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Hanson Duvall Puthuff (1875 - 1972)
California Impressionist
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Hanson Duvall Puthuff (1875-1972).

Hanson Puthuff was born in 1875 in Waverly, Missouri. He is remembered primarily for his California landscapes and desert paintings, and his involvement in the Southern California art world in the early 20th century. His paintings of rolling hills, canyons, and atmospheric effects of Southern California, the Sierras, and desert scenes are widely admired.

After studying at the Chicago Art Institute, Puthuff and his foster mother moved to Colorado in 1889. She was responsible for his art training in 1893 at the University of Denver Art School and then the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. Through friends and relatives she then helped him start a career in commercial art, -first as a mural painter in Peoria, Illinois, and later as a poster and sign painter for an advertising firm in Denver.

He arrived in Los Angeles in 1903, as an established pictorial artist, and soon had a job at five dollars a day. He worked for the next twenty-three years as a commercial artist, primarily painting billboards as well as a theater scene painter. He also was a significant teacher of private art classes. His great love, however, was "plein aire" landscape painting, which he took up full time in 1926.

Easel painting grew quite naturally out of his professional commercial work. When painting billboards, Puthuff would be transported by horse-drawn wagon out to a billboard and deposited for the day. When he and his helpers finished sign painting, they would often set up easels and sketch and paint while they waited for the return of the wagon. When Puthuff first came to California he had been mainly interested in figural painting, but he found this new land so paintable that he concentrated almost exclusively on landscapes from that time on.

Shortly after leaving commercial art, the Santa Fe Railroad offered Puthuff one of his first commissions. He was asked to paint a series of different views of the Grand Canyon, which the railroad would use for advertising and promotional purposes. These works, Grand Canyon, were shown to the public in a 1927 exhibition in the offices of the railroad. They remained there for many years until their purchase by the Fleischer Museum. Puthuff also painted backgrounds for the Santa Fe Railroad model train exhibits in various cities.

Living in La Canada and Corona del Mar, Puthuff painted desert scenes throughout California and frequently accompanied Edgar Payne on painting trips to Canyon de Chelly in Arizona. He loved the bright colors and open space of Navajo country.

In addition to his own artistic achievements, Puthuff was an activist in the art community. He was partly responsible for the formation of the two most important artists organizations of the period, the California Art Club and the Art Students League of Los Angeles, which he helped found with Norwegian- born art writer and close friend Antony Anderson, art critic for the Los Angeles Times. Puthuff had introduced study from the nude in his private classes in 1903, and in 1906 these were transferred to the Blanchard building in Los Angeles, and the school later took the name the Art Students League of Los Angeles.

He won numerous awards including a Diploma from the Alaska-Yukon Exposition in 1892 and Silver Medals at the Panama-California Exposition in 1915. He was a member of numerous clubs, including the California Art Club, the Laguna Beach Art Association, the Los Angeles Watercolor Society, the Pasadena Society of Artists, the Salmagundi Club of New York, the San Francisco Art Association, and the Southern States Art Association, and the Southern States Art League.

Hanson Puthuff died May 12, 1972, in Corona del Mar, California.