An exhibition for admirers and an opportunity for collectors of the art of Charles F. Surendorf will open in the Argonaut Art Gallery on Saturday, Sept. 14.
The retrospective show and sale will be another related component of the 47th annual Columbia Fine Art Show on Main Street at Columbia Historic State Park on Sunday, Sept. 15.
The Argonaut Art Gallery, located within the recently reopened Columbia Mercantile 1855 store by new Concessionaires Teresa and Kevin Torbett, is just one of several new additions to the former Columbia Mercantile grocery store. Following its closure in 2014 the redesigned store reopened a year ago in May 2018 with a new name — Columbia Mercantile 1855.
The vintage Surendorf prints have been authenticated as to their provenance and history by the collection owners, both of whom were personal friends of the artist. All are framed with archival materials, some using the original, historic frames. Several of the pieces are historically significant as they were produced by Surendorf under the auspices of the Work Projects Administration (WPA) between the years of 1937-1943.
Surendorf was hired by the WPA during the Great Depression era in the U.S. Signed into law by Executive Order by President Franklin Roosevelt, the WPA was created to put Americans to work doing much needed infrastructure work for the country. The president’s wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, added the art and cultural component employing many of the country’s artists, writers, musicians, sculptors, and actors during that time. This component of the WPA program was titled; “Federal Project Number One,” and was a national program instituted under the New Deal Program created to provide cultural and beautification additions to the country to help, in part, lift people’s spirits during those dark, often hopeless days. The Federal Project Number One was the forerunner of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).
“WPA Art, as it is known, is now highly collectible as artistically and culturally important with added value in the annals of American Art and private collections as well,” said gallery curator Connie O’Connor in a press release.
Some of the most well-known pieces created by Surendorf were of this period in San Francisco and Columbia, where he made his home during those years. Many of the scenes are of Columbia Historic State Park at mid-century when Columbia was just being developed into a California State Park. Some of those early scenes captured by Surendorf were before, during, and after that historic event. Along with the scenes of Columbia are two nudes and other examples of his work, many of which are of the original print editions with at least two of the editions either exhausted or retired editions. Surendorf lived, painted, and created his lino-blocks in Columbia in the late 1930s into the 1940s at his home studio on Kennebec Lane. For several years in the 1940s and 1950s he operated his own art gallery in the old “Pay Ore Saloon” on Main Street in Columbia, which is now occupied by the Jack Douglas Saloon
The gallery and mercantile, located at 11000 Jackson St., is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.