Francis J. McComas

Paintings in Inventory (Click on an image for a larger view)

Francis J. McComas (1874-1938) Monterey Oaks

Francis McComas was born in Tasmania, grew up in Australia and came to San Francisco in 1898 as a merchant seaman. Little is known about his art education in Australia, but he scored an immediate success with local art critics with exhibitions of his watercolors in 1899. That year he spent the spring and summer painting in Monterey and eventually made Monterey his home base. Among McComas’s favorite subjects were the ancient oak trees that could be found in abundance on the Monterey peninsula. He became known for being particularly adept at painting oak trees. Lucy B. Jerome, art critic for the Call, wrote, “His studies of the oaks in that section of the country [Monterey] are remarkable. It is said that McComas paints the soul of a tree.” In an interview with an Australian newspaper that was reprinted in The Wasp, McComas declared, “When I am at home in Monterey. . . I paint trees and skies, low-pitched landscapes that try—they do try—to be sincere and truthful.” In Monterey Oaks, we see an important example of such a work—“low-pitched” with a typical tonalist palette of olive greens and browns. The tiny figures in the middle ground give a sense of scale to the trees, while the billowing banks of fog in the left side of the composition swirl in the same harmonious rhythm as the crowns of the oaks. McComas felt that watercolors depicting oaks in this manner were very up to date, as he sent a painting depicting a giant oak to the New York Armory Show of 1913.