A hundred years ago, they met to paint the rugged land, the unforgiving weather, and the crystalline light of northern Nevada and Lake Tahoe — nine watercolorists and their esteemed painting instructor, Lorenzo Latimer. In 1921, they established themselves as the Latimer Art Club. Ten years later, they put a permanent stamp on the region by helping to launch what is now Reno’s premier fine art destination, the Nevada Museum of Art. 

“They were the museum’s founding volunteer core,” the museum’s senior curator, Anne M. Wolfe, told Moonshine. Celebrating its 90th anniversary, the museum has given this foresighted group much of its second floor in the exhibit The Latimer School: Lorenzo Latimer and the Latimer Art Club. The dozens of “plein air” landscapes by Minerva Pierce, Dolores Samuels Young, Hildegard Herz, and the six other Latimer Art Club founders, plus Latimer, himself, reveal personal outlooks and secret places. The watercolors — made somewhat instinctively because watercolor paints dry quickly — are more intimate, less studied, and in many cases freer in spirit than structured oil paintings. The heat of summer is certainly present in them, as are the cool minty hues of Nevada’s sagebrush, the silvery-grays of its desert floors, and the flaming yellows of cottonwood trees in fall. Water appears, too, in shoreline glimpses of Pyramid Lake, the Truckee River, and Lake Tahoe. Similar Great Basin landmarks anchor the works of some fine artists today — painters living in the region such as like Jean LeGassick, Craig Mitchell, and Phyllis Shafer.

The show relates to other objects in display now, most of which point to the geography-engulfing land art that hallmarks Nevada’s culture scene. Wolfe has brought to the museum many studies of land and the human relationships to it, including in 2015 a sweeping collection of Lake Tahoe art, maps, and design, and in 2018 a stirring array of Anne Brigman’s modernist photographs. 

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“We’re telling different stories of Nevada,” Wolfe says. 

Latimer, too, believed Nevada’s visual stories were important, and he urged his students to ground themselves in them, as Wolfe reports in the book accompanying the exhibit, The Latimer School: Lorenzo Latimer and the Latimer Art Club: “‘Go abroad to study if you can and will,’ Latimer encouraged, ‘but return to your birthplace to do your life work. You can never feel any other inspiration like that of home … you will paint with a deeper feeling than in any other spot.’”Info: admission varies, free to $10; nevadaart.org

~ Laura Read/Special to Moonshine Ink

 

Pyramid Lake: Members of the Latimer Art Club, heralded in a Nevada Museum of Art 90th anniversary exhibition, explored the moods and shapes of the northern Great Basin’s water bodies, including Pyramid Lake, the Truckee River, and Lake Tahoe. Here, watercolorist Hildegard Herz peeks from behind a boulder to see the iconic rock island of Pyramid Lake. Photo courtesy Nevada Museum of Art.

Author

  • Former editor

    Laura Read is a freelance writer who has published essays, travel stories, and features in The San Francisco Chronicle, National Geographic Traveler, Sierra, VIA and Adventure Sports Journal. She teaches creative nonfiction writing at Sierra Nevada College and is the social media writer for Soundslides, an audio slideshow software company based in Truckee. Once a master copyeditor for Moonshine Ink, she lives in Tahoe City with her husband, Doug, and dog, Wheeler.

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