In 1914, renowned landscape painter Lorenzo Latimer came from San Francisco to paint Fallen Leaf Lake near Lake Tahoe. Free from the sights of billboards, urban sprawl, or, indeed, many paved roads, his unobstructed view of the Sierra Nevada led to a yearly excursion of plein air paintings, which attracted aspiring painters from around the area—especially Reno.
In 1916, two of those painters—Dora Groesbesck and Nevada Reilly—asked Latimer to teach a class in town, and those students would go on to found the Latimer Art Club in 1921. The club has been a major, if little known, influence in the Northern Nevada art establishment over the past century, and this year, its members and local art aficionados are celebrating the club’s 100th anniversary.
“We have four exhibits planned,” said Eileen Fuller, former president of the Latimer Art Club and member since 2004. “The first of which is the exhibit … for the whole month of April at the Artists Co-op Gallery of Reno.” (There’s quite a bit of overlap between Latimer Club members and Co-op members. Fuller is the Co-op’s current president.)
During its first century, the club has boasted the membership of many local artists, including some masters, and the Co-op exhibition is intended to showcase the breadth of the current members’ skill sets.
“It’s a variety of different forms of art, from drawing to watercolor to oil and acrylic painting,” Fuller said. “So, all two-dimensional art, and it’s a variety of subjects. One had to be a member of the Latimer Art Club to display, and we have 35 members displaying 96 paintings.”
Starting July 31, Lorenzo Latimer and the club will also be celebrated at the Nevada Museum of Art—which is marking its own 90th anniversary this year. Far from coincidental, the Latimer Art Club had a hand in creating the organization that would go on to become the NMA we know today.
“The founding of the Nevada Art Gallery, which became the Nevada Museum of Art, was a big deal in the 1920s,” said local art collector and co-curator of the upcoming NMA show Jack Bacon. “Nevada was really known for mining and ranching, and in the 1930s, it started to change. People came here for divorces, and there was gambling, and so on. The civic leaders here saw an opportunity to try to expand the cultural aspects of Reno and Northern Nevada.”
The summer exhibition will feature Latimer’s originals as well as those of the eight charter members of the club—all women—and will use the entirety of the Nevada Museum of Art’s second floor. Bacon said the space will feature each artist in their own right.
Bacon, who owned Jack Bacon & Co. Gallery and Framing shop in Reno from 1977 until almost 40 years later, is also the editor and publisher of an upcoming book, The Latimer School: Lorenzo Latimer and the Latimer Art Club. It’s authored by NMA curator Ann Wolfe and Alfred C Harrison, and scheduled for release on July 31.
“Ann Wolfe has done a fantastic job putting together the history of the Latimer Art Club and the founding of the Nevada Museum of Art,” Bacon said. “And then we’ve included an essay on Lorenzo Latimer written by Alfred Harrison, who is a highly regarded, eminent, California art dealer who just retired recently. And then there’s almost a hundred pages of paintings by Lorenzo Latimer in the book—all illustrated in color.”
Bacon also included a section of works from early members of the Latimer Art Club, and hopes the book will serve as a good reference for aspiring collectors or those interested in Latimer’s definitive style.
“His brushwork is refined—a really good painting of his almost looks like a photograph,” Bacon said. “I think we’re going to do a display of just a section of redwoods in this exhibition. They’re very soothing and beautiful. I think people will enjoy that quite a bit.”
The Latimer Art Club itself is planning more celebratory events throughout the year: a short talk given by Fuller about the history of the club during Artown on July 30, a members-only show at the Wilbur D. May Museum at the same time, and a statewide invitational for non-members to show in a juried exhibition with the possibility of winning prizes this October. The packed schedule is a welcome change for the club, Fuller said, who had to adjust to holding their monthly meetings over Zoom throughout the past year—a feat that wasn’t easy for many of the older members of the club.
Mostly, however, Fuller said that the pandemic restrictions and isolation of the past year have only heightened the anticipation of the centennial anniversary, and hopefully a return to normalcy.
“It’s kind of brought it home, in this isolation period of COVID, to realize the importance of being with other like-minded people and sharing the beauty of nature,” Fuller said.
Celebrating 100 Years of Art in Nevada is on view at the Artists Co-op of Reno through April 30.
Latimer Art Club Juried Exhibition: Northern Nevada Landscapes will be on view at the Nevada Museum of Art July 10-Sept. 1 as part of a celebration of the club’s centennial and the museum’s 90th anniversary. Check the museum’s website for related lectures and other programming.
Cover image: A painting by Latimer Art Club member Minerva Pierce (1883-1972). Image courtesy Jack Bacon