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Frederick Ferdinand Schafer Painting Catalog

Painting record FFSd0575

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[photo] On Tulare Lake [1]
Photo credit: J. Saltzer, 1998
Medium: oil on canvas
Size: 30 x 50 in (76 x 127 cm)
Inscription: l/r "F Schäfer", initials conjoined in a monogram, underlined, umlaut resembles a circumflex.
Verso: l/c "on Tulare Lake" in black brush.
Provenance: In private collection, Victoria, British Columbia in early 1900's; by descent to private collection, British Columbia; and again to private collection, Victoria, British Columbia by 1998;
Site: Tulare Lake was the largest fresh-water lake in California, at the southern end of the Central Valley, covering most of present-day Kings County, California. Under pressure from irrigation and diversion, It no longer exists, except for brief periods in very rainy years.
Description: A view across a lake or inlet to an Indian encampment at the far end of a sandy beach. In the background are low ridges extending for a great distance, and a blue sky filled with fluffy clouds. A tall steep cliff on the right reaches all the way to the top of the painting and a tall, somewhat misshapen conifer stands on the right silhouetted agains the sky with smaller trees behind. There are several snags, standing, fallen in the foreground, and at the water's edge. The encampment consists of two plain tepees, four dugout canoes, 7 or 8 Indians, and smoke from a campfire behind. Behind the encampment to the left are some distant, steep cliffs. (From the painting, 10 September 1998)
Note: There is some question as to whether or not the scene is really of Tulare Lake. Despite the title having been applied to the painting in the artist's own hand, people who are familiar with the topography of the basin surrounding Tulare Lake are skeptical that there was ever a view that resembles the one in the painting. The basin is very flat, but the painting depicts rugged cliffs nearby and mountain ridges in the distance. The conifers at the water's edge are not typical of vegetation for the area, and the lake shore shows little evidence of a lake whose extent depends on the latest year's rainfall.

On the other hand, Tulare Lake has been reported as having been filled to overflowing in the late 1870's, just when Schafer began painting in California. So it is just possible that he visited the lake at high water and somewhere found this view.

Legend: One of four paintings that were in a house on Gorge road, Victoria, when that house was purchased by the present collector's grandfather.

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Feb 13, 2017, 11:05 MST