The SD Museum of Art and SD History Center host joint exhibition of Charles Reiffel, ‘The American Van Gogh’


The San Diego Museum of Art and the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park are presenting a comprehensive and collaborative, two-museum retrospective of the work of Charles Reiffel celebrating the 150th anniversary of the artist’s birth. Charles Reiffel: An American Post-Impressionist opened Nov. 10 and runs through Feb. 10, 2013.

More than 90 of Reiffel’s works are being exhibited; primarily oils on canvas but also watercolors, gouaches, and drawings in both pencil and wax crayons. During his lifetime, Reiffel’s work was exhibited throughout the country, winning many national awards and the accolades of critics who compared him to John Henry Twachtman and other important American artists of the period. They often referred to Reiffel as the “American van Gogh.” Coming West, he died a pauper in San Diego early in 1942, a victim to the conservative taste of collectors here, who considered him “too modern” for their taste. The rise of the American avant-garde movement after World War II further overshadowed Reiffel’s legacy.

This is the most important exhibition of Reiffel’s work since “Second Nature,” curated by Martin Petersen more than 20 years ago, and the first major retrospective of the artist’s work since his death in 1942. The exhibition is accompanied by a handsome, fully illustrated catalog, featuring a major essay by noted scholar Bram Dijkstra (of Del Mar) which places the artist’s work in its historical context, and reveals what an illustrious career he sacrificed by coming West.

“Charles Reiffel was more than just a founding father of the California landscape school, he was a Post-Impressionist of national stature,” says Ariel Plotek, Dijkstra’s co-curator. “This exhibition is a long overdue homage to one of San Diego’s most outstanding painters.” In addition to essays by Dijkstra and Plotek, the catalogue, the first collaborative exhibition between the two institutions, includes appreciations and observations by several local Reiffel collectors.

Members of both institutions are invited to see the exhibition in its entirety and take advantage of free admission with a membership card for either museum throughout the run of the show. Nonmember visitors can receive $2 off admission at either museum by presenting a receipt or ticket stub from the partner institution.

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