Theodore Wores

Theodore Wores was an important American artist, whose long career produced outstanding works depicting varied and unusual subjects. He received professional training in Munich as a teen-ager in the 1870s, becoming one of the “Duveneck Boys.” While in Italy with Duveneck, Wores heard the views of James McNeill Whistler, urging young artists to visit Japan. Back in his native San Francisco in the early ‘80s, Wores was able to raise money for a two-year sojourn in Japan by selling paintings portraying San Francisco’s Chinatown to major English and American collectors. Wores lived in Japan from 1885 to 1887 and again from 1892 to 1894, and painted scenic views of that island, often featuring chrysanthemums or flowering trees. He retained the loose style of his Munich training but discarded the darker Munich palette, developing into a brilliant colorist. During the late ‘80s and ‘90s, Wores held one-man exhibitions of his Japanese paintings in London, New York, Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C. Every so often he would return to San Francisco, where he was deservedly fêted as a celebrity of the international art world. He would regale fellow Bohemian Club members with stories of his friends Whistler and Oscar Wilde. Soon, he would be off again on new sketching tours, travelling to Hawaii, Samoa and Spain between 1900 and 1905.

When Wores returned to make San Francisco his permanent base around 1906, few artists could be considered more worldly or less provincial. He started applying his hard-earned sophistication to views near San Francisco, spending a summer in Greenbrae just north of the city, and discovering the charms of the sand dunes near the Pacific Ocean on the western edge of the continent. A friend showed him the springtime orchards in the Santa Clara Valley near San José (today’s “Silicon Valley”), which he pronounced more beautiful than the cherry blossoms he had painted in Japan. A visit to Yosemite in 1929 produced a series of lovely views of that mecca of nineteenth-century painting that had been neglected by early twentieth-century painters. All of these works were executed in the bright crisp style that we have come to call “plein-air.” Wores was the leading exponent of plein-air painting in San Francisco..