Museum, the rooms seems illuminated from the light in the paintings. Late afternoon sun spotlighting golden hill sides in early Marin county, light coming through fog, light piercing clouds and light reflected in water. Many are scenes of landscapes we are familiar with today, but captured on canvas at a time when cows, not cars, were seen everywhere.

Thaddeus Welch had an international career as a painter, but the San Francisco Bay Area seems to have captured the Welch’s hearts. Thad’s landscapes depicting California pastoral scenes were praised by art critis at the turn of the twentieth century and sold to collectors across the country. His significantly younger  wife, Ludmilla Pilat Welch,  developed into an exceptional artist under his tutelabe. Together, they produced a body of work that captures the beauty of rural California before the advent of development.

Alfred C. Harrison Jr. of North Point Gallery in San Francisco is an authority on early California art and particularly the Welchs. He has borrowed paintings from collectors and museums, his gallery and locals to create this remarkable exhibition. Many of the scenes depicted are local, such as the panoramic view of Bolinas Bay from the hill above Stinson Beach, the wagon trail that is now Highway 1, or the approach to the Farallone Islands. Curator Harrison has also brought a in rarely seen paintings such as one of early Los Angelos.

Harrison shares his knowledge and love for the Welch’s work in the lovely book that he created just for this exhibition. The book tells the fascinating story of Thaddeus Welch whose life experiences include coming west, as a child, in a covered wagon to settle in Oregon. Later he joined the blossoming art scene of San Francisco, and years as an artist in Europe. When he married Ludmilla he was almost 40 and she wasn’t yet 20. She was from an accomplished upper class family, yet she was ready for the life of adventure and wilderness living that unfolded before them. She became an accomplished artist herself , working side by side with her husband. This is wonderful book is the first study of the Welch’s since Ludmilla’s death in 1925.

Harrison also recently published L.P. Latimer California Watercolor Painter and essays for the exhibition catalogue for California Impressions Landscapes from the Wendy Willrich Collection published by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

In the late 1800s you might have bumped into the Welchs in Bolinas where they often came to paint and visit Nellie Waterhouse. Nellie’s studio/ salon still stands on Wharf Road, it was a magnet to many of the important artists of that era who came to paint the stunning scenery of Coastal Marin.  Together they visited and painted all over the country. Among their travels and painting stops was New York and Chicago, the Southwest, the Pacific Northwest, Yosemite, Coastal Marin county where they lived for many years and south to Santa Barbara and Los Angelos.

The cabin the Welch’s built in Marin County. In 1896 they moved here, to the wilderness near the Pacific Ocean and christened the area “Steep Ravine” it is still the name used for this beautiful area on the slopes of the coastal mountains near Stinson Beach.