Elmer Wachtel (1864-1929)
Elmer Wachtel was born in Baltimore, MD, on Jan. 21, 1864. When Elmer was relatively young, the Wachtel family moved to Lanard, IL, where Elmer worked as a hired hand and taught himself to play the violin. At age 18, Elmer Wachtel moved to San Gabriel, California, where his brother had married the sister of artist Guy Rose and managed the Rose ranch. He continued playing the violin and, in 1888, became the first violinist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. During this period, his talent in drawing and painting emerged, and in 1895 he had saved enough money for one year of study in NYC at the ASL under William M. Chase and in London at the Lambeth School.
After returning to California, Elmer Wachtel lived in Los Angeles with his parents on Griffin Avenue, where he continued to paint while supplementing his income as a professional violinist. By 1903 his reputation as a painter was such that William Keith sent him one of his young pupils, whose name was Marion Kavanaugh. It was love at first sight, and they wed in 1904. Their early married life was spent in a studio on Sichel Street while they later had a studio-home on Mt Washington until building their final home in the Arroyo Seco area of Pasadena. The Wachtels traveled around southern California in a specially built motor car designed to accommodate their artistic needs. They continued painting and exhibiting together until his sudden death on Aug. 31, 1929, in Guadalajara, Mexico, while on a sketching trip. Elmer Wachtel’s early works were tonalist landscapes done in moody, dark tones, whereas his palette later lightened as he accepted the Impressionist esthetic. Elmer Wachtel is now considered one of southern California’s most influential painters.
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Edan Hughes, “Artists in California 1786-1940”
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