(Left to right) Randy and Joanna Axell and Denise Hause attend the recent opening of “Douglas Shively, A Retrospective."

Santa Paula Art Museum: Shively ‘Retrospective’ showcases the man and the artist

February 17, 2012
Santa Paula News

There was something about the touch that Douglas Shively had for painting, had for living. A master of watercolor and oil, no matter the medium Shively infused each of his landscapes with the intimacy of home, that sense of place one can share their connection to, whether faraway Europe or around the corner in Santa Paula, CA.

And in his hometown, the crowd at the Santa Paula Art Museum had a hard time seeing the artist’s Impressionist work, so crowded was the February 4 opening reception for Douglas Shively: A Retrospective. “Everybody will have to come back again,” said Santa Paula Art Museum Board Director Randy Axell. “There’s too many people right now for the show to be appreciated.”

Oh, people were trying, some inching as close as they could to peer over others’ shoulders to catch at least a glimpse of Shively’s sketchbooks, his journals, see the photos he took and in turn the images that captured the artist himself, whether by camera or - as in the case of Ed Beach’s pencil drawing - fellow artist.

Jazz guitarist Barry Cooper was playing music that spanned the decades of Shively’s long life, which began in Santa Paula in 1896 and ended in Santa Paula in 1991. In between Shively served in World War I, graduated from UC Berkeley, married Lucy Mae Smith, had a family, ran a bank and a ranch, traveled and painted... and painted and painted. His output was amazing, as was his meticulous record keeping of each work of art. 

Shively didn’t start painting until 1921, and for the most part he shunned traditional instruction, as his friends were also wonderful painters, such as Jesse Arms Botke, Cornelis Botke and Robert Clunie, among others, who regularly exchanged tips and techniques. In fact, Shively and several of the others founded the Santa Paula Art Show, the oldest such juried event in the state which this year is celebrating its 75th anniversary 

He worked with money: as the city’s treasurer, a bookkeeper, and president of Citizens State Bank - founded by his father A. L. Shively - from 1934 to 1974. There his paintings were prominently displayed, much to the delight of customers and collectors alike. 

“Douglas Shively was just an amazing person,” said Santa Paula Art Museum Board Director David Luna, “who had a wonderful appreciation of landscape - and life!”

Jennifer Orcutt Heighton, Santa Paula Art Museum’s executive director, was happy to point out what was perhaps her favorite Shively, an untitled 1923 landscape. She believes the work resembles a Monet, so delicately placed the paint of the plein air work that the viewer can almost smell the sweet perfume of the flowers depicted.

“We all love his sycamores,” she said of Shively’s particular favorite subject, “but he did so much more - and many we’ll probably never see,” so prolific was the painter.

Ed Beach would paint outdoors with Shively: “He was very fast and he’d draw a quick picture, then say, ‘I’ve got mine done....’ Then he’d take it home and finish it,” creating works of such quality that they belied the speed with which Shively painted them.

“And Ed’s paintings still aren’t done!” said his wife Barbara Beach. “True, but It was fun,” said Ed Beach with a laugh. 

Kathryn Wilbur was surrounded at the reception by people enjoying the work and life of her father. “All these wonderful people here really make it special. People appreciated him not only as an artist,” noted Wilbur, “but as the wonderful man he was.”

Douglas Shively: A Retrospective will run through June 17. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and from noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $4 for adults, $3 for seniors and free for students and members. Museum admission is free on the first Wednesday of every month.

For more information about the museum, call 805-525-5554 or visit online www.santapaulaartmuseum.org.

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