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Road in the Cuyamacas

ca. 1933-1934 Charles Reiffel Born: Indianapolis, Indiana 1862 Died: San Diego, California 1942 oil on canvas 40 1/8 x 50 3/8 in. (101.9 x 128.0 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor 1964.1.176 Not currently on view


Exhibition Label

A narrow, winding path entices the viewer into this rocky wilderness in Southern California's Cuyamaca Mountains. Above the rugged peaks, clouds gather in formations that repeat those of the rocks below. Golden light streams down between the clouds, picking out a boulder here and a treetop there. Artist Charles Reiffel used bright dabs of red, orange, and blue paint to suggest sunlight sparkling on rain-wet stones and pine needles. It was this kind of spectacular scenery that had persuaded Reiffel to make an unplanned move from his home in Connecticut to San Diego in 1925. In this painting of the California countryside he loved, Reiffel spoke to viewers in distant Washington, D.C., praising the beauties of nature.

1934: A New Deal for Artists exhibition label

Luce Center Label

In 1933 the Works Progress Administration hired Charles Reiffel for forty-two dollars a week. The government wanted to provide some relief for artists who could find no jobs after the Wall Street crash, and devised the Federal Art Project to make painters and sculptors part of the nation's workforce. In a show honoring these artists, Reiffel exhibited Road in the Cuyamacas along with three other paintings. He accentuated the otherworldly quality of the craggy California mountains with clouds that echo the topography. One critic praised the artist's ability to capture "the open places where a bit of vegetation struggles to keep its hold upon a rocky slope." (Stevens, San Diego Evening Tribune, November 17, 1929, quoted in Petersen, Second Nature: Four Early San Diego Landscape Painters, 1991)

Keywords

Landscape - California

Landscape - mountain - Cuyamaca Mountains

Landscape - rocks

New Deal - Public Works of Art Project - California

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

About Charles Reiffel

Born: Indianapolis, Indiana 1862 Died: San Diego, California 1942